Perry Rush makes custom leather gear in Nashville. He mostly makes harnesses, but can and has made collars, restraints, holster harnesses with suspenders, puppy masks, leather kilts, and bracelets/bands. “Also accessory trays,” he joked. “As a Christmas gift for our friends one year, I tried my hand at making accessory trays.”

His leather story started, as the best leather stories do, at San Francisco's Folsom Street Fair. He and his partner Nick “were in San Francisco, and it happened to be during Folsom, and we went to some of the shops in the Castro district. Nick asked me if I could make a harness, as they were actually really expensive, and none of them fit us because it is one size fits all. So I looked at them, and they were simple enough.”

Some time passed before he started to practice leatherwork. “We came back to Memphis,” Perry said, “and a couple of months later we talked about it again. So I went and got some supplies and made my first two—for me and him. Some of our friends found out about it, and asked for some. Over the period of about three years, I just bought more equipment and supplies, and got a little better each time I made them.”

Trial and error were his tutors. “I have always liked putting things together and figuring things out. When one thing did not work, I just fixed it and tried it again in a different way.”

As things progressed, he also streamlined his process. “I started sizing people and building the leather around them: designing and measuring the harness would take about two and a half hours, for them to come and stand there and get fitted. Now I’ve figured out how to do sizing, and have sizing leather. Somebody can now come in, and spend about ten to fifteen minutes and then be on their way. Then in about two weeks their harness is done. It has definitely gotten easier for me over time.”

As he gets new requests, Rush adds new skills to his repertoire. “One of our friends is in to puppy play, and he was showing us his mask one day. It was made out of an industrial padding. I was looking at it and trying to figure out if I could make a leather mask for him, so we took a couple of pictures, and I made a quick little prototype. That one is fun to try and think about and work out the different problems on it, because it is something I have never made. Pup masks have lots to consider: the different types of snouts and different types of ears, and somebody’s different puppy personality.”

Now when Rush goes to the Bear Chested events at Canvas, he runs into a lot of his friends and customers. “If I am off work and it’s gear night, I will typically go. It’s fun! It’s interesting to me the people that go: there is no one stereotypical leather person. I’ve made leather for people who are retired, lawyers, doctors, bankers, real estate, college students, and paramedics. I had just assumed that there was a standard leather person, and there isn’t one.”

So how do you know if leather might be for you? “People who are curious about leather, but don’t know if they want it or not,” Rush said, “always ask ‘What’s the purpose of it?’ To make you feel sexy, to make you feel however leather makes you feel! There is no purpose other than to make you feel good. People ask ‘When would I wear it?’ Typically, after I make something for somebody, within the next day or two days, I get messages like: ‘Is it normal to wear it while doing laundry or cleaning?’ I made one for somebody the other day—a pharmacist—and he said he was thinking about trying to wear it under his uniform. Leather is just something to make you feel good, there is no one time to wear it. Wear it whenever you want to!”

Leather can be expensive, and is definitely an investment, so you want something that is just right for you. Rush’s goal is to make custom leather gear available to people at competitive prices. For his harnesses, for instance, “the most inexpensive one can be around $80—that would be just an over the shoulder type—but a full X- or bulldog-type harness that has multiple extra straps? Well, the most I have ever gone up to is $250 for a standard bulldog, but right now it is $145, which is pretty much the same price you can get at a store. But a store-bought harness isn’t meant for you, it won’t fit just right and the quality isn’t as high. Mine are worth it and will last.”

“I’m trying to assist in building a leather scene in Nashville,” Rush explained, “and it's neat when they are cheap enough that someone just out of college, or even still in college, can afford a custom fit harness that looks decent. I was talking with someone in Chicago with a classic bulldog. He said that it was custom fit and really good, and that it cost $270—twice what I charge. I want people to be able to learn about leather, and appreciate and enjoy it, before they are retired!”

 

If you think you’d like to buy some leather of your own, check out rushleather.com or contact Perry by email at perry@rushleather.com.

 

 

 

Photo courtesy of Red Bull

Red Bull Unlocked Nashville


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Photo courtesy of Rumble Boxing Gulch Nashville

Rumble Boxing Gulch, Nashville


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