Handkerchief Code

Written by on September 4, 2017

FetLife BDSM Glossary Term: Handkerchief Code

Visible signs to indicate to others your areas of BDSM interest. Originated in the leather movement to signal one’s interests in a public environment, such as a bar or club.

Kinkly Glossary Term: Handkerchief Codes

Kinkly Entry

The handkerchief code, or hanky code, is a way to indicate what forms of BDSM play you’re into. It originated in the gay leather scene and has since been widely adopted in the kink and queer communities.

Sex Lexis Dictionary Term: Hanky Code

Sex Lexis Entry

A visual code advertising one’s sexual preference when stepping out on the gay/leather/BDSM scene. The code originated in the early 1970s. Certain colours match sexual preferences and by wearing a coloured handkerchief in the back pocket, the left pocket for top-dominant-active, the right pocket for bottom-submissive-passive, you make known to everyone your preferred position and preference.

Wikipedia Term: Handkerchief Code

Wikipedia Entry

The handkerchief code (also known as the hanky code, the bandana code, and flagging) is a color-coded system, employed usually among the gay male casual-sex seekers or BDSM practitioners in the United States, Canada, Australia and Europe, to indicate preferred sexual fetishes, what kind of sex they are seeking, and whether they are a top/dominant or bottom/submissive.

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). The hanky code was widely used in the 1970s by gay and bisexual men.


This table is drawn from Larry Townsend’s The Leatherman’s Handbook II (the 1983 second edition; the 1972 first edition did not include this list) and is generally considered authoritative. Implicit in this list is the concept of left/right polarity, left, as usual, indicating the top, dominant, or active partner; right the bottom, submissive, or passive partner. Negotiation with a prospective partner remains important because, as Townsend noted, people may wear hankies of any colour “only because the idea of the hankie turns them on” or “may not even know what it means”.



Wikipedia Term: Glossary of BDSM

Wikipedia Entry

Visible signs to indicate to others your area of BDSM interest; a colour that is worn on the left indicates a top, on the right indicates a bottom.

Xeromag BDSM Glossary Term: Hanky Code

Xeromag Entry

A covert technique developed largely by the old leather community for advertising one’s BDSM preferences and to indicate the activities in which one was interested. The code worked by using a system of coloured handkerchiefs, usually worn in the back pocket, on the left side for dominants and the right side for submissives. Each class of activity had its own particular colour; for example, a person who was interested in pain play might wear a black handkerchief, whereas a grey handkerchief might indicate an interest in bondage, and so on.

Hanky Code, Bandana Code, Flagging
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