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Colours and kink

Where the handkerchief is worn and its colour both signal what a man’s into:

  • On the left means active, Top or Dom.
  • On the right mean passive, bottom or sub.
  • In the middle or around neck means versatile, ‘I do it both ways’. The side the knot is tied sometimes to show a preference for active or passive.

The hanky (sometimes more than one) is usually worn in a back pocket of leather or denim jeans, but can be worn tied around the upper arm or neck.

Men into rubber sometimes use hankies made of coloured rubber. Cloth bandanas often come with fancy patterns (like Paisley) but this doesn’t alter their basic meaning, so a red bandana with a white pattern still means fisting. Dots do mean things (check out the full hanky code links below).

Wearing a hanky is called ‘flagging’ and the colours used most often are:

  • red for fisting
  • yellow for watersports
  • black for heavy S&M, for example whipping
  • grey for bondage
  • dark blue for fucking
  • light blue for sucking (on the left means suck me off; on the right means I suck)
  • orange means into everything

These two websites have full hanky codes with examples of colours (although most of these are never actually seen):


Alternatives to hankies are:

  • leather wrist or bicep bands (often colour coded)
  • key chains
  • rope and handcuffs (means into bondage)
  • whips and paddles (means into hitting)
  • latex or rubber glove (means into fisting)
  • dirty jockstrap (means into wearing/sucking clean jocks)
  • chains or metal cockring worn through shoulder straps of leather jackets
  • coloured stripes down the side of leather or rubber jeans.

Some gay skinheads use the colours in boot laces, especially red and yellow. But it can’t automatically be assumed a skin’s laces signal sexual tastes. Among skins and rubber fans the colour of braces (called suspenders in the US), especially if red, is also often part of the code.

Wearing some items strongly signifies certain roles: for example, a leather Muir cap usually means the wearer’s a top; chaps with a bare arse means that the wearer wants to bottom; cigar smoking often signals top; and a dog collar or chain with padlock around the neck means bottom.


The internationally used flag of the gay and bisexual SM, leather and fetish scene looks like this:

Leather flag

Last review: 10/09/2018
Next review: 10/09/2021