International Mr Bootblack (IMrBB)

The International Mister Bootblack (IMrBB)1 Competition runs throughout the IML weekend. Contestants are given a location in the IML Leather Market at which they perform bootblacking services. Weekend ticket package holders (as well as judges, contestants, and vendors) are each provided with a bootblack ballot which is redeemable for one shine by the bootblack of the voter's choice. Bootblacks are free to shine the boots of any person, regardless of whether that person has a ballot, although it is made clear that the ballots are the means by which the winner will be determined. Tipping is not required, but is quite common.

The bootblack contestants work during the Friday, Saturday, and Sunday of IML during the time that the Leather Market is open, a total of approximately 20 hours over three days. In previous years, the bootblacks were allowed to shine boots and collect tickets at all times during the weekend. Since 2001, the bootblack contestants have established a gentlemen's agreement at the start of the weekend that they will not shine boots or accept ballots except during the established competition hours. This agreement was conceived to give the contestants the freedom to take time to enjoy the weekend without feeling the pressure to always be bootblacking.

At its inception in 1993, the competition was properly titled the International Bootblack Competition, and both men and women were allowed to compete. In 1998, it was announced that the competition would be changed to the International Mister Bootblack Competition and that a separate competition solely for women would be held at International Ms. Leather. This change was made largely because it was commonly held that women had a significant disadvantage competing for ballots from the mostly gay male IML attendees, who often base their bootblack selection at least partly on their sexual attraction to the bootblack. Since 1999, competitors for IMrBB are restricted to persons over the age of 21 who can provide a valid government-issued form of identification that identifies them as male.

The winner of the International Mr. Bootblack Competition is announced (along with the first and second runners-up and the winner of the Brotherhood Award, on which the IMrBB competitors vote and which is roughly analogous to the Miss Congeniality Award from various traditional beauty contests) at the Sunday contest, immediately following the announcement of the top 20 IML finalists.

In recent years, largely because of coordination of the contest by David Hawks, International Mr. Bootblack 2000, the Bootblack Competition has begun to develop adjunct activities. An IMrBB party is held in a hotel function room on Saturday night, offering food, music, and a silent auction, the proceeds of which go to the travel fund of the winner. Likewise, during the competition hours in the Leather Market, volunteers man a table to answer questions and sell IMrBB Travel Fund pins, which also adds to the travel fund. These sources of revenue have provided the various titleholders with significantly more money to aid their travel to distant events during their title years. The money is controlled by the contest coordinator, and any access to the funds must be accompanied by proof of the travel outlay.

Starting in 2013, the IMrBB contest has implemented a judging system to select the winner. Contestants will be evaluated by a panel of judges on the basis of their technical bootblacking skills, how they present themselves on stage and in public and what they say in an interview with the judges. Ballot voting still makes up a percentage of the contestant's total score.

Titleholders

  • 1993 - David Morgan - DC Eagle - Washington, D.C.
  • 1994 - William Shields, Jr. - Chicago Eagle & Chicago Hellfire Club - Chicago, Illinois
  • 1995 - Tim Cousins - DC Eagle - Washington, D.C.
  • 1996 - Todd Nelson - The Cuff - Seattle, Washington
  • 1997 - Driller" - SF Eagle & Daddy's Bar - San Francisco, California
  • 1998 - Matthew Duncan - Centaur MC - Washington, D.C.
  • 1999 - Robert Ehrlich - DC Eagle - Washington, D.C.
  • 2000 - David Hawks - Centaur MC - Washington, D.C.
  • 2001 - paksen - Centaur MC - Washington, D.C.
  • 2002 - Michael Lanzini - The Lure - New York, N.Y.
  • 2003 - Richie Chameroy - Daddy's Bar & Powerhouse Bar - San Francisco, California
  • 2004 - Alan Tunstall - The Barracks Bar & Avatar Club - Los Angeles, California
  • 2005 -"BooBoo" - Great Lakes - Leather Alliance and Laws Leather Cleveland, Ohio
  • 2006 - Benjamin Palmer - PumpJack Pub & Priape Vancouver - Vancouver, British Columbia
  • 2007 - "Spot" - Great Lakes Leather Alliance - Lansing, Michigan
  • 2008 - "Bootdog" - Alameda County Leather Corps - Oakland, California
  • 2009 - "McG" - Bootblack Toronto 2009 - MLTC Inc. - Toronto, Ontario
  • 2010 - Tim Starkey - Boston Ramrod - Boston, Massachusetts
  • 2011 - Jim Deuder - NYC Bootblack Roundtable, Leathermen NYC, and the Eagle NYC - New York City, New York
  • 2012 - Nick Elliott - Oregon State Bootblack - Portland, Oregon
  • 2013 - Sammy Sklover Oregon State Bootblack - Portland, Oregon
  • 2014 - Scout the Bootblack, Oakland, CA
  • 2015 - Bamm-Bamm, San Francisco, CA
  • 2016 - Erick Joseph, Anchorage, Alaska
  • 2017 - Ryan "Pawlish" Carpenter , Ohio
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