Hanky Code – Colors of leather and fetish

Have you ever wondered the meaning of the colors that many gays wear in cruising bars? In this article you will find all the answers!

The Hanky code (also known as handkerchief code or bandana code) is a color-coded system employed in the gay leather ad fetish community to indicate preferred sexual fetishes and roles.

In this code, each color refers to a specific sexual preference / fetish.

Originally to indicate the color, gay men used a bandana (handkerchief) put in the back pocket, but today are widespread wrist bands, armbands, bootlaces and stripes on clothing (leather trousers, shirts, ecc..)

History of the Hanky Code

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).

It is thought 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.

Currently, the hanky code is widely used (at least for the main colors) in the gay fetish, leather and BDSM community both in Europe and in the USA.

Left or Right?

A relevant element of Hanky code is the location: wear a color on the right indicates a bottom role while wearing a color on the left indicates a top role.

This "position" code is also common outside of the hanky code and is used in the gay leather, fetish and BDSM combined with objects: whips, hood, cuffs, etc.

So, if you see a guy with the handcuffs attached to the left side of his belt, it will mean that he likes to handcuff (top part), while if you see someone with a whip attached to the right side of his belt this will mean that he likes to be whipped (bottom part).

The most common Hanky Code colors

Also if the hanky code has tens of colors (see below), there are only a few colors that are widely used and well-known+-:

 Yellow    Pissing

 Red    Fist

Grey    Bondage

 Black    BDSM

 Maroon    Scat

These colors are undoubtedly the most common and also universally known. Other popular colors (especially on clothing leather) are white and blue: in this case, however, rather than the meaning of the colors, leather garments with white stripes or blue are worn for aesthetic reasons. So if you see a leatherman whose pants have white strips, well ... don't' argue that is interested into masturbation! Below you can find a list of the most common hanky code colors, but probably no one (or almost) knows them .... and this is why are virtually useless.

More colors of hanky code

 Light blue    Blowjobs

 Blue    Fuck

 Light Pink    Dildo

 Pink    Tit torture

 Gold    Threesome sex

 Orang    Anything

 Fuchsia    Spanking

 Green    Daddy / boy

 Olive    Military

 White    Masturbation

  Ideally, there would be more colors, color combinations and other strange things ... for example gray lamé should mean "famous person"; a teddy bear in the pocket that you look for bears; or a blue bandana with yellow dots should indicate your interest in blowjobs made by Asian ... but, to be honest, we believe that no one has ever used these colors!

Further reading

Hanky Code on Wikipedia (English) with some historical remarks

List of all colors (with a lot of strange ones)

Discover more about gay leather & fetish lifestyle