What is the hanky code?

Updated: Oct 9, 2019

Recently I have been discussing and researching the hanky code. It has been a topic that has come up frequently lately and thought I should research and blog about it. What I found confused me even more. There are so many theories on how or when it started. There are also several different versions of the hanky code. I was interested in how the hanky code would work today and if it was even still used. As it turns out more often than not, the hanky code is not being used.

This could be for many reasons. I believe the main reason is the introduction of the internet and mobile apps. Most mobile dating/hook up apps allow members to list their various kinks and fetishes, making the hanky code unnecessary. There are still some that use it despite this.

There is no one hanky code to govern all. Some codes are regional, which means they could and probably do have a different meaning in another region. This should be researched by your specific region. You can probably find out this information by contacting local facebook groups, fetlife groups, or a google search for local groups. Contact someone in the group, they will likely be able to point you in the right direction.


Theories of origin

One theory on the origin of the hanky code is when there were not as many women as men when square dances were held. This was thought to have been in San Francisco after the gold rush. This left the men dancing with men, but who was going to lead and who was going to follow? Handkerchiefs were tied around the neck, with blue symbolizing the female/male part and red for the male/female part. The cowboys and minors of the time also used the hanky code. Another theory is that the modern hanky code originated in the early 70s by a journalist who happened to mention using hankies instead of wearing keys.

Some research I found also said that The Trading Post store expanded upon the original red/blue system. They also provided cards with the meanings of the colors listed on them. Still more research points to Alan Selby, who claims he created the first hanky code with some of his business partners. Was popular in the 70s when gay men used them to signify what kinks or fetishes they were into. These could be worn out in public without it being public knowledge that it was to signify for sex.

If worn in the right rear pocket, this indicates the passive role for a particular fetish. If worn in the left pocket, it indicates the active role for a particular fetish. People can use just one hanky or multiple if they are into multiple fetishes. Objects such as a set of keys can also be used in conjunction with the hanky code, having multiple meanings depending on the positioning of the keys. Sometimes tying one around the neck can signify switching


Pup Play and the Hanky Code

Is the hanky code used in pup play? As of this blog post, I have not found much information on the subject of the hanky code and pup play. I did find one source that mentioned a survey concerning this very issue. According to this source, the survey said only 25% of pups use the hanky code. That means the other 75% are going with a favorite color instead.

Some pup hood manufacturers try to work the hanky code into their products, while others do not. Some companies have taken the initiative to create their own version of hanky code handkerchiefs just for pups. It really is up to the individual on what colors they use. I would suggest researching the hanky code even if an individual is not going to use it. This way if someone comes up and assumes you are into a specific fetish, you know why and can explain that is not what your color is for.

Here is a short list of some of the colors used in the hanky code. DISCLAIMER: this information was gathered from multiple sources and is by no means the only way to use the hanky code. Do your own research and make sure you are using the correct color/patterns if you are going to use the hanky code. For a full list of the hanky codes found during my research, click here.

  • Beige - rimming

  • Black - heavy s&m

  • Black/white checkered - safe sex

  • Blue (dark) - anal

  • Blue (light) - oral

  • Blue (robins egg) - 69

  • Blue (teal) - genital torture (CBT)

  • Brown - scat

  • Charcoal - latex,PVC,rubber

  • Coral - foot fetish

  • Fuschia - spanking

  • Green (hunter) - daddy/daddy chaser

  • Green (light) - verbal abuse

  • Grey - bondage

  • Lavender - drag queens,cd,gender play

  • Magenta - armpit worship

  • Mustard - size queen

  • Orange - anything goes

  • Peach - bear/cub

  • Purple - piercings

  • Red - fisting

  • Tan - cigars

  • Wine - rubber/mud

  • White - masturbation

  • Yellow - watersports

As always, with anything make sure to keep it safe, sane, and consensual. There are proper ways to approach someone and discussing the hanky code if you think they are flagging a hanky color. The most basic and usable approach is a casual conversation. Ask about the hanky they have and what it stands for. Make small talk about it. Even if it doesn't lead to sex, you may have found a friend. The only way to learn is to ask questions of those who may know more. There are also groups out there where you may be able to find local people who are into various kinks and fetishes. Search Facebook or google and you will be guaranteed to find them. Join the groups, reach out, and make connections.

DISCLAIMER: I am by no means an expert. My goal is to educate through discussion. For too long kink,fetish topics have been taboo. I believe it is time to start discussing them so that people are more knowledge on things. If any of the information is incorrect, leave a comment and start the discussion. The information contained within this blog was found with a google search. I am not saying this information is gospel and you should follow it strictly. Do your own research and find out what you are looking for. I am not experienced with the hanky code and did my own research.


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