Kurt and The Hanky Code

Red hanky, left side, Ep 3.05

Ok, ok, I’m blinking on this one. Mostly because all the talk is happening on Tumblr and I still find it hard to follow.

How we all missed this, I have no idea, but here it is. There was a clever post on Tumblr that started off this whole discussion here.

In both 3.05 and 3.03, Kurt is wearing a read hanky, left side.

For those of you unfamiliar with the hanky code, here’s a helpful definition from Wikipedia:

Handkerchief code or hanky code (also known as bandana code and flagging) is color-coded system, employed usually among the gay male casual-sexseekers or BDSM practitioners in the leather subculture in the United States, Canada and Europe, to indicate preferred fetishes, what kind of sex they are seeking, and whether they are a top/dominant or bottom/submissive. The hanky code was widely used in the 1970s by gay and bisexual men, and grew from there to include all genders and orientations.

There’s a meaning to each colour (and some patterns) and while there are universals, the codes can be localised so it can be different. Red/left side seems pretty universally “fisting” and “top”. Yeah, you read that right.

Red hanky left pocket, ep 3.03

HeatherHermione pointed out the hanky in 3.05 (in the scene where Kurt suggests they go back to Blaine’s parentless home) and to aNervousTemperament pointed out the hanky in 3.03 (applauding after the Rachel/Mercedes Diva-off). That 3.03 pic could really use to be a gif but I just do not have the tools for this.

And Racheline (Letters from Titan) is asking all the right questions:

Choose one:

a) Kurt knows perfectly well what the hanky code is and thinks he can get away with stuff like that because no one else in Lima knows what the hanky code is.

b) Kurt knows what the hanky code is and so does Blaine. But they don’t talk about it, and Blaine thinks Kurt’s a little ridiculous and over the top, but it’s more information about what goes on in Kurt’s brain about sex than he’s ever had before, so it’s not like he’s going to bring it up and risk Kurt stopping.

c) Kurt, as ever, is wearing sexualized clothing without a clue. Remember the bondage harness?

d) Kurt, originally didn’t have a clue about the hanky code, and someone had to clue him in.  Once clued in, he runs with it. Hey, who had to clue him in?


Personally, I’m of the opinion that Kurt may not know what he’s doing, but Chris Colfer, Darren Criss, Ryan Murphy and Lou Eyrich (costume designer) all do. And that means it’s hilarious. I would love to see Blaine trying to explain it to him.


44 thoughts on “Kurt and The Hanky Code

  1. ok I did not notice that and it is beyond awesome-I bet Kurt does know i mean the guy has moxy behind all that class and once again I have to take off my many hats to the costume designer.
    also WOW I cannot believe just how much taller Chris Colfer is than Darren Criss

  2. I just have to say that every .gif I see now from S3 where Kurt’s fidgeting with his hands (particularly that first scene in 3.05 with the Roxy Music line and Kurt’s laying on the bed twisting his hands together), now reads as completely, completely other than his being nervous about something.

    Lol’ing forever. The question is, who’s going to take this one on in a Q&A first. It may be the most legitimate, yet awkward, question (“y’all did that intentionally, right?”) question the show has ever thrown at us.

  3. What is awesome is they put in such an overt reference of sexuality in such a chaste episode they couldn’t show the acts so they put it in code (some wild shit must have gone down) very well played Glee…and Kurt is no baby penguin

  4. That’s hilarious, and there’s no way that the creators missed the meaning of that. I love that they found something that would just go over most people’s heads.

    I could also see Santana being the one to tell Kurt, if he didn’t know.

  5. I was thinking “well, who would even know to tell Kurt except Blaine?” And then I realized that Santana would totally know, would be far more likely than Blaine to know, and would probably have hilarious things to say.

  6. It does support my head canon of Kurt liking the idea of being in control and making his lover completely loose control.

    He also does seem to have Blaine wrapped around his finger…apparently he is thinking a bit more than his little finger.

  7. I have no comment except that, again, I do not want to know the particulars of anyone’s sex life unless I am a player. Fascinating, but I’m not going to think about this one. Squick’d!

