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The Handkerchief Code System

I've always been interested in gay cultural history. Going back to the late 60s and into the 70s, gay men would put different colored handkerchiefs into their back pocket to signify different desires.

I'd love to hear thoughts on this. Why did this trend start? And did it end because it was just too complicated of a system? Was it only in certain gay segments or did everyone do it? Passing fad or something of real substance?

by Anonymousreply 42Last Friday at 8:57 PM

[quote]And did it end because it was just too complicated of a system?

AIDS is what ended it (and the whole clone look, practically overnight).

Your promiscuity was no longer something you wanted show the world.

by Anonymousreply 111/08/2015

'Your promiscuity was no longer something you wanted show the world.'

Kinda.

by Anonymousreply 211/08/2015

No, even during the height of AIDS, which was way over exaggerated, gays didn't care. I would go to bars and the same kind of stuff that went on now when on then.

by Anonymousreply 311/08/2015

[quote]No, even during the height of AIDS, which was way over exaggerated,

Excuse me?

by Anonymousreply 411/08/2015

The hanky code allowed you to get some idea of what the other guy was "into," without even bothering to talk to him. Which was either a convenience, or a way of keeping the sex casual and impersonal, depending on your point of view.

by Anonymousreply 511/18/2015

Did you wear a hanky to the hanky code, H.C. ?

by Anonymousreply 611/18/2015

I liked the codes, if you were horny that night, didn't waste time finding the wrong guy.

by Anonymousreply 711/18/2015

One of the problems was the confusion between coasts. S&M could mean Sado or slave/ masochist or master depending on the coast. I seem to remember that pink was also confusing, but I don't remember why.

The other issue was that it became too mainstream. Once it was printed on note cards and T shirts, the entire world knew your business.

by Anonymousreply 811/18/2015

Here's a list

Offsite Link
by Anonymousreply 911/18/2015

I should clarify, the S&M confusion depended on left of right pocket, not the color.

by Anonymousreply 1011/18/2015

Is this why gay men are so good at colors?

by Anonymousreply 1111/18/2015

[quote]One of the problems was the confusion between coasts. S&M could mean Sado or slave/ masochist or master depending on the coast.

As a bi-coastaI I was always getting confused & yes, this led to major cock-ups.

by Anonymousreply 1211/18/2015

R12, I don't know if you ever had this problem, but another confusion was with earrings. Gay men wore tiny hoops to indicate passive and aggressive. Again, it was switched on the coasts. The other problem was that is was also a Chicano macho thing. It indicated whether your first time was with a girl over 16 or under sixteen. (And, yes, they did not think it funny is asked , "If she was 16, do you wear a ring in your nose?") A lot of Chicano guys got hit on because of this, often with unhappy results.

by Anonymousreply 1311/18/2015

[quote]ZIPLOC BAGthas drugs

Thanks!

by Anonymousreply 1411/18/2015

The earring signals always seemed like an urban myth to me.

by Anonymousreply 1511/18/2015

I remember when I was in high school there was discussion about if you wore an earring in one ear it meant you were gay.

To me, at the time, I thought: If you wear an earring at all, you are probably gay.

by Anonymousreply 1611/18/2015

[quote]I remember when I was in high school there was discussion about if you wore an earring in one ear it meant you were gay. To me, at the time, I thought: If you wear an earring at all, you are probably gay.

Same with me.

I was in an acting class where the teacher was a gay man. He had his right ear pierced which meant he was gay. Then he had new headshots done and he said, "I'm not ashamed of the statement I'm making, but I wonder if it's going to hinder my getting tv and movie work?" Too Late Tyrone as my grandmother would say.

by Anonymousreply 1711/18/2015

People used to wonder whether it was a left pierced ear meant you were gay, or a right.

by Anonymousreply 1811/18/2015

The phrase we used to say in high school regarding earings was "left is right , right is wrong."

by Anonymousreply 1911/18/2015

[quote]"left is right , right is wrong."

Oh, charming.

by Anonymousreply 2011/18/2015

I seem to recall keys playing a part in the clone look of SF in the 70s. Keys were carried in your back pocket and attatched with a large metal clasp and hooked to the side loops on your 501s. Whether is was the left or right back pocket meant something. Memory fails.

by Anonymousreply 2111/18/2015

The keys made everyone look like a high school janitor.

The hipster millennials hook their keys to their belt loops with carabiners. (I think, possibly, so they can put their smartphones in their pants pocket without scratching the glass on their keys.) They look like janitors, too. And most of them carry backpacks or messenger bags. Why not put the keys in there?

by Anonymousreply 2211/18/2015

[quote] Whether it was the left or right back pocket meant something. Memory fails.

Right = passive. Left = active.

by Anonymousreply 2311/18/2015

[quote]Right = passive. Left = active.

So Bruce Springsteen was a bottom?

Offsite Link
by Anonymousreply 2411/18/2015

That's a hat.

by Anonymousreply 2511/18/2015

That's a baseball cap, kaween.

by Anonymousreply 2611/18/2015

What was the color for bitterness and recrimination?

by Anonymousreply 2711/18/2015

R21 When I lived in DC, I knew a guy who used the keychain thing but WITH a color code-- he had a blue plastic key thing that he wore attached to his left belt loop, thus indicating he was a top, I guess.

by Anonymousreply 2811/18/2015

I guess colorblind gays made a lot of mistakes when dressing or picking up guys.

by Anonymousreply 2911/18/2015

So why don't we bring back this system? You know like a retro thing?

by Anonymousreply 3011/18/2015

[quote]Keys were carried in your back pocket and attatched with a large metal clasp and hooked to the side loops on your 501s.

I thought that was a lesbian thing.

by Anonymousreply 3111/18/2015

Fist or fisted, R30? Flog or flogged?

by Anonymousreply 3211/18/2015

Grew up in a rust-belt town. Bar tended as a young person, early 80s. I know that, originally, the bandana system was set up for participants in on the game, but by 1982, the straight guys were wearing the same thing in night clubs. Straight guys in acid wash, with a pink bandana outside their pockets. It was cool to them, but they didn't know why.

by Anonymousreply 3311/22/2015

I remember my very Catholic mother telling me about the hanky code when I was all of 7 in the 1970s. I have no idea how she knew about this (this is a woman who said she wanted to be a nun if she hadn't married), but maybe she was hiding something about my father.

by Anonymousreply 3411/22/2015

Yes, and I remember many gay boys who I had no idea were gay filling me in as well.

by Anonymousreply 3512/14/2015

The hanky codes have been updated, boys. Please keep up... (required viewing below)

Offsite Link
by Anonymousreply 3612/14/2015

R1 what clone look?

by Anonymousreply 37Last Friday at 1:56 PM

I went to Gay Days at Disney in 2001 and one of the days, I decided to wear a brown bandanna Tupac-style to the Magic Kingdom. I got a lot of unwanted attention from a lot of gross people until someone finally clued my oblivious ass in.

by Anonymousreply 38Last Friday at 2:02 PM

r38 But at least you got to meet Erna.

by Anonymousreply 39Last Friday at 5:43 PM

R38 what does the brown bandanna mean?

by Anonymousreply 40Last Friday at 5:44 PM

r40 He likes fruitcake, Rose.

by Anonymousreply 41Last Friday at 6:48 PM

The pierced ear trend goes back to the 18th century (or earlier) sailing ships and their crews, I believe. If you crossed the equator going South, the left ear was pierced. Going North, it was the right one. Or vice versa.

by Anonymousreply 42Last Friday at 8:57 PM
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