Jeffrey Mayhue has already proven he has the goods to tame the “Wild, Wild West,” and with JScott Leather, his own handcrafted leather accessories side business, the reigning Mr. Hotlanta Softball is sort of a Superman.
Clark Kent by day, Mayhue sheds the shirt and tie at night and his inner Clark Kink harnesses the power of Grindr to hawk his handmade harnesses and more. In fact, you may already have found yourself propositioned by this sexy salesman. Who wouldn’t buy something from him?
We chatted with Mayhue about the beginning to his leathery passion, his Mr. HSL win and some of the most eyebrow raising creations he’s made.
Do you remember the first time leather stirred your passion?
Yes, it was shortly after Hoedowns shutdown. I started going to Eagle more frequently and they were having a leather party and I wanted to dress the part. I’d never worn a harness before so I was just going for the costume appeal of it. To my dismay, I couldn’t find a harness that fit me. See, I’m a small dude and every harness I tried on either completely engulfed me or made me look puny, which I don’t need any help doing. So, I decided to venture out and make my own.
I found a leather supply store, did a little on-the-fly learning, and a few days later I had a prototype. Unlike others I’ve tried on, this harness fit snug and was extremely sturdy. I've always been involved in some sort of creative/crafty activity, and the process of making that first harness catered to that exactly. I immediately started making other items beginning with wrist cuffs, then suspenders, improving the technique, quality, and design with every piece.
When did the idea of creating your own line of custom-made leather goods evolve from fantasy to reality?
Actually it was kind of the other way around. I never fantasized or thought that I would be doing this; I simply made items that I liked for myself that fit me and my personality type. When I wore them out people started taking notice and I began receiving requests for items to be made for other people. Those people would wear their items out, their friends took notice, and it just kind of snowballed from there. JScott Leather was born.
Does your mother know about your side gig?
My mom always had a sense of humor. I'm sure she's looking down shaking her head and laughing but she passed before I started crafting leather. I do hope however there are moments she turns a blind eye and looks away. But it’s definitely not a secret to my family what I do. We all laugh and make jokes about some of the things that I've made before. It's all in good fun. I won’t name names, but I recently had a request by a family member for a pair of suspenders she can wear – allowing her to go topless in the Pride parade this year – and yes, I will be making them!
What is the difference between a handcrafted J Scott Leather piece and something bought at a store?
All my pieces are custom-made for one. They're designed based on your body type and shape and I add a flare of your personality tied into the piece. I design items from the ground up starting with your body shape. Things like the strap width, harness styles, the types of rings and hardware used, are all part of the grand scheme of design.
The second thing that differentiates me the most is my attention to detail. Because I had such a hard time finding something for myself, I know how important it is to have a piece in your collection that truly reflects who you are. It’s something I take very seriously.
You've said that working with leather has been the most satisfying creative outlet you’ve ever worked in. Why?
I've always enjoyed working with my hands. But really it’s the fact that when I’m working on a JScott Leather order, the possibilities are endless. No two projects are the same. Each person that walks into my shop presents a new challenge: they are a new canvas with a new personality. Every person is unique.
You tamed the Wild, Wild West and were named Mr. HSL this spring. How would you sum up what participation in HSL means to you?
I joined HSL for the fun of the game. It doesn’t matter who you play, or whether you win or lose; it’s all about being a goofball with the rest of my friends while making new friends every game we play.
If you had to pick one project, that one might find unbelievable, what would you say it was?
I don't know about unbelievable, but I have had a couple of requests that would raise an eyebrow. [laughs]
One included a Pokémon leather harness with tail and mask shin guards; another was a furry flying monkey harness to hold a set of wings that could also later double as a leather harness without the fur.
Any challenges or ambitious creations?
Oh yeah! I made a custom fit jock out of leather and chainmail. The chainmail part was made of stainless steel rings, copper, and gold and took a year to complete. But as far as future ambitious creations, I have a few ideas up my sleeve that I would love to get out on the workbench. But one of the more quirky ones would be Hiccups harness suit from the DreamWorks movie “How To Train Your Dragon 2.” Maybe I'll be able to tackle it before Halloween this year.
You’ve gotten creative with marketing using apps such as Scruff, Grindr and Growlr. Has that proven effective?
At the very least I've found it to be a great conversation starter! [laughs]
I definitely meet a lot of interesting people, with similar interests. It’s proven to be a great forum to share bizarre ideas and creative tips. It seems some people are shy about going out to shop for harnesses in the store, for a variety of reasons. For example, one couple I worked with wanted a harness strong enough to be used as a suspension device without breaking. Another gentleman wanted a harness that would look befitting to his size – he weighed over 300 pounds. I’ve also had people who had no clue what they wanted and were simply seeking guidance and recommendations because they were too shy to ask in stores. I love a good challenge, and I like helping people feel confident about themselves. These apps have definitely proven effective in providing a means to that end.
[top photo with Mayhue (right) and Chandler Bearden]