Sir Rat may only have a brick-and-mortar location in Austin right now, but co-founders Luis Bratt and Randy Surratt just might be taking over the world. Or at least the leather community.
What started out as a hobby for Randy has quickly blossomed into a popular retail store, a series of increasingly beloved events, and even travel to gay bars in other cities to participate in leather nights there. Leather may be a fetish as old as Tom of Finland, but the ethos behind Sir Rat couldn’t be more contemporary.
The owners spoke about their company, the future, and why the younger generation may be changing the leather community for the better.
On the origins of Sir Rat.
Luis Bratt: We started as a hobby. Randy, my partner, made me a nylon harness and everyone was like, “Where did you buy that?” From there, we started making 10, 20, and then we started having pop-up shops. And then one bar invited us to have a permanent pop-up shop, and that’s what jump started the store. After a year we [started selling] other brands, too, and then we moved in the middle of the pandemic and basically doubled the size of the store. It’s been four years now!
On creating a new leather community in Austin.
LR: We were always involved in the community. The leather groups here are not very active, so we created our own, and aligned our events with trying to give back. Now, basically, we have fundraisers every month.
A lot of people don’t like the bar scene; they want events that aren’t super late. So we have a bimonthly jockstrap party from 3–8 PM. Everyone was like, “No one will go,” but we had 300 people in a parking lot because people want to do things differently.
On surviving the pandemic.
LR: We thought, “Fuck, we’re gonna close.” But my major is in marketing, so I said, “Why don’t we do deliveries?” We never delivered so many dildos in our entire life! Everyone was buying dildos and toys, so that’s pretty much what sustained us.
On finding a consumer base for not just their products but for their brand.
LR: I never thought people would come buy a shirt with our logo. But around Christmas, this guy came in and said, “You have a new pink T-shirt out, right?” That was made for drag queens for events, so I only made 10. So he said, “I have all the other colors, but I don’t have the pink one, and I’d like to get the pink one for me and my partner for Christmas.” So of course I gave him two! I was very surprised at how much people love our brand.
On changing the face of leather.
LR: Probably the reason we became successful, we make pink leather harnesses and we sold them out in a night. We make camo harnesses, gold harnesses. We make all kinds of colors and the new generation loves that.
Oil Can Harry’s here is very inclusive. We had our anniversary party over there, and I was very pleased with the women at it because they were very respectful and supportive. Ripcord in Houston, the majority of the people there are from the leather community, but we also have women and all the letters from LGBTQ+.
One of my best friends is trans, and she quit her leather group because it’s an all-male group, and that made me think a lot. You’re welcome at Sir Rat, whoever you are. We shouldn’t turn away people who are interested in learning about their kinks.
On offering more than just merch.
LR: We do cock ring measurements. A lot of people think we’re trying to have sex, but its 100 percent professional! [Laughs] We’re going to measure your cock and balls and get you the right cock ring. And we get a lot of wives bringing their husbands.
RANDY SURRATT: And straight leather groups come in, looking for outfits for their husband and boyfriend.
On the future of Sir Rat.
We have a Pride float in August, and I think we’re the only gay-owned, people of color–operated company in the parade. Our annual pool party this year sold out in a couple hours. And we’re planning on doing an event at Ripcord in Houston.
On the widespread popularity of their products.
RS: We’re around leather so much that when we went to Key West for Pride, we didn’t pack a single piece of leather! [Laughs]
LR: But we’re seeing other people wearing our stuff at these big events. We went on the Atlantis cruise and saw a couple of our harnesses there. We had a Pride lunch, and a lot of people came in our Pride shirts! And we were wearing plain white shirts! [Laughs]