As we flip through the pages of the Minnesota Leather Pride’s history, one symbol stands out consistently: the commemorative dog tag. This year marks the 30th anniversary of this iconic emblem, which has evolved dramatically over the decades, mirroring the vibrancy and diversity of the Minnesota Leather Pride celebration itself.
The story of these dog tags dates back to the early 1990s, when the concept was first introduced not by Minnesota Leather Pride, but by the Atons of Minneapolis. Known for their collectible dog tags distributed at their Eros and Halloween parties, the Atons set a precedent that would inspire a rich tradition.
In the initial years, from 1994 to 1997, Minnesota Leather Pride dog tags closely resembled those of the Atons – simple, stamped aluminum pieces with a modest, black recessed design. These tags, handed out during the annual Leather Pride celebration following the Twin Cities GLBT pride parade, marked the beginnings of a journey into artistic expression and community identity.
As we approached the turn of the millennium, the dog tags began to evolve in both design and sophistication. The years 1998 and 1999 saw the incorporation of red and blue hues alongside the classic black, a nod to the leather pride flag. The year 2000 was notable for two reasons: a return to the black-only design and the production of a special second dog tag, celebrating the legacy of Timothy John Newman and featuring the logos of The Minneapolis Eagle and The Tank.
The new millennium brought more than just a change in calendar. Starting in 2001, the dog tags shifted from stamped aluminum to cast pewter, giving them a more substantial feel and allowing for deeper, more intricate engravings. This period, stretching from 2001 to 2008, also saw the introduction of dog tags without color but with a richer, three-dimensional design. A notable milestone was achieved in 2005 when the design expanded to both sides of the tag – a trend maintained almost every year since.
The dog tags continued their evolutionary journey between 2009 and 2011. These years were marked by a transition to chrome-finished backs and sides, with the front boasting full-color designs protected by clear epoxy, making each piece more striking and visually appealing.
The period from 2012 onwards has been characterized by continued innovation and artistic experimentation. The 2012 dog tag reintroduced cast pewter but added a new, heart-shaped cutout, while 2013 saw more complex cutouts combined with bright silver metal and cloisonné enamel coloring – a technique that lent many of the subsequent tags an almost jewelry-like quality.
Recent years have seen further stylistic shifts. In 2020, the dog tag was resized and featured an offset printed design under transparent epoxy. The following year, amid the COVID lockdowns, a simpler aluminum tag was created, and this tag was given away. However, 2022 and 2023 returned to the silver and cloisonné style. And most recently, in 2024, a black nickel finish was chosen, giving a nostalgic nod to the earlier all-metal designs.
These dog tags, more than just collectibles, encapsulate the spirit of the Minnesota Leather Pride – a symbol of identity, history, and community. As we celebrate their 30th anniversary, each tag tells a story, a snippet of the journey that the Minnesota Leather Pride and its community have embarked on together, forging an indelible mark in the annals of pride history.
Based on the original text written by Steve Lenius, with additions by Andrew Bertke