Article: Tina | @tommostina
* Note/Disclaimer: The pronouns they/them/it have been used for RBB & SBB. There are also lots of great extra sources for pictures of the bears and extra branches of information linked at the bottom of the timeline.
At One Direction’s Where We Are Tour show on May 30, 2014 at Etihad Stadium in Manchester a stuffed bear with rainbow fur was thrown on stage. A few days after the bear fell into the possession of One Direction and their crew the bear re-appeared on stage wrapped in electrical tape. This caused the bear to earn the name Rainbow Bondage Bear, or RBB. Later the next year in an interview released by KiddNation on December 2, 2015, Harry says, “I believe it’s a bear that was thrown on stage at one of our shows, and the crew kept it and taped it to the scaffolding,” (full interview linked below). There are many doubts about the truth of this statement, but the people behind RBB were never revealed.
Twitter Account #1:
A couple months later, on August 12, 2014, the Twitter account @bondagebear1d was created and visibly advertised on stage right beside the bear itself. The first posts from the account were photos of the bear drinking, in beds, with coffee, and doing other normal activities. For example, one of the first tweets, on August 12, 2014, said, “Never drinking again…….”, with an attached image of RBB, still wrapped in tape, leaning over a toilet. Another was of RBB tucked into a bed with a tweet saying, “Had a few too many so it’s a good night from Mr. Bear. Zzzzz”, and a photo taken from behind the bear as it faces the inside of a fridge filled with a bottle of alcohol and two containers of Tostitos salsa among other items.
Later that same month, the Twitter account made the first of its many references to Judy Garland. For a little backstory, Judy Garland was extremely well known as a singer by the age of ten and around the age of thirteen she was signed to a huge movie studio. She featured in numerous movies, the most famous being The Wizard of Oz (1939), while simultaneously making music, including seven studio albums and six live albums. Judy Garland also has a song called “Skip To My Lou” and a verse in the song is “I’ll be glad to go with you / So prithee do not tarry / But if I do, it’s up to you / To let me dance with Harry.” Judy is also a staple in the queer community, especially regarding gay men. Similarly, saying that you are a “friend of Dorothy” or “friend of Judy” is a way for men to tell one another that they are gay without saying it directly. The phrase was and is used to avoid criticism and judgment because most of the general public was unaware of the true meaning.
The first tweet in relation to Judy, sent on August 14, 2014, said, “Of course I love you. No I haven’t been drinking. No I stayed in and watched a Judy Garland film… hic!” The photo attached was of RBB in electrical tape, sitting on a bed, and holding a bottle of what looks like beer. After this first tweet there were a couple more relating to Judy Garland, like a photo taken from behind RBB, showing its back, and a cup of Starbucks coffee on the table in front of it with the words, “It’s all coming back now. Gin. Judy Garland. Drunk phone calls….” The Twitter account got suspended within the next few days and the bear disappeared for the rest of the Where We Are Tour. (A link to a post with all photos and tweets is below.)
Revival of RBB:
One Direction’s On the Road Again Tour began on February 7, 2015, in Sydney, Australia. This is where RBB was first seen again. Now, the bear was being dressed up in more than just electrical tape. It was seen wearing an assortment of different outfits and accessories that originally appeared to be just fun and random, except for the aviators RBB was rarely seen without and the recurring theme of Freddie Mercury.
The bear was constantly set up wearing a mustache mimicking the one Freddie Mercury had along with tons of outfits that resemble what he wore on stage. Freddie Mercury was a British singer who was the lead vocalist of the band Queen. He had a unique stage presence, especially for the 1970s-80s. Freddie never publicly spoke on his sexuality and was a pretty private person, but was flamboyant on stage and indirectly confirmed he was LGBTQIA+.
As time passed RBB’s outfits became significant and coded with depth and meaning (this is elaborated on as the timeline goes). At this time there was no official social media account for the bear so all photos from concerts were shared via fan accounts on various social platforms. (A link with tons of pictures of RBB from concerts and descriptions/pictures of all its accessories is below.)
Now Introducing: SBB
On June 13, 2015, at the OTRA tour show in Brussels, Belgium, a smaller bear is seen sitting next to RBB. This bear was also rainbow and wrapped up in electrical tape/bondage gear, just like RBB had been in the beginning. Soon the entire fandom had agreed on RBB and SBB, Rainbow Bondage Bear and Sugar Baby Bear. At the next show SBB was wearing aviators, given to them by the unidentified bear owners, that matched RBB’s and soon after that SBB was regularly dressed up along with RBB.
Books, Books, Books (and other props):
In Vancouver, Canada on July 17, 2015, RBB was holding a book for the first time. This novel was k. d. Lang: All You Get is Me by Victoria Starr. A summary of the novel written by goodreads.com says, “All You Get is Me uncovers k.d.’s deepest emotions, from a commitment to animal rights that threatened to ruin her career, to her coming to terms with a sexuality that made her an unwitting poster girl for the lesbian and gay community. Full [o]f rare photographs, this is the definitive biography of k.d. Lang.”
After this the bears weren’t spotted with anything that seemed extremely significant at the time, that is, until the Chicago show on August 23, 2015, where SBB was holding a baby bottle. The bear was last seen holding the bottle at the Cleveland show, on August 27, 2015, then it disappeared. A couple weeks prior to this, on August 4, 2015, Louis said he was buzzing to be a father after rumors about him having a son had been going around for two weeks. The prop’s purpose is now assumed to have been for fans to correlate SBB to Louis and to sort of say the baby announcement is a “prop”, or that the child is not actually Louis’.
