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The Scarf Code, also known as the Handkerchief Code in English (hanky code) , is a very special practice that you may never have heard of. This tradition gained popularity within the LGBTQ+ community in the 70s and played a vital role in building it. If you're curious, read on for more!

The idea behind the Code of the bandana in the pocket was to allow men looking for sexual encounters, or even more if they have an affinity, to discreetly signal their sexual preferences. It was enough to place a handkerchief, a specific color scarf in the back pocket of his jeans. Depending on the color chosen, others could learn more about your interests, whether it be fetishism or a preference for a particular sexual position.

Interestingly, there was even a different meaning depending on which pocket the scarf was placed in, whether left or right. This secret language played a crucial role in the development of a sense of belonging within the LGBTQ+ community in the 70s, but it seems to date back much further, perhaps even to the 19th century. Today, it is used by millions of people around the world.
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Origins of the Scarf Code: San Francisco and New York

But where exactly does this secret language come from?

The origins of the Code of the Handkerchief are shrouded in mystery and debate, but two iconic cities particularly stand out in this story: San Francisco and New York.

Some researchers and members of the LGBTQ+ community believe that the Handkerchief Code originated in San Francisco, California in the 1970s. At that time, quadrille dancing was very popular, bringing men and women together on the dance floor. . However, late in the evening, the men began to dance among themselves, thus forming male couples. It is in this context that the wearing of colorful bandanas would have been used to indicate sexual preferences and roles within these couples. A blue bandana was associated with the "masculine" role, while a red bandana signaled an openness to taking on the "feminine" role.

Other theories suggest that the Code du Tissue system was first popularized in New York City in the 1980s. indicate sexual preferences. This suggestion would have been an alternative to other secret codes used by gays of the time, such as placing the bunch of keys on the left or on the right. Thus, the handkerchief in the back pocket of the jeans would have taken on a special meaning, making it possible to communicate one's interests and preferences to others.

It is important to note that opinions differ as to the true origins of the Handkerchief Code. Some people support the idea that it already existed in the 19th century and was used by millions of people around the world. Regardless of the exact origin, it is undeniable that the Handkerchief Code has played a significant role in the development of the LGBTQ+ community by enabling individuals to find like-minded partners and create a sense of belonging.

Whether in San Francisco, New York or elsewhere, the story of Le Code du Tissu testifies to the creativity and resilience of the LGBTQ+ community in its search for expressions of identity and authentic connections


The language of colors: Deciphering the Handkerchief Code

At the heart of The Handkerchief Code is subtle, symbolic language, using colors to communicate specific sexual preferences and interests. Each color represents a distinct meaning, allowing individuals to understand each other without having to explicitly express their desires.

One of the best-known associations is with the colors of the rainbow, which symbolize diversity and inclusivity within the LGBTQ+ community. However, the Handkerchief Code goes far beyond these iconic colors.

Here are some of the most commonly used colors in the Handkerchief Code and their meanings:

  • Red: Often associated with fisting, a sexual practice that involves inserting the hand into the rectum.
  • Orange: indicates an openness to various sexual practices, essentially meaning "everything is fine with me".
  • Yellow: symbolizes urine and can be an indicator of interest in urophilic games.
  • Green: may be associated with a preference for the role of escort or prostitute.
  • Light blue: refers to oral sex, indicating a preference for this practice.
  • Dark blue: is often used to signal interest in anal sex.
  • Purple: indicates that the person has a genital piercing.
  • Grey: is associated with bondage and can signify an interest in domination and submission games.
  • Black: is often used to express openness to sadomasochistic (S&M) practices.
  • Brown: refers to scatophilic games, involving excrement.
  • Fushia: adept at spanking


These colors and their meanings have evolved over time and may vary from region to region or community to community. It is important to note that the Tissue Code is not a universal standard and that communicating sexual preferences remains a personal and consensual matter.

The language of colors in the Scarf Code allowed individuals to identify with each other and find partners who shared the same interests and desires. It was a low-key yet powerful way to connect and build authentic rapport within the LGBTQ+ community.


Hanky Code: Placement of the handkerchief: Left or right, an indication of preference

In the Handkerchief Code, the placement of the handkerchief in the back pocket of the jeans takes on additional significance. Indeed, whether the handkerchief is positioned on the left or right side, indicates a person's desired sexual preferences and roles.

