Max Smith started his leather-working business, Alehoof Leather Company, to bring affordable sex-positive leather items to LGBTQ people in rural areas. Now he’s reaching the world through social media.
With just a desk to work on and a dresser full of supplies, Max Smith’s bedroom is his workshop. All by hand, Smith cuts out designs from strips of leather, dyes the materials, and handcrafts belts, wallets, collars, strap-on harnesses, and other sex-positive leather items.
Smith has been doing this for more than three years. He now operates officially under the name Alehoof Leather Company, a business he says started as a way to help alleviate the cost of poorly designed sex-positive items for queer people in rural areas.
“Living in rural Appalachia, you kind of have to make do with what you have,” said Smith, who lived in Staunton, Virginia when he started the business. “Most don’t have the luxury of getting on the city bus and going to a sex shop — and even if they did, it is so expensive.”
Understanding the lack of access to these items and the role body dysmorphia plays in the queer community, Smith decided he wanted to learn the art of leather work in order to help queer persons.
“Sex-positivity is huge in my life, and I think it’s important to be able to express yourself,” Smith said. “Especially with trans people, it’s so important to feel more like yourself and have the sexual experience you want.” Smith, who is a trans person himself, uses the profits from his leather-working business to build a fund for his own top surgery.
A handmade leather harness can sell for upwards $200 on sites like Etsy; however, in a deliberate attempt to keep his work affordable, Smith sells his harnesses for only $70.
What began as a sex-inclusive business has grown, as Smith moves beyond his original harnesses into wallets and belts — everyday leather items that he says are meant to last. He sells belts for $40, and wallets for $20, and cuts out overhead by using Instagram as his sole outlet for sales and promotion.
Smith’s main goal is not to make a profit, but to provide access to a high-quality leather item for people who normally don’t have the opportunity to purchase such a thing. This goal is so important to Smith that he continues to devote a great deal of time to the orders he receives, despite suffering from carpal tunnel syndrome. Although there are days when pain slows his process down, his average time-frame from start to finish is about a week.
“If I can do it and I can make it,” he said, “then I want to share that with someone.”
Photos via Alehoof Leather Company/Instagram