Illustrated Guide – Hanky Codes

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Worn Out West has been a Castro Street (San Francisco) destination for leather and western clothing since 1980. They’ve moved to 2352 Market Street, but they’re still going strong. This is one of their hanky code fliers from back in the Castro days to help customers choose the right colours to fly from their pocket.

It would be an extremely rare gay man who knew most of these hanky codes now. Most of them are obscure and rarely used. The best known, and still widely used, are Red (fisting), Yellow (Watersports), Grey (Bondage) and Blue (Sex). Many leather manufacturers, including Mr S Leather, incorporate these colours into leather and clothing. Where leather events were once a sea of black, there are now pops of colour and some very well-coordinated leathermen.

There’s charm in tradition though, so next time you see bandannas for sale at the weekend markets, give some thought to picking up the hanky code colour you relate to. Advertising can be effective.

FURTHER READING

• LeatherNJOnline – The Hanky Code
• San Francisco Bay Times – Mike Holland of the Castro’s Iconic ‘Worn Out West’ Store
• Flagging Opnicious Rampant – Hanky Codes
• Wikipedia – Hankerchief Code

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