From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Handkerchief code or hanky code (also known as bandana code and flagging) is a way of indicating, usually among gay male casual sex-seekers or BDSM practitioners in the leather subculture in the United States, Canada and Europe, whether they are a top or bottom, and what kind of sex they are seeking, by wearing cotton color-coded handkerchiefs (bandanas), usually in the back pocket. Hanky code was widely used in the 1970s as a gay code, however it is increasingly mainstream.
Today the bandanas are worn almost exclusively in the rear trouser pocket, on the left side of the body for tops and on the right for bottoms, just as tops wear their keys on the left belt loop and bottoms on the right. In the past bandanas were also worn tied around the neck (with the knot positioned on either the left or right side); around the ankle (when wearing boots or when undressed); hung from the left or right side of the belt, or on other parts of the body.
There is no universally understood color code, and regional codes vary. There is general agreement upon the colors with an intuitive relation between the color and the practice, such as yellow for watersports; brown for scat; and black for SM, but no absolute consensus for all colors or acts.
The wearing of various colored bandanas around the neck was common in the mid- and late-nineteenth century among cowboys, steam railroad engineers, and miners in the Western United States. It is thought that the wearing of bandanas by gay men originated in San Francisco after the Gold Rush, when, because of a shortage of women, men dancing with each other in square dances developed a code wherein the man wearing the blue bandana took the male part in the square dance, and the man wearing the red bandana took the female part (these bandanas were usually worn around the arm or hanging from the belt or in the back pocket of one's jeans).  It is believed by some that the modern Hanky Code started in New York City in about 1970 when a journalist for the Village Voice joked that instead of simply wearing keys to indicate whether someone was a "top" or a "bottom", it would be more efficient to subtly announce their particular sexual focus by wearing different colored hankies.
The handkerchief code in popular culture
- A character on Rescue Me was approached by several gay men after appearing in an FDNY calendar where he unwittingly wore a yellow bandana in his pocket while dressed as a cowboy.
- Aaron North, a past guitarist for Nine Inch Nails, is well known for wearing a red bandana in his pocket during concerts. However, given North's on-stage antics, it's probably more of a reference to NIN's Wish, in which fist fuck are part of the lyrics.
- Peaches, the female, German-Canadian, electroclash musician, has a song entitled "Hanky Code" in which she spells out the hanky code tradition and various colors and their meanings.
- Al Pacino's character in the 1980 movie Cruising (film) is criticized for wearing the wrong color handkerchief while trying to blend-in in a gay bar.
|Black||SM||Indicates the wearer's interest in hardcore SM play, especially whipping. |
|Grey||Bondage||Play involving limiting the bottom's ability to move or to escape. |
|White||Mutual masturbation |
|Light blue||Oral sex||Wearing it in the left back pocket indicates willingness to receive fellatio. Wearing it in the right back pocket indicates desire to perform fellatio. |
|Navy Blue||Anal sex||Wearing it in the left back pocket indicates a preference to be the dominant/top during sexual anal intercourse. Wearing it in the right back pocket indicates a preference to be the submissive/bottom during sexual anal intercourse. |
|Pink (Hot Pink)||Dildos |
|Charcoal||Latex, PVC, or Rubber Fetish|| |
Urinating on (left), or being urinated upon by (right), another person
|Medium Blue||Uniform fetish||Police uniforms or uniforms worn by other authority figures |
|Teal||Cock and ball torture |
|Khaki||Military Sex (Uniform fetish)||Likes wearing military uniforms |
|Olive drab||Military person ||Left: A military top; Right: a military bottom |
|Kelly green||sex for money||Left: a male prostitute; right: a john (someone looking for a prostitute) |
|Hunter green||Daddy/boy sex||Looking for a boy (left) or looking for a daddy (right) |
|Orange||Few limits||When worn on the left, orange indicates that the wearer will top in relatively any fetish, anytime, anywhere. Conversely, when orange is worn on the right, it indicates the wearer will bottom in relatively any fetish, anytime, anywhere. |
|Robin Egg Blue (Pale Robin Egg Blue)||69 |
|Aqua (Printer's Cyan)||Aquaphilia||Having sex in water, such as in a bathtub, shower or swimming pool |
|Lime||Sitophilia||Eating food off someone's body or having food eaten off one's body |
|Chamois||Motorcycle sex||Indicates the wearer is looking for sex involving a motorcycle as a prop, or involving one or more bikers in the sexual activities. |
|Mauve||Navel fetish |
|Dark Pink||Tit torture |
|Magenta (Printer’s Magenta)||Armpits||Left: likes armpits licked; right: likes to lick armpits |
|Lavender (Bright Lavender)||Cross dressing / Gender play |
|Mustard (Gold Ochre)||Size queen |
|Gold (Golden)||Menage-a-trois||Two looking for one (left) or one looking for two (right) |
|Apricot||Chubby chaser |
|Peach||Bear or cub who is interested in sex with another bear or cub |
|Beige (Desert Sand) ||Rimming||Anal-oral contact |
|Rust||Ponyism  |
|Camouflage||Rugged outdoorsman||Having sex outdoors in the country (such as when going camping) |
|Gingham||Urban outdoorsman||Having sex in city parks |
|Argyle||Geeks||A geek or nerd (left) or interested in geeks or nerds (right) |
|Doily (an actual doily, not a bandana with a doily pattern) ||Tearoom trade||Likes to have sex in public lavatories |
|Gold (metallic gold) lamé ||Muscle sex||Looking for sex with bodybuilders|
|Silver (metallic silver) lamé ||Starfucker||Looking for a rock star or male groupie|
|Black leather bandana ||Leather fetish|
|Houndstooth||Biting||Likes to bite (Left) or likes to be bitten (right)|