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; it is much less common today, but can still be found in some areas.
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 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); 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 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 watersports; brown for scat; and black for SM, but no absolute consensus for less common practices.
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).
|Orange||Few limits||Wearers of orange bandanas are among the most experienced of leathermen or fetishists. Their fetishes are so numerous that the wearing of numerous bandanas would be impractical. When worn on the left, orange indicates that the wearer will top in relatively any fetish, anytime, anywhere. Conversely, when worn on the right, it indicates the wearer will bottom in relatively any fetish, anytime, anywhere. In a 2006 article on InternationalLeatherman.com, site owner Tom Ferrari, a well-known leatherman who self-identifies as a highly experienced bottom, states that he flags orange.|
|Black||SM||Indicates the wearer's interest in SM play.|
|Grey||Bondage||Play involving limiting the bottom's ability to move or to escape.|
|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.|
|Light blue||Oral sex|
|Robin Egg Blue (Pale Robin Egg Blue)||69|
|Navy Blue||Anal sex|
|Pink (Hot Pink)||Dildos|
|Charcoal||Latex, PVC, or Rubber Fetish|
|Medium Blue||Uniform fetish||Police uniforms or uniforms worn by other authority figures|
|Aquamarine blue (Printer's Cyan)||Aquaphilia||Having sex in water, such as in a bathtub, shower or swimming pool. Also can refer to flagellation involving fish, squid, eels, or similar marine creatures.|
|Teal||Cock and ball torture|
|Lime||Sitophilia||Eating food off someone's body or having food eaten off one's body|
|Khaki||Military Sex (Uniform fetish)||Wearing military uniforms|
|Grey Flannel (not cotton)||Suit and tie fetish|
|Kelly green||sex for money|
|Hunter green||Daddy/boy sex||Looking for a boy (left) or looking for a daddy (right)|
|Dark Pink||Tit torture|
|Purple (HTML/CSS color)||Piercings|
|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)|
|Peach||Bear or cub who is interested in sex with another bear or cub|
|Camouflage||Rugged outdoorsman||Having sex outdoors|
|Gold (metallic gold) lamé (not cotton)||Muscle sex||Looking for sex with bodybuilders|
|Silver (metallic silver) lamé (not cotton)||Starfucker||Looking for a rock star or male groupie|
|Black leather (not cotton) bandana||Leather fetish|
|Burnt umber||Extreme fetish||Generally reserved for extreme fetishes such as sexual acts entailing bestiality or amputation. Some consider it inside joke, but many homosexuals frown upon the use of this color.|