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Photo credit: Sabino Paulicelli Photography

How Do You Flag?

By Cory David Mr. Eagle 2020 – 2021

Have you ever wondered, what’s up with the bandana’s in the back pockets? Well, I am going to explain that.

Around the mid-19th century, in San Francisco of all places, the handkerchief became a social sign at square dances.The hanky became popular and was known to be worn around the neck by cowboys, railroad engineers and miners. At that time in history, the west was made up of more men than women, the shortage of women left a loss at the square dances. Therefore, the men in the area came up with a code that would allow the dance to continue . . . blue bandanas would take the traditional male dancing position, while the red bandana dancer would take the traditional female part. Normally the bandana would be worn around the belt or arm.

In the 1960’s and 1970’s, this tradition came back not only to signify their roles, but also sexual preferences and fetishes. In New York their keys were the start of what would become the modern day hanky code, simply wearing a set of keys on one side or the other would indicate certain sexual roles. In either case, the use of placement and color to communicate roles and preferences form the basic aspects of the hanky code that is known today.

Alan Selby and his partners at Mr. S Leather in San Francisco, claimed the creation of the hanky code around the year 1972 by accident. Their bandana supplier accidentally doubled their order with multiple colors and he decided to create an expanded code to assist in sales. By the 1980’s The Dameron Guide was publishing a yearly and ever expanding hanky chart.

Initially the colors were limited to black, blue, yellow, red and white, which were the colors that most handkerchief companies produced. Our modern hanky code has expanded to a broader spectrum of colors and materials than originally conceived.

The modern way to express your color code and preferences expanded beyond hankies to harnesses, singlets, and leather articles of clothing. Formal Leather shirts can be piped in, entire gear or sections can be in desired colors. This can symbolize preferences, but doesn’t necessarily have to represent meaning. New Guard styles are very open and fluid, but I suggest to wear what looks and feels good to you. I personally do that, but when wearing my hanky, I choose appropriately to honor the original tradition.

Go express your colors, open your preferences, and explore new opportunities.