Article written by Maya Vukovska

It’s like the Morse code, only for gay and BDSM fetishists. However, if you’re a tech-savvy, gender-fluid, sleek-looking, paleo-obsessed millennial gay on the rise, you are probably not familiar with it. I bet that when you spot a guy wearing a brown hanky in his left back pocket, you think, “Wow, he’s in vogue!” And you have no clue whatsoever that the guy’s accessory actually speaks for his sexual preference, which is “I’m a scat top, honey!” The Handkerchief Code is not something every gay man must necessarily know, because it’s been obsolete for decades now. And yet, there’s always a chance you find yourself in a milieu where you can still meet a few practitioners of this fascinating means of communication. But it’s always a good idea to be prepared.

The origin of species … but not by Darwin

The year is around 1852. The place is San Fransisco. It’s an exciting time for gold diggers. And we are not talking about the ones who are into rich men, silicone lips, and soirees thrown by the Kardashians, but the original ones! Apart from the gold diggers, 35 thousand people in California are making a living as cowboys. Most of them feel alone and bored, just like Ennis and Jack Twist in Brokeback Mountain. I mean, a cow, endowed even with the nicest temperament, cannot fill in for another human. Since women are scarce, at socials, men will often take over as females during dances. To indicate which role they are playing, every guy wears a colored bandana: a male lead will wear a blue one, and a “girl” follower - a red one.

Living to the leather

Let’s move fast forward to the 1970’s. In New York, members of the leather community are already using their own code of communication, which involves wearing keys on the belt loops. A journalist from the first alternative weekly newspaper in the city The Village Voice jokes that instead of jiggling around heavy keys to indicate whether they are a top or a bottom, they can do the same by wearing different colored hankies, hellooo!

Flagging for dummies

The complete Hanky Code consists of more than 80 signals, combining the color and the texture of the hanky with its position in a person’s outfit. You need to be a Harvard graduate in order to be able to “read” all the details one wants to communicate through his handkerchief. There is a color and a shade of a color for almost any sexual act, and if you can speak flagging it would take away some of the pressure when meeting a prospective lover. Nowadays, however, it’s not absolutely necessary to know that an apricot hanky worn on right means “chubby chaser”, and that a magenta one worn on left stands for “suck my pits”. Flagging is not a replacement for a conversation in a bar, but it can be a great way to start one.

So, if you want to know what the basic colors mean, take out your notebook, and pay attention.


Most of you, I presume, can tell the difference between hunter green, mint green, and kelly green, but when it comes to signalling sexual fixation, green speaks out loudly “Oedipal issues” in all its shades. Hunter green, on the left: Daddy. Hunter green, on the right: Boy looking for daddy. It’s pretty much the color a professional hustler would wear, so, unless you are willing to pay for sex, be mindful of cute guys wearing green.


Navy blue is among the most common colors of preference out there. When worn in the left pocket, it’s the designation mark of a penetrator. Light blue means that he wants head, medium blue - that he’s a cop (!), and Robin Egg’s blue is a particularly intriguing choice, showing the guy is a 69er.


Now we are stepping into the body parts fetish territory. Guys wearing coral hankies are into feet. Left is for “suck my toes”, and right - for “let me suck your toes.” Needless to say, you need to get rid of toenail fungus before you pick up someone with a coral hanky in his right pocket!


As the color suggests, it’s all about the peeing business.


The guys who are wearing orange aim at those who don’t know if they want cereal or pancakes for breakfast. Because the orange guys are down for anything. Literally. Even if that includes reading Shakespeare out loud while sniffing your dirty underwear.


If it’s dark pink, the guy will either torture your nipples, or let you twist his. Light pink is for dildo fucker/fuckee, and if he wears lavender, you’d better take him to a drag show on your first date, because the man is into queens.


Imagine Marilyn Manson and Christian Grey in one person! This guy is heavily into S&M. Spanking, bruising, being held down, bondage - that’s how he reigns over his realm of pain!


That’s classic. Prepare yourself for a romantic dinner with a fist fucker. Dark red, however, is bad news for those who care about their anal integrity, because it indicates a two-handed fister.


White velvet is the color of luxury and style. Wearing it on the right means he’s a sophisticated voyeur. Wearing it on the left means he wants to put on a show. Either way, the guy is harmless, and fun to be around.

May 15, 2019 — Andrew Christian
Tags: Gay Culture