On the night prior to the show, on August 27, 2015 in Cleveland, Ohio, Harry was seen at Baskin Robins and Louis was pictured at McDonald’s. At the show RBB was holding a plastic ice cream cone in their right hand and SBB had a McDonald’s fries container in front of it. This was the first time fans (Larries to be specific) realized that it was likely Harry and Louis dressing up the bears. Also around the time of this concert a pattern relating to the stickers on the bears’ feet was noticed. RBB has a green sticker and SBB has a blue one, just like the green tape on Harry’s microphone and the blue tape on Louis’. These along with the baby bottle and ice cream/McDonald’s sightings helped convince more people that it was Louis and Harry behind the bears as well.
Putting some pieces together, more people were sure Louis and Harry were behind the bears for a few reasons. First, the previously stated stickers/tape and the sightings with matching props. Then, fans began to realize that the cost of all the bears’ costumes and props would have been extremely expensive and planning outfits/setting them up would have been a bit time consuming. Thinking about it, who would have had the time and money to do all this? The singers who made tons of money and didn’t have much to do between soundcheck and the show. (A bit of financial info on the outfits is below.)
Next in Philadelphia on September 1, 2015, RBB was reading another book, Bette Davis by Barbara Leaming, this is a biography of the life of Bette Davis. Bette was an actress who rose to fame in the 1930s after being told she had no “sex appeal” and was constantly undermined, given roles she was over qualified for, and being paid less than what she was worth. Bette Davis was fearless in her role as a celebrity. She stood up for herself, took action where it was unheard of from females, and wasn’t afraid to play characters that portrayed her as ugly, old, or undesirable. This bravery mixed with her overall persona really drew the queer community towards her. She was aware of the admiration the community had for her and supported them unconditionally. (A source with more information on Bette Davis is linked.)
In Buffalo, New York, on September 3, 2015, a black and white photo of Judy Garland was set in front of RBB and SBB, which continues the pattern of referencing her. There was a photo of comedian Ken Dodd there too. (There was no significance I could find with him in relation to the boys or bears. Info on him linked below).
In Montreal, Canada, on September 5, 2015, RBB is holding pictures of Princess Diana and Prince David. The couple had rumors of secret relationships and unwanted pregnancies going around. There was also a small pink photo with the bears too, it was of a drag queen named Luc Provost that’s from Montreal. Luc Provost is also a singer, author, and well known in the gay community.
There aren’t any more pictures of RBB and/or SBB being present for the rest of the North America leg of OTRA, but at London night one on September 24, 2015, they reappear. This day is extremely important. First of all, RBB is wearing a full bride’s outfit, a veil and white dress, along with their usual aviators and Freddy Mercury mustache. SBB has a cowboy style hat that has a veil attached on the back and a sticker on the front that says “bride to be.” RBB and SBB are also holding hands. Most importantly, in front of the bears there is a photo of Larry Grayson, and the photo has “Love, Larry” written on it. While Larry Grayson never spoke on his sexuality he was one of the first comedians to suggest an openly “gay” persona. He also had a large queer following and his a catch phrase of “What a gay day.” Apparently the photo of Larry Grayson was removed around fifteen minutes before the show began. This day basically confirmed to Larries that Louis and Harry were the ones in control of the bears because, for one, it was a few days before “Larry Day”, aka September 28. Along with that, the wedding garb and the photo literally being signed “Love, Larry” said it all.
On October 4, 2015, in Manchester, the bears are seen with another book, An Autobiography of Claire Richards (by Claire Richards). The novel is called All of Me and Claire talks about what the reality of being in an extremely successful band is like and what she struggled with. She describes the pressures of the industry and how greatly her mental health was affected from everything that happened to her.
This book has many parallels to One Direction and what they went through in many ways. First of all, it was placed with the bear the same month of their final show as a band, meaning the members knew about the coming hiatus and were taking more control over their careers. This was also around the time when lots of information on abuse in the music industry was coming out. Claire wrote about how she felt trapped and controlled while in her band which is a topic that the members of One Direction have spoken about quite a bit.
Author’s/NSM Team Note:
The RBB and SBB Timeline is being split into four parts and they will be released throughout November 2022!
Britannica, The Editors of Encyclopedia, “Bette Davis.” Encyclopedia Britannica,
1 April 2022, https://www.britannica.com/biography/Bette-Davis.
“kd Lang: All You Get is Me.” Goodreads,
KiddNation, “One Direction’s Ugly Christmas Sweaters!” YouTube, 2 December
Louisandthealien, “RBB & SBB for Dummies.” Tumblr, 27 August 2016,
Schechter, Scott. “Judy Garland.” Encyclopedia Britannica, 6 June 2022,
Extra Sources (Relevance stated in the article)
- A great source on Judy Garland –
- Photos & Tweets from the first Twitter account @ bondagebear1d –
- RBB concert pictures and clothes/accessories (This site was made by a fan on Tumblr @beccasafan, go check them out, seriously, do it) –
- Bette Davis !! –
- A bit of RBB financial info –
- Ken Dodd’s Wiki page –