If the handkerchief is placed on the right side, this suggests an inclination for the "passive" or "bottom" role in sexual intercourse. This position indicates a preference for receiving rather than giving.

On the other hand, if the scarf is positioned on the left side, this reflects a desire to adopt the "active" or "top" role. In this case, the person expresses a preference for taking the initiative and initiating sexual acts.

Note that if the scarf is placed on both sides, then it shows that one is both passive and active and that one is ready to adapt to the desire of the partner. In the gay language aon qualifies this type of behavior as being: self-reverse or versatile.

It is essential to note that the Handkerchief Code does not impose strict roles or specific dynamics. Everyone is free to interpret and live their sexuality in the way that suits them, in mutual agreement with their partner.

Left or right handkerchief placement allowed individuals to subtly communicate their sexual preferences and facilitate encounters with partners who shared similar interests. This system has helped create a secret language within the LGBTQ+ community, fostering mutual understanding and the possibility of forming fulfilling relationships.

Although the Handkerchief Code gained popularity in the 70s and 80s, it remains a historical and cultural curiosity. However, his legacy lives on and speaks to the creativity and ingenuity of the LGBTQ+ community in finding ways to communicate and express their identity and desires.


Resonance of the Bandana Code during Gay Prides

During Gay Pride, the Code of the Handkerchief, used by gay men, finds special resonance and continues to exist as an important cultural element within the LGBTQ+ community. Although times have changed since the years when the Code of the Handkerchief was widely used, it remains a historical reference that recalls the struggles, advances and demands of the community.

Gay Prides are colorful and festive events that celebrate LGBTQ+ diversity and pride. They provide a space for expression and visibility for LGBTQ+ people and their allies. During these events, many symbols and references of queer culture are put forward, and the Handkerchief Code is no exception.

Although its use is less widespread today, the Code of the Handkerchief is sometimes reappropriated during Gay Pride by certain participants. It can be used as a nod to the origins of the LGBTQ+ community and the history of gender expression and preferences within it.


Reintroducing the Tissue Code: An Alternative to Dating Apps

At a time when online dating apps dominate the social scene, reintroducing the Handkerchief Code could offer an attractive alternative for people looking for more authentic and specific connections within the LGBTQ+ community.

Dating apps certainly have their advantages, making it quick and easy to meet large numbers of people. However, they can also be impersonal and based primarily on physical appearance and general interests. This is where the Code of the Handkerchief can play a unique role.

By reintroducing the Tissue Code, individuals would have the ability to communicate their sexual preferences and interests in a more subtle and meaningful way. Placing a specific colored handkerchief in the back pocket of your jeans or pants could send a clear signal to other like-minded people that you are open to dating based on specific sexual affinities.

This approach offers an opportunity to connect with potential partners who share similar interests, going beyond the superficial criteria often used on dating apps. It promotes non-verbal communication which can create an atmosphere of mutual understanding and instant connection.

Reintroducing the Handkerchief Code could also help reconnect with the history and traditions of the LGBTQ+ community. This could help preserve a valuable cultural element that has played a crucial role in building identity and solidarity within the community.

Of course, the use of the Handkerchief Code would require general awareness and understanding of its meaning among members of the LGBTQ+ community. It would also be essential to respect everyone's choices and limits, obtaining clear consent and respecting confidentiality.

Reintroducing the Tissue Code does not necessarily mean abandoning online dating apps, but rather offering a complementary and more nuanced alternative. This would allow interested individuals to connect in a deeper and more meaningful way with potential partners, making connections based on specific and shared sexual interests.

Ultimately, the reintroduction of the Code of the Handkerchief could be seen as a return to basics, to a time when communication and connection was done in a more subtle and symbolic way. This could be an opportunity to revitalize a historic practice while bringing a unique dimension to the dating scene in the LGBTQ+ community.

Remember that the Tissue Code has evolved over time and may vary by region and community. By exploring these resources, you will discover different perspectives and interpretations of the code, helping to enrich your knowledge and appreciation of this cultural practice.


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Thanks to Stéphane and Sébastien

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