  8. I promise if I get the opportunity, ideally with Lou, I’d totally ask this (ask Chris I think would get a jokey answer most likely, but would also be awesome. Darren would just tell us all how organic it is…)

  9. Hi there! This is “anervoustemperament” from Tumblr. I agree with you re: your final paragraph, in that I think this is a fashion statement that somehow exists outside of Kurt’s choices (sacrilege, I know, given Kurt’s fashionista status!). I’ve been trying to write something about this for a while, but life keeps getting in the way, so I hope you don’t mind if I blather a little bit in your comments?

    Both Kurt and Blaine’s fashion choices often read to me as something larger than personal preference. Their clothes are like reading a book on the history and visibility of queer style. Blaine’s interesting because his fashion often stems from things that are intriguingly, sometimes coyly homoerotic in the culture at large — schoolboy style, the matinee idol hair, the Archie-esque outfits this season that suggest 1950s homosocial/homoerotic teen culture. Instead of being teasingly “possibly gay,” however, these fashion choices just become out-and-out gay, because that’s how Blaine represents himself from his first appearance. His clothes essentially take those visual tropes and make their queerness explicit instead of implied.

    Meanwhile, Kurt’s outfits often make me laugh, because they’re an education in such specific aspects of 20th century queer subcultures (the hanky code, the harnesses, his Blackglama-style poster, etc.). (And maybe I wonder a little about how much of the audience notices?) He is so old-school, and his clothes do a lot of talking about the way people in subcultures make themselves visible (to each other, and even to outsiders who don’t understand the visual conversation but see it happening anyway), which is interesting given all the storylines about how Kurt’s queerness can’t be anything but visible to everyone.

    It’s kind of great to me the way that Kurt and Blaine’s clothes expose historical queerness while being part of a contemporary love story about two gay teenagers. I actually find it very moving, almost as though we’re experiencing many other love stories from different historical moments along with their current one. It’s like all the past romances just like theirs that weren’t depicted in our culture at larger (even though they were happening!!) are being represented a little bit through their clothing. Even when Glee is super-imperfect and makes me super-mad (which is OFTEN), stuff like this really gets me.

    And, less seriously, I think the costume department is probably spending a lot of time laughing to themselves. 😉 Sorry for all of this not-totally-coherent word barfing, but as someone who studies clothing and visual culture, I have been dying to have this discussion… and I would love to hear what other people think about it.

  10. Oh my god. I can’t unsee it now!!! When I first noticed the 3.03 gif, I laughed, and then I checked the color and was all “KURT EXCUSE YOU!!!!”

  11. Oh hi! Delighted to see you here! Thanks for pointing 3.03 out!

    No apologies! In fact if you ever want to write something like that again, fire me off an email — deconstructingglee@gmail.com — and we’ll get you set up as a contributor! I’d love someone to talk properly about the costuming because I really believe it’s huge in Glee.

  12. I would love to write more & collaborate with you sometime (I guess I’ll need a better pseudonym than my stupid Tumblr name, LOL). Sadly, there are many things in my life that are supposed to be taking precedence over my obsession with Kurt & Blaine’s outfits, so it might take me a while to write something more coherent. But I won’t forget! Your blog is great, by the way. A wonderful combination of thoughtfulness and humor (and I find it much less terrifying than the wilds of Tumblr).

  13. I’ve given this subject a lot of thought, and I’ve come to my very thoughtful conclusion:

    this will never be not hilarious.

    (Touch of the fingertips INDEED.)

    Now I need to know if Blaine ever does this, and if he ever wears a fushia handkerchief on his right.

    THANK GOD FOR TUMBLR, that is all I have to say.

  14. I’m not so sure about interpretting vest pocket hankerchiefs as a flagging reference. Flagging is conventionally done with a hanky in the back pants pocket. Sometimes it can be seen in arm bands or neck scarfs, which brings up possibilities for Kurt’s wardrobe choices. But I haven’t heard of vest/coat pockets.

    If I let that slide, I love that the color is red. Now that’s an awesome bit of fun that never makes it into fic. Maybe not straight ladies’ cuppa.

  15. I love what you have to say here on the fashion, including that of Blaine. With all the whinging about socklