I was recently at the Eagle in New York one Sunday night and I noticed a lot of guys in alligator shirts and designer clothing and I swear I felt like I was in some twink bar catering to the fashion or hairdressing set. Where were the edgier guys, the shaved heads, the tattoos, the grizzled older macho men that I go to leather bars to find? Is leather culture on its way out? I heard that the Mr. Leather contest in New Jersey was open to women! What on earth has happened to the leather scene? Anon.
Well, I'm no expert on the leather scene, but I don't think it's on its way out any time soon. I have also been to the Eagle on a Sunday and observed the same thing you did -- I was the only cueball [shaved head] on the roof deck! I believe Sundays attracts a wider variety of men at the Eagle and perhaps everywhere else.
I think leather bars know that some men come because of the masculine atmosphere and aren't really into the leather or fetish scene. So they set aside one night when only men in full leather regalia are admitted [Thursdays, I believe, for the New York Eagle].
It's possible that hardcore leather fetishists and gay men into kinkier scenes hang out in other places and have their own clubs. [And of course the leather scene is not strictly gay.] I know some hardcore leather men think of most modern-day leather bars as, as you imply, fashion shows. [At least the New York Eagle isn't as bad as the Boston Eagle, which is by no stretch of the imagination a leather bar. At least that was the case. It may have changed, but probably not.]
As for women in "Mr. Leather" contests? It sounds completely idiotic and pointless, as there can always be [and probably is] a Ms. Leather competition. Sounds like political correctness run amok. UPDATE: Actually there is one contest for men [Mr. Leather] and another for women [Ms. Leather]. It is not true that women compete in the Mr. Leather contest, at least not in New Jersey. There was no Ms. NJ Leather in 2008, but there was a Mr. NJ Leather.
Try the Eagle on another night and you might find some of those edgier guys you were talking about.
In the meantime, here's a link to a piece I did on the leather/fetish scene for The [now defunct] New York Blade.