S Leather in San Francisco, claimed that he created the first hanky code with his business partners at Leather 'n' Things inwhen their bandana supplier inadvertently doubled their order and the expanded code would help them sell the extra colors they had received. Brown is wholly shit. However, given the origin of the code in an overstocking episode, its presence may be attributable to the practical reality of what colours were actually available. Coded objects can be self-referential and practical, as much about having the gear at hand as signalling a preference. The homoerotic bandana both says something and does something.
Bandanas are traditionally used as neckwear or as headwear.
Hippie-dicks, hair fairies, gay bikers, leathers and other ancient non-mainstream categories of queer folk populated the early history of gay liberation and contributed to its rise. From a few basic colours of bandanas, there evolved over time an arcane array of specialty colours and coded objects conveying what are in many cases equally obscure sexual practises. R Davolt, Painfully Obvious: The book has been republished by the LA gallery Cherry and Martin.
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