Handkerchief code

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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 or around the belt loop. Hanky code was widely used in the 1970s as a gay code; nowadays it is also used by many bisexual, pansexual, and queer people.[1]

Today the bandanas are worn almost exclusively in the rear trouser pocket or tied around the belt loop. 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 might be 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); or on other parts of the body.

There is no universally understood color code, and regional codes vary widely. There is general agreement upon the colors for more common practices, particularly those with an intuitive relation between the color and the practice, such as yellow for urolagnia; brown for coprophilia; and black for SM, but no absolute consensus for more common practices.[citation needed]



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). There is also another theory that the modern Hanky Code started in New York City in late 1970 or early 1971 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.[2]

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