Love at First Woof

The 101 on Austin's own SCRUFF models Kyle Kline and Clay White

Big and sexy, that’s how I like ’em. And so do many gay men. SCRUFF, like Grindr, connects gay men using geographical proximity. But these gays usually have a bit more heft, and hair – ya know, scruff. The app boasts being a “global community with over 10 million members worldwide.”

SCRUFF has been great to me and my gay social life. After installing the app five years ago, I met most of my best friends, and two of my ex-boyfriends, on SCRUFF. It’s a quality app that doesn’t have to be dirty, and it comes in pretty handy while traveling in the big gay world.

By now, many SCRUFF users and Iron Bear patrons have probably crossed paths with local gay-famous bears, Clay White and Kyle Kline. No, those aren’t made-up names. Nor are they aliases for some homoerotic comic book featuring two beefy, hairy gay men conquering the world, one city at a time … but it should be.

They may not be superheros, but international recognition came to the couple after rubbing shoulders at parties with some of the founders of SCRUFF, including Johnny Skandros. SCRUFF liked the pair’s look so much they flew them out to New York City for a daylong photo shoot.

“Kyle [in red] has brought a positive energy to our bar,” says Jason Grodzinsky, Iron Bear’s General Manager. (Photo by Fred Guerra)

“Johnny contacted me one day on Facebook, and told me they wanted a photo shoot. We were so flattered,” says White. “I am just grateful for the whole experience.”

"Having known Kyle and Clay for several years, I can say that they’re two good-hearted guys with unparalleled energy and positive attitudes,” Skandros said in a statement. “They represent a segment of our community with their SCRUFFy bearded appearance and larger, beefier frames. This type of gay representation was not highly visible in the media until recent years. I'm excited to continue to utilize SCRUFF as a platform to perpetuate gay visibility and diversity, and I’m proud to have Kyle and Clay as representatives of the brand and as friends."

Ever since that one-day photo session in Manhattan the duo has been plastered all over the app. In fact, it’s all but impossible to click twice without seeing one or both bears. But their 15 minutes of fame didn’t stop there. Clay and Kyle were also given a huge billboard at the 2014 Super Bowl as part of the #PlayOnOurTeam campaign.

“I came out to prove that there are other people out there,” says Kline. “They play sports; they don’t want to be stigmatized in one way or the other. That’s why the Super Bowl ad meant so much to me.”

Kline and White first saw each other at a Halloween party six years ago while visiting Chicago. They didn’t meet, per se, but they actually connected through SCRUFF. Both bears woofed at one another – the SCRUFF version of a virtual wink and nudge, indicating your interest – and remained in contact as White returned to Austin and Kline to Columbus, Ohio. After a year of long-distance dating, Kline decided to move from Ohio to Austin to be with White. Soon they were in a fully committed relationship.

2014's #PlayOnOurTeam campaign (Photo Courtesy of SCRUFF)

According to the guys, traveling, for free, with each other and their friends is the biggest benefit to being international models. Based on their availability, they fly to cities all over the world to attend SCRUFF parties. As part of SCRUFF marketing they attend events to hand out information and meet adoring fans.

While tending bar at the Iron Bear, patrons sometimes compliment Kyle, but rarely ask for autographs. They’d probably prefer an “unlock” – the next step after "woofing” – where a user is invited by another to unlock private, and often more revealing photos.

Though fame and exposure to thousands of other single/cruising/gay men may break up some couples, it’s only made Kline and White stronger. “No matter what, we do everything together,” says Kline. “We travel and meet people at the same time, which is not what happens with most couples.”

“I just took Kyle home to meet my parents last Thanksgiving,” White said. “It was the first time my dad has ever met a man, a boyfriend.” White also lends his modeling talents to Art Erotica, Austin’s annual art show for the sexually free and their admirers. Clay has modeled for photographers and a variety of artists.

Being SCRUFF models has it perks. Not only do they have a professionally shot photo book from the beginning of their relationship to cherish for life, the couple travels the world for SCRUFF appearances. Even the Iron Bear is decorated with a SCRUFF banner featuring the bearded duo. Patrons are lucky enough to be served by the same bear giving them sexy-eye via the wall decorations.

Photo Courtesy of SCRUFF

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