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Hanky codes

Hanky codes

Hanky codesUsing hanky codes or 'flagging' was established in the early 1970s as a way of letting other gay men know your sexual interests, practices and preferences; eg: a coloured bandana or hanky worn in a back jeans pocket. While the hanky’s colour and/or pattern determines the practice, its location determines how you like/ enjoy the practice:

  • On the left: active top/ dom (doing it)
  • On the right: passive/ bottom/ sub (having it done to you)
  • Around the neck/ upper arm or wrist: if you prefer not to pre-determine a role or you are versatile (active and passive)

While the range is extensive, several colours are the most widely recognised and still used today:

Light blue: sucking
Dark blue: fucking
Yellow: watersports
Black: heavy S&M
Grey: bondage
Red: fisting
Orange: into everything

Some of the colours are still used as code words on web app profiles; eg: "…looking for guys into red" and colours are also used in speech, eg: “I’m into yellow” rather than “I’m into watersports.”

Though white cotton is most commonly used, guys into rubber sometimes use rubber hankies appropriately coloured. While some bandanas have detailed patterns (dots and stripes, for example) the prevailing colour is usually what to look out for.

If this isn't confusing enough, some guys use related accoutrement/ items instead of/ as well (left and right still apply, where applicable).

  • a chain/ dog collar with padlock around neck (usually bottom)
  • a metal cock ring or chain worn through jacket shoulder straps
  • cigar smoking (usually top)
  • coloured stripes down leather/ rubber jeans legs
  • red boot laces or braces (fisting)
  • yellow boot laces or braces (watersports)
  • a Muir cap (usually top)
  • rope and handcuffs (bondage)
  • paddles or whips (spanking and whipping)
  • rubber/ latex gloves (fisting)
  • chaps with bare arse cheeks (usually bottom)
  • bicep and wrist bands
  • a key chain

UK and USA versions of hanky codes contain differences and, in some cases, contradictions. More obscure codes seem to be more fanciful than real, but you never know. It can be difficult to see hanky colours in dimly lit venues, or in filtered lighting that change a colour’s appearance completely!

The hanky codes | The Twilight Guard
Gay hanky codes | Source unknown
Handkerchief code | Wikipedia

The Handkerchief Code, According to 'Bob Damron's Address Book' in 1980 | The Saint | 25 Apr 2019
The New Hanky Code Is an Actual Thing. Do You Know It Yet? | Hornet | 6 Apr 2019

Gay hanky codes | Ask New York | 24 Jun 2017 | 2m 5s
  What is the hanky code | Watts the Safeword | 5 Jun 2015 | 6m 25s
Gay Handkerchief Code Exposed! | Davey Wavey | 24 Nov 2011 | 3m 3s

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