I had an email recently from a prospective member, in which he mentioned that he estimated it would cost him around £1,000 to go to one of the London leather stores and buy himself all the gear he needed to join BLUF.
Since this is not an uncommon perception, I though it best to address it in a detailed reply to him, and I've shared the essence of my response on Twitter; this blog post is a slightly longer version
First, let's be completely clear: the cost of joining BLUF itself is zero. You can, if you choose, make a donation during the application process, or after you have been accepted, but you don't have to. Donors receive a membership card, which gives discounts in some stores, but everyone gets the same features of the website, and is treated the same in the club, regardless of donation status. You don't have to give us money to be a member, though of course we tremendously appreciate it if you do, as we have bills to pay.
Of course, BLUF is a dresscode club, so the real cost of entry is the cost of the gear. If you already have suitable gear, then you can write that off as nothing. But, of course, there are people at different stages of their leather journey, who may be interested in meeting members of the BLUF community, but don't yet have all the gear.
Those are the people like my correspondent, who worry about spending a lot of money to qualify to join a community where, by quirk of geography, they might not find many members near them.
The good news is that you absolutely do not need to spend anything like £1,000 to be able to get the gear to join BLUF; a small fraction of that is likely to suffice. I won't say "everyone can afford it," because I recognise that some people have far more pressing things to spend their money on, especially these days, but if you are into leather enough to think about joining BLUF, then you may be surprised at how comparatively low the bar to entry is. It's not all expensive Langlitz or VK79 outfits; sure they look good, but they can cost way more than many people are able to afford.
You're going to need a pair of boots. We're not too proscriptive about these; some like tall boots that can be worn over the bottoms of your trousers, some prefer police or military style boots, or even something like Doc Martens.
Personally, I would say that this is the area where you should buy new, and buy the best you can afford. You foot doesn't change size the way your waist does, and a new pair of boots will feel much more comfortable when worn in that a secondhand pair.
Yes, you can spend hundreds on a new pair of boots, but you can also get some reasonable bargains from military or police shops; a brand new pair of police patrol boots, for example, can be found online for around £35.
There are always secondhand boots on sale on sites like eBay too, and some surplus or vintage stores will have tall boots, if you prefer those. If you do choose secondhand, try to wear them in a fair bit, or wear thick socks with them, or put in a new in-sole.
As an aside, you may want to choose your boots after you've decided on the rest of what you want.
The BLUF dresscode says you need a leather or part-leather uniform. What do we mean by that? Well, at the most basic you should have either leather trousers, or a leather jacket over a fabric uniform of some sort.
If you're starting out, you have two main choices here. If you go for leather trousers, the basic you'll need is a pair of leather jeans; you can get breeches, and very nice jeans, from shops that cater to the fetish community, but you won't find them terribly cheaply.
However, if there's a leather district in your town, you may well be able to get some basic jeans quite cheaply - and this is also an area where you can make savings by buying second hand. Just make sure they look neat, and not too battered.
Then head to a surplus store, or online, and find a pilot or police style fabric shirt, with epaulettes - that's the sort of strap on the shoulder, where a rank badge might be attached. In the UK, I've seen this sort of shirt for around £10 in surplus stores, so they can be found pretty cheaply.
Pair this with the jeans, and you're almost there. You just need a couple of extra parts to make it look like the sort of formal uniform we expect. Add a leather tie - again, found easily on eBay - and/or a Sam Browne belt. That's the belt with a shoulder strap. Some places sell the shoulder strap separately, so you can add it to a belt you already have, or you can buy all in one.
For the best look, we'd recommend both tie and Sam Browne, but one or the other will suffice to get started. You now have something that's the beginning of a uniform, partly made of leather, and will allow you to join BLUF.
An alternative route to the part-leather look would be to focus on a leather jacket instead. So, rather than hunting down a pair of leather jeans, instead get some military or police style fabric trouser - cargo pants, essentially. I'd say black, because it goes with most things, but see what you can find in surplus stores.
Add the shirt as mentioned in the previous section, together with the tie and/or Sam Browne belt, and then find a leather jacket.
This should generally be a plain single colour jacket that looks like it could be military or police; those are mostly black, but there are some in blue (Finnish police), white (Dutch police), green (German police), or with coloured elements on the shoulders.
These are ok, but note that we don't accept general bike jackets - anything with brand names or sponsors emblazoned across it, or in a riot of multiple colours won't look like part of a uniform to us. You want something that's fairly straightforward and can combine with the rest of look.
Again, you can usually find a lot of jackets in vintage stores or online, at a wide range of prices.
Either of the two routes above will get you the basics of a BLUF look - something that looks like it could be a uniform, and is at least partly leather.
As and when funds allow, you can improve it. For instance, a good pair of leather gloves, or accessories like handcuff holders, or other items on the belt. Decide if you prefer a garrison cap, or a more traditional leather cap, and add one of those.
Each of these elements will elevate the outfit a little more, but remember there's no rush. Once you have the basics, you may want to save up to get the best you can for each new addition. After you've seen people in their gear, you might get ideas about what you want next, whether that's in terms of style, or colour, or something else.
You can slowly start to swap out fabric elements for leather - treat yourself to a leather shirt, for example, or decide what style of leather trousers you want.
But remember - you can do this at your own pace, as funds allow. Especially if buying on sites like eBay, be patient. Don't overpay for something because you've fallen in love with it, and think you absolutely must have it now - there'll very often be another one along before too long.
I hope that these tips will help people, especially those starting out exploring the world of leather - and they're applicable to more than just prospective members of BLUF.
If you do, however, follow them with the intention of becoming a member, we'll be waiting for you at join.bluf.com