IML welcomes leather community to Chicago this weekend

Wed. May 24, 2023 9:04 AM by News Staff

International Mr. Leather runs May 25 - 29

International Mr. Leather (IML) opens Thursday, May 25 welcoming the leather and fetish world to Chicago this Memorial Day weekend.

Now in its 45th year, IML draws nearly 20,000 attendees to downtown Chicago for a celebration of everything leather and fetish. The five days of non-stop events will be hosted again this year at the Congress Plaza Hotel, 520 S. Michigan Ave.

IML weekend is filled with conventions, workshops, and parties all celebrating a shared love of leather, rubber, sports gear, pup play, and much more. All the events are organized around the annual competition to crown International Mr. Leather.

IML events start on Thursday, May 25 with Opening Ceremonies, which includes the introduction of contestants and judges, in the Florentine Room of the Congress Hotel from 8:00-10:30 p.m. The Pecs and Personality event, where hopefuls will strut their stuff to show off their physiques, stage presence and public speaking abilities, is Saturday, May 27 beginning at 8 p.m. at Auditorium Theatre of Roosevelt University, 50 E. Congress Parkway. Contestants reconvene at Auditorium Theatre on Sunday, May 28 for the International Mr. Leather Contest at 6 p.m.

Related: The best things to do for IML weekend in Chicago

All these events aside, however, nothing says IML like the popular Leather Market, hosted again this year at the Congress Plaza Hotel. Featuring hundreds of vendors from across the U.S., the Market offers an amazing assortment of leather and fetish goods and an even more amazing opportunity for people-watching. Those not holding an IML weekend pass will need a Day Pass to enter, with the $15 donation going to Chicago's Leather Archives and Museum. The Leather Market opens at 11 a.m. during the weekend, closing at 7 p.m. on Saturday, 5 p.m. on Sunday, and 4 p.m. on Monday.

Two of the weekend's biggest and most highly anticipated events are the Victory Party and Black and Blue Ball, the annual circuit-type parties that bring contestants, winners, and IML revelers together to shake, sweat and dance it out.

After the new International Mr. Leather is crowned on Sunday, the crowd will flock, per tradition, to the House of Blues, 329 N Dearborn, for the Victory Party featuring DJs Marti Frieson, Janky and Sean Parks. The favorite IML closing event, Black & Blue Ball, returns to the House of Blues, on Monday, May 29, featuring DJs Isaac Escalante and Ale Maes.

"It’s motivating when you can feel the buzz of anticipation of a huge weekend like this," Frieson told "I’m ready to deliver a killer set Sunday night.”

Both parties are produced by CircuitMOM, celebrating 25 years. 

Related: CircuitMOM Productions celebrates 25 years 

IML began as the Mr. Gold Coast bar contest held at the Gold Coast, a long-shuttered gay leather bar owned by Chuck Renslow, a Chicago businessman and newspaper publisher. The contest became so popular it was relocated it to a larger venue in 1979 and renamed International Mr. Leather. The International Mr. Bootblack Competition was added in 1993.

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IML Weekend Events and Parties