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Untucking the Queer History of the Colorful Hanky Code

Untucking the Queer History of the Colorful Hanky Code

Hey Rooney Andy Simmonds Hanky Code
Illustration: Andy Simmonds

Let Andy Simmonds' illustrations help you find your perfect hue. 

First popularized in the '70s, the Hanky Code began as a sly way to showcase sexual preferences for a community still largely in the closet. Black, blue, red, purple, and many other colors of hankies found their way into the back pockets of the LGBTQ community. This was a rich tradition that helped bring people together during one of the darkest periods in our history and yet, the Hanky Code's legacy has been largely forgotten by today's young queers who find sex with a tap, click, and "send location."

Now, queer artist and activist Andy Simmonds, of Hey Rooney is pledging to bring back the historic queer tradition and pay homage to the rainbow of hankies through his new 12-part illustration series.

Related | Need to Know: Andy Simmonds

"Connecting to my queer heritage is crucial," Simmonds told OUT. "It is a terrible tragedy that there is an entire generation of LGBT people wiped out from HIV/AIDS who are not around now to impart their wisdom or help bridge the generational gap. I think a lot of us are feeling that disconnect, and we are finding ways to access our history. It's about more than sex. It's about sex positivity. It's about the ingenuity of queer people of other generations to navigate a climate where they could not live openly. It highlights our use of code, and causes us to consider the ways we use code today. If nothing else, it's an aesthetic treasure trove."

Click through Simmonds' illustrations to find the hanky that best reflects your sexual desires:


Light Blue: Oral


Hunter Green: Daddy/Daddy Chaser


Light Pink: Dildo Fucking


Silver Lame: Star/Starfucker


Red Gingam: Park Sex


Yellow: Watersports/Piss Play


Red: Fisting


White: J/O


Lime Green: Looking for Dinner/Will Buy Dinner


Black: S&M


Magenta: Pits


Lavender: Drag Queen/Drag Queen Chaser


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