Saturday, November 26, 2011

The Handkerchief Code

So you're out walking and you see a large man walking away from you. He's got on a leather jacket, a pair of jeans and a leather cap, complete with a pair of black boots. He's totally hot to you and all you can think about is climbing him like a tree. As your eyes are traveling over his legs you see a navy blue handkerchief in his left back pocket and in his right back pocket you see a black handkerchief next to a red one and a brown one.  You are confused, what the hell does that mean? Because it has to mean something right?

It does. And thanks to Wikipedia ( and Silver Publishing (which totally got me thinking about this) I'm going to break down the handkerchief code for you. And just so you know, if I was still wearing them, I would wear a few different ones: black, black velvet, black leather, houndstooth, beige, fuschia, lime, dark pink, magenta, robin egg blue, teal, light pink, navy blue, light blue, white (for safe sex only), Jolly Roger, black and white checkerboard and a grey handkerchief. If you want to know what they mean, look over the list.

Happy Spankings!!

The Dom

Handkerchief code or hanky code (also known as bandana code and flagging) is color-coded system, employed usually among the gay male casual-sex seekers or BDSM practitioners in theleather subculture in the United States, Canada and Europe, to indicate preferred fetishes, what kind of sex they are seeking, and whether they are a top/dominant or bottom/submissive. The hanky code was widely used in the 1970s by gay and bisexual men, and grew from there to include all genders and orientations.
Today, wearing color-coded handkerchiefs (bandanas), usually in the back pocket or around the belt loop, is the manner in which communication of desires and fetishes is achieved. Wearing a handkerchief on the left side of the body typically indicates one is a "Top" (one considered active in the practice of the fetish indicated by the color of the handkerchief), while wearing it on the right side of the body would indicate one is a "bottom" (one considered passive in the practice of the fetish indicated by the color of the handkerchief). This left-right reality is taken from the earlier practice of tops wearing their keys on the left belt loop and bottoms on the right to indicate being a member of the leather subculture. 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.

The wearing of various colored bandanas around the neck was common in the mid- and late-nineteenth century among cowboyssteam 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 dancesdeveloped 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.[1]

The first table is drawn from Larry Townsend's The Leatherman's Handbook II (i.e., the second edition of the book in 1983, the first edition of which came out in 1972 and did not include this list),[2]and may be taken as more authoritative than most web pages. Implicit in this list of hankie color codes is the concept of right/left polarity, left as usual indicating the top, dominant, or active partner, right the bottom, submissive, or passive partner. Purple, the code for piercing, merely indicates an interest in piercing (usually that the wearer has body piercings), not necessarily that they wish to incorporate piercing into sexual play.
     Dark blueAnal sex
     Light blueOral sex
     OrangeAnything, anywhere, any time (but not necessarily anyone)
     PurpleInto piercing

The long, elaborate lists such as that in the next table and most found on the web, are more imaginative and the many color codes in them are less often used in practice, although most of the colors in longer lists are offered as bandanas for sale at almost all LGBT leather stores along with free color code cards listing their meanings.
The following table is derived from the color code cards provided free by LGBT leather stores. The left/right distinction indicates a desire to be the top or bottom respectively. It can also signal whether, in various fetishes, one desires to be the active or passive participant in the act, though which is which is more ambiguous depending on the act's nature. Due to regional differences, not all of these may be correct for all locations.

