not to be sneezed at


In the 70s and 80s many gay men used to advertise their various kinks through the handkerchief code. By wearing colour coded bandannas in the back pocket of their jeans they could let others know what turned them on.

flag fushcia flag mustard flag olive drab

In its early manifestation the code of a dozen or so colours was manageable. But after a while yellow for water sports or red for fisting wasn’t specific enough for some tastes.

Andrejkomasky lists over 80 variations but please don’t confuse your fuschias with your magentas unless you’re particularly into spanking armpits…..


There’s also a fine (nonsexual) history of the handkerchief over here

In the 18th and 19th centuries, handkerchiefs were used mostly by men. Many feature common male interests, such as grand industrial projects; sport (horse racing, pigeon shooting, cricket and boxing); railways; mapping; and, especially during the Napoleonic wars, the great naval and military encounters of the day.

funny horse

Another stylee is the handkerchief joke that folds to produce a punchline. One illustrates the “Eastern Question” (the conflict with Russia over the Ottoman empire). It shows portraits of four of the chief rivals: a Russian hero of the Crimean war, Prince Gorschakoff; Germany’s chancellor Otto von Bismarck; and the Turkish foreign minister, Safvet Pacha. If folded across the diagonals, the portraits morph into a single head-that of Benjamin Disraeli, the British prime minister, who lorded over them all


Published in: on November 4, 2009 at 7:43 am  Comments (40)  
Tags: , , , ,

The URI to TrackBack this entry is:

RSS feed for comments on this post.

40 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. So Mad Magazine wasn’t first?

    Wordless Wednesday – Cody’s Help and Halloween

  2. You could innocently wear the wrong handkerchief one day and find yourself in a lot of hot water. I use to have two Siamese cats. I was informed that I have the “gay” cat. Then I bought a Subaru and was told I owned the “gay” car. How the hell am I suppose to know?! I wish the gay community would publish a newsletter.

    • haha… that’s pretty funny UB

      • the car list was published here by the guys who do Car Talk in the US. pay attention! sheesh!

      • Stephen drove a Volvo Station Wagon 🙂

  3. “…yellow for water sports or red for fisting wasn’t specific enough for some tastes”

    Well we all knew it was only going to be a matter of time…

  4. what would a tie-dyed handkerchief say? “Bring it!”

  5. I’m throwing away all my bandannas… too confusing.

  6. I myself will attempt to attend the next handkerchief party at the Red Rattler. A night for nostalgia, and the sustainable prevention of the dispersal of nasal germs.

  7. The only car on the list I’ve owned was the Saab 900, my wife gavit it to me (used, she had bought it for her daughter,who then moved back to Michigan, w/o the car. Now, my wife’s youngest sister, a lesbian, owns or has owned, a Geo Tracker, Miata, Xterra, and Explorer, go figure.

    • welcome to the Gimcrack mrfixit. Do you have a blog?

      • unfortunately, no. I usually only have enough time to lurk here and there, and infrequently post comments. but I do stop here every day =)

  8. Well, that certainly explains that unfortunate incident, when I had innocently tucked a red bandanna in my back pocket. Of course, it’s small consolation now that I have little to no bowel control.

    • Do you need to borrow a butt plug UK?

  9. so gang colors got started in the gay community.

  10. I think i’m just gonna stop waering red altogether!!!! Should prob change the hair colour too….oh dear…i wonder what color would prevent any ‘ill-effects’ to my bowel system!

  11. Ha. Reminds me of the ‘Rainbow Sideboys.’

    Talk about freaking gay.

    • I had to google that term…. interesting

      • Yes, they were heckled mercilessly.

  12. Wow, and I thought that I had made a huge mistake by modeling my new blue jumpsuit, hat, socks, sneakers, and hanky in Compton California that time in the early 90’s! I wouldn’t at all want to get on the wrong side of that silent argument.

  13. Please tell me that “fisting” doesn’t really go on in this day and age! I’m as tolerant as the next man, but come on….

    Actually… no.. don’t tell me. I cannae take the shock if it is a yes.

  14. I had no idea that a fashion accessory was actually a covert signal-flagging device.

    I will have to call my gay friends who are a couple to clarify the accuracy of this article.

  15. You know, back when I was young, the code involved earrings. It was very simple, yes or no. All this color coding thing is ridiculous. I mean, don’t people talk any more? Okay, so you “read” the hanky and don’t waste time on someone who is into what you are looking for. Maybe it saves time. But in this day and age of STDs that can KILL you, I would think that perhaps one would want to talk to your potential partner and get to know them before just hooking up.

    What do I know? I haven’t been on the dating scene for over 30 years. Gay or straight, I’ll bet it ain’t nothin’ like what I was used to back in the innocent 70s.

    And the whole idea of a “gay” car — what? WHY? What I got from going to the “list” was that apparently gay chicks don’t give a shit about the environment since they favor gas hogging SUVs and trucks. And if you judged by the car, apparently I am a gay guy since I have owned and loved two of the 10 faves.

  16. my I do live and learn visiting your blog Dear NM .. I will certainly take stock and consider carefully when some asks me what my fav colour is … it used to be red but I am now back tracking ………

  17. spanking armpits huh? gonna have to urban dictionary that one.

  18. Had no idea about the colored bandanas. Guess that’s what comes of growing up in the midwest, I guess. Wasn’t a huge counterculture movement in my small town of 6000 🙂 We did know about the earring thing though. Everyone thought it was a different ear so every guy with one earring was gay no matter which ear it was in. LOL

    • ah …the midwest where the education comes from the carnival side show! 🙂

      • And from the church pulpit. Don’t forget that invaluable information source. . .

  19. Ah, the joys of human diversity! Ah, the joys of various consensual sexual activities!
    I remember both the bandannas and the previous use of ear-rings. I never realised the meanings of the bandannas were so many. I had assumed they were only signifying submissive or dominant.I’m surprised that I never asked anyone, too busy being immersed in my own sex, drugs and rock and roll lifestyle at the time, I suppose.

    • Yeah, I thought it was just an S & M thing too

  20. There’s a movie about this starring Al Pacino called Cruising.

    Which also gives us these two movie clip gems…

  21. DAMN WOMAN! Here in the states wearing the wrong color hanky gets you shot at!

  22. P.S. Are you trying to tell us something by your choice of those particular three bandannas, Nursey? 😉

    • Nope, the choice was entirely random 🙂

  23. I’m still confused about the earrings and which ear is gay.

    • Both my lobes are gay but the helixes, drums, cochleas and the Eustachian tubes are straight

  24. Jelly bracelets are the hetro girls equivalent and have been banned all through American schools.

  25. […] not to be sneezed at (gimcrack hospital) […]

  26. Ah if only women could display their likes so simply with a colored handkerchief.

  27. If we ever meet up Ricardo, I’ll just bring my list 😉

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: