Handkerchief code, hanky code, also known as bandanna code and flagging. Is a way of showing what you are looking for in sex play, usually among gay male casual sex seekers or BDSM practitioners in the leather subculture all over the world. Whether you are a top or bottom, and what kind of sex you were seeking. By wearing a cotton color coded handkerchiefs bandanna in your back pocket or around the belt loop, it shows what you were looking for before even sparking conversation with your partner to be.
Hanky code was widely used in the 1970s as a gay code, nowadays it is also used by many bisexual, pansexual, and queer people all over the world. Today bandannas are worn mostly in the rear jean pocket or tied around the belt loop, left side for tops and right side for bottoms. Just as tops wear their keys on the left belt loop and bottoms on the right side. In the past bandannas were worn tied around the neck with the knot positioned on either the left or right side or around the ankle when wearing boots.
There is no universally understood color code, and regional codes vary from place to place. There is general agreement upon the colors for more common use, especially for those with an intuitive relation between the color and practice. For example: yellow for urolagnia, brown for coprophilia, and black for SM. The wearing of different colored bandannas around the neck was commonly used in the mid to late nineteenth century among cowboys, steam railroad engineers, and miners in the Western part of the United States.
It was said that the wearing of bandannas by gay men originated in California San Francisco area after the Gold Rush. At the time because of a shortage of women, men dancing with each other in square dances created a code between each other. Where the man wearing the blue bandanna took the male role, and the man wearing the red bandanna took the female role in the square dance. Bandannas were usually worn around the arm, hanging from the belt or in the back pocket of their jeans.
Another theory is that the modern Hanky Code as we know it today started in New York City in the 1970s. A journalist for the Village Voice joked that instead of simply wearing keys to show whether someone was a “top” or a “bottom”, it would be easier to just wear different colored hankies.
A character on Rescue Me was approached by several gay men after being seen in an FDNY calendar where he was wearing a yellow bandanna tied around his belt loop and cowboy boots. Aaron North, a past guitarist for Nine Inch Nails was known for wearing a red bandanna in his pocket during concerts, it was a reference to NIN’s wish where fist fucking was part of the lyrics.
German Canadian electroclash musician Peaches, 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 movie Cruising during the 1980s is criticized for wearing the wrong color hanky while trying to blend in, in a gay bar.
Black: S&M indicates the wearer’s interest in hardcore SM play, especially whipping.
Red: Fister Left pocket insertive partner, right pocket receptive partner.
Yellow: Left side watersports urinating on, or right being urinated upon by another person.
Grey: Bondage play involving ropes, handcuffs, chains, other restraints that limit the bottom’s ability to move or touch himself.
White: Safer sex.
Light Blue: Oral sex wearing it in the left back pocket or on the left side indicates you are looking to receive oral sex, wearing it in the right back pocket or on the right side indicates you are looking to perform oral sex.
Navy Blue: Wearing it in the left back pocket or on the left side means you are the giver, top, pitcher during anal intercourse, wearing it in the right back pocket or on the right side means you are the bottom, catcher.
Light Pink: Dildos.
Charcoal: Latex and PVC fetishism.
Medium Blue: Uniform fetish Police uniforms or uniforms worn by other authority figures.
Teal: CBT Cock and ball torture.
Khaki: Military sex, uniform fetish, or likes wearing military uniforms during sex play.
Olive Drab: Worn on your left side means Military top, worn on your right side means a military bottom.
Kelly Green: Worn on left side indicated a male prostitute, right was the John role or someone looking for a prostitute.
Hunter Green: Daddy boy (18 or over) sex, looking for a boy worn on the left side or looking for a daddy worn on right side.
Orange: Few limits When worn on the left side it means that you will top in any fetish, anytime, anywhere. When orange is worn on the right side it means you will bottom in any fetish, anytime, anywhere or can mean “just looking, no play”.
Robin Egg Blue: 69.
Deep Aqua: Having sex in water, such as in a bathtub, shower or swimming pool.
Lime: Food play, eating food off someone’s body or having food eaten off your body.
Chamoise: Motorcycle sex, sex involving a motorcycle as a prop, or involving one or more bikers in a sex scene.
Mauve: Navel fetish.
Dark Pink: Tit torture.
Magenta: Left likes to lick armpits, right likes armpits licked.
Fuchsia: Left side wants to spank, right side wants to be spanked.
Purple: Piercings fetish, left likes to pierce someone or actually likes being pierced by someone as an erotic stimulation. Right side means you are looking for someone with piercings.
Lavender or Bright Lavender: Cross dressing, crossdresser.
Coral: Left wants feet licked, right wants to lick feet.
Mustard: Size queen.
Gold: Left means ménage à trois, couple or buds looking for one more for a 3way, right means looking for 2 more for a 3 way.
Apricot: Chubby chaser.
Peach: Bear or cub who is interested in sex with another bear or cub.
Light Yellow: Spitting Left wants to spit on partner during sex, right wants to be spat upon during sex.
Beige: Anal, oral sex.
Tan: Cigar play Left want to smoke a cigar while having sex, right wants someone who smokes cigars while having sex.
Rust: Animal roleplay
Dark Red: Two handed anal fisting.
Camouflage: Rugged outdoorsman having sex outdoors in the country.
Gingham: Urban outdoorsman Having sex in an Urban park.
Argyle: A geek or nerd when worn on left side or interested in geeks or nerds when worn on the right side.
Doily, yes an actual doily. Not a bandanna with a doily pattern: Tearoom trade, likes to have sex in public lavatories.
Metallic Gold: Muscle men sex when worn on left side, right means looking for sex with a bodybuilder.
Metallic Silver: Left is a rock star or male groupie, right looking for sex with a rock star or male groupie.
Black leather bandanna: Leather fetish.
Black velvet bandanna: Left means videotaping, likes to make videotapes of the act while having sex, right means likes to be videotaped.
Gray flannel bandanna: Left side likes to have sex while wearing a suit and tie, right side likes to have sex with someone who is wearing a suit and tie.
Houndstooth: Likes to bite when worn on the left side or likes to be bitten when worn on right.
Black and white checkerboard pattern: Safe sex, frottage, mutual masturbation or striptease in front of mirrors.
Color code may vary by region.