     BlackHeavy S&MIndicates the wearer's interest in hardcore SM play, especially whipping.[3][4]
     RedFistingLeft pocket: Insertive partner. Right pocket: Receptive partner.[3][4]
     YellowWatersportsUrinating on or in (left), or being urinated upon or into by (right), another person[3][4]
     GreyBondagePlay involving ropes, handcuffs, or other restraints that limit the bottom's ability to move. In some codes, grey is also indicative of a desire for light S&M (not as hardcore as wearing Black)[3][4]
     WhiteSafe sex (a checkered black and white hanky is also indicative of safe sex) or masturbation onlyPlay only involving safe sex, masturbation, or mutual masturbation. In some codes, it is also indicative of "vanilla sex only" in the cases when the wearer is a leather fetishist but not into BDSM play
     Light blueOral sexWearing it in the left back pocket or on the left side indicates willingness to receive oral sex. Wearing it in the right back pocket or on the right side indicates desire to perform oral sex.
     Navy blueAnal sexWearing it in the left back pocket or on the left side indicates a preference to be the insertive partner (the "top" or "pitcher") during anal intercourse. Wearing it in the right back pocket or on the right side indicates a preference to be in the receptive role (the "bottom" or "catcher").
     Light pinkDildos
     CharcoalLatex and PVC fetishism[note 1]
     Medium blueUniform fetishPolice uniforms or uniforms worn by other authority figures
     TealCock and ball torture
     KhakiMilitary sex (Uniform fetish)Likes wearing military uniforms
     Olive drabMilitary person[note 2]Left: A military top; Right: a military bottom
     Kelly greenMale prostitutionLeft: a male prostitute; right: a John (someone looking for a prostitute)
     Hunter greenDaddy/boy sexLooking for a boy (left) or looking for a Daddy (right).
     Mint greenMommy/boy or girlLooking for a baby boy or girl (left) or looking for a Mommy (right).
     Burnt umberExtreme sexExtreme sex such as branding; or sex that is taboo even among most people in the leather subculture, e.g. pederasty or bestiality.[note 3] Some say[who?] it's an inside joke.
     OrangeFew limitsWhen 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 can indicate either the wearer will bottom in relatively any fetish, anytime, anywhere or can indicate "just looking, no play".
     Robin egg blue (Pale robin egg blue)69
     Deep aqua (printer's cyan)AquaphiliaHaving sex in water, such as in a bathtubshowerhot tub, or swimming pool (see bunga bunga orgy)
     LimeFood playEating food off someone's body or having food eaten off one's body
     ChamoiseMotorcycle sexIndicates the wearer is looking for sex involving a motorcycle as a prop, or involving one or more bikers in the sexual activities.
     MauveNavel fetish
     Dark pinkTit torture
     Magenta (printer's magenta)ArmpitsLeft: likes to lick armpits; right: likes armpits licked; hairy armpits (on females); general armpit play.
     FuchsiaSpankingWants to spank (left); wants to be spanked (right)
     Purple[note 4]PiercingsActually piercing someone (left) or actually being pierced by someone (right) as an erotic stimulation; or one who has piercings (left) or one who desires someone with piercings (right)
     Lavender (bright lavender)Cross-dressing
     CoralFoot fetishismWants feet licked (left); wants to lick feet (right)
     Mustard (gold ochre)[note 5]Size queen
     Gold (golden)Ménage à troisTwo looking for one (left) or one looking for two (right)
     Brick RedBlood PlayWhipping with the intention of causing bleeding[note 6]
     SandSweat & TearsUsing tears and sweat as lubricant for intercourse. Also includes drinking sweat & tears
     ApricotChubby chaser
     PeachBear or cub who is interested in sex with another bear or cub
     Light yellowSpittingLeft—wants to spit on or into partner during sex; right—wants to be spat upon or into during sex
     Beige (desert sand)[note 7]Anal–oral sex
     TanCigar playLeft—want to smoke a cigar while having sex; right—wants someone who smokes cigars while having sex (may also include the insertion of a cigar into various bodily orifices)
     RustAnimal roleplay[note 8]
     Dark redTwo-handed Anal fisting[note 9]
Camouflage.svg CamouflageRugged outdoorsmanHaving sex outdoors in the country (such as when going camping)
Greengingham.jpg GinghamUrban outdoorsmanHaving sex in an urban park
PinkArgyle.svg ArgyleGeeksA geek or nerd (left) or interested in geeks or nerds (right)[note 10]
Wheat 2641t.jpg Doily (an actual doily, not a bandana with a doily pattern)Tearoom tradeLikes to have sex in public lavatories
     Gold (metallic gold) laméMuscle sexLeft—is a bodybuilder; right—looking for sex with a bodybuilder
     Silver (metallic silver) laméStarfuckerLeft—is a rock star, celebrity or male groupie; right—looking for sex with a rock star, celebrity or male groupie
Black leather bandanaLeather fetish
Black velvet bandanaVideotapingLikes to make videotapes of the act while having sex (left); likes to be videotaped (right) (see amateur pornography)[note 11]
Jolly-Roger.png Jolly Roger bandanaClothing fetishLikes to wear a (non-military) costume while having sex (left); desires someone in a costume (right).[note 12]
Gray flannel bandanaSuit and tie fetishLeft—likes to have sex while wearing a suit and tie; right—likes to have sex with someone who is wearing a suit and tie.
Hundtandsrutor.png HoundstoothBitingLikes to bite (Left) or likes to be bitten (right)
Checkerboard pattern.svg Black and whitecheckerboard patternSafe sexe.g., frottage, sword play, or mutual masturbation or striptease in front of mirrors[note 13]
ChromeThug SexThug (left) Thuggett (right)
Plaid patternGingers RedheadsNatural redhead (left) Likes redheads, "redophile" (right)
Baby Blanket MaterialAgeplay or Infantalism


  1. ^ The color charcoal was chosen because dark-gray rubber was formerly the most common material associated with this fetish. Although rubber is still used, today PVC and latex are more commonly used for this fetish.
  2. ^ A "Military person" means someone who is actually in the military but is wearing mufti so they have to signal that they are in the military by wearing an olive drab bandana.
  3. ^ This bandana color is very seldom seen actually being worn.
  4. ^ The shade of purple used for the purple bandana is the shade now known as HTML/CSS Purple, even though of course the bandana code was invented long before web colors.
  5. ^ The color called mustard in the bandana code is identical to the color called goldenrod in Wikipedia (the color calledmustard in Wikipedia is much lighter than the mustard colored bandana).
  6. ^ This fetish is much more common among lesbians than gay men because of the fact that women menstruate; in addition, almost all men today view this fetish as much too dangerous because of the possibility of infection with HIV.
  7. ^ The color called beige in the bandana code is identical to the color called desert sand in Wikipedia (it is common for 
  8. those in the baby boom generation to mistakenly think of beige as being the color desert sand because in the 1960s,AT&T marketed a colored telephone for offices and homes in a color they called "beige" which was actually the colordesert sand.).
  9. ^ This fetish is usually described as "a cowboy and his horse" on the cards listing the meanings of the colors of the bandana code that are given out at leather stores.
  10. ^ If someone has small hands with long fingers, it is possible to insert two hands at once while fisting someone.
  11. ^ This pattern first came into use about the year 1998 with the rise of geek culture during the dot-com era.
  12. ^ This bandana did not come into use until about the year 2000, when inexpensive video cameras became widely available.
  13. ^ This is to distinguish between uniform/military fetish and a fetish for novelty costumes, such as a pirate.
  14. ^ This bandana pattern came into use in 1983 as a response to the AIDS crisis.


  1. ^ Susan Stryker and Jim Van Buskirk Gay by the Bay: A History of Queer Culture in the San Francisco Bay Area San Francisco:1996--Chronicle Books ISBN 0-8118-1187-5 Page 18
  2. ^ Townsend, Larry (1983), The Leatherman's Handbook II, New York: Modernismo Publications, p. 26, ISBN 0-89237-010-6
  3. a b c d e Hankycode on access date 2010-05-22
  4. a b c d e Hankycode on access date 2010-05-22

[edit]Further reading

[edit]External links


  1. I've read through this before at one point, but wow, trying to remember all that when trolling would be a right PITA. =)

    Then again, I guess if you're used to it, it's not so much. (Sort of like the language of flowers or fans, historically.)

  2. After a while you get to the point where you're only looking for the handkerchiefs that you're interested in. If you're into being spanked and clothing and being videotaped then you'd only worry about those colors. Makes it a lot easier.

  3. Vic is right, Adara, it isn't complicated at all :) But I'm still quite relieved that I have an established D/s relationship and Sir knows what I like :)
    My colors would be black, white, houndstooth, jolly roger, all blues, all pinks, purple, fuchsia, grey (of course!), black leather and grey flannel (suit sex is a big turn on) and I bet I have forgotten a lot of colors now. Seems I am quite limitless ;) Sir is one lucky guy :P


Bend over and take the spanking!