Specifically, when it comes to clubbing and parties, Jeremy Feist, writer and sales pup at Northbound Leather, notes that there are definitely people flagging at parties and clubs and that there are two types of people using the code: "For the most part, there are two kinds of people who still flag: The old school, dedicated players, and the new guys who see flagging as a fashion statement."
Feist suggests the Hanky Code has moved to another level and includes other functions.
"I think there is a select group of people who see the Hanky Code as something other than a utility: It's fashion, it's a novelty, it's an accessory, whatever," Feist said.
"It used to be mandatory because being openly kinky - even being openly gay - was a liability. Everything had to be coded, otherwise you could put yourself in danger. I think Hanky Code is still used practically to a certain extent, but now that we're free to talk about what we're looking for openly, it's not something we have to use, so much as it's a tool we choose to use."
As more people have adopted flagging as a means to meet, more activities have been included. Because there weren’t many hanky colors available in the beginning, the code started out with limited colors. Now you can find a multitude of colors and preference represented - and not just using hankies either! Seriously, think of a fetish or play type and there is a code for that. Fisting? Watersports? Uniforms? Spit? There’s a code for you! Check out these diverse lists here and here.
Modern Day Hanky Code
At this point, the Hanky Code is both useful, kitschy, and legendary. Indeed, it is still a valuable tool to ensure your safety when cruising. It is a great way to meet like-minded kinky folks, too. At the same time, queer and popular culture are poking little jabs at this iconic code. Justin Sayre reimagines the Hanky Code and Peaches devotes a song to it! Funny or Die has even offered a hilarious take on describing its intricacies.
As our meeting mechanisms have become more digitized and less in-person, Feist notes that profile can replace the cacophony of colors and objects of the code. However, serious players still reference it. It is a funny conundrum: more and more colors and objects are being recognized to denote fetishes and activities, but it seems the code is possibly in decline. Maybe it is this continual invention of new codes that will lead to a resurgence?
If that does happen, Feist has some words of advice: "You might need to invest in a Pantone Color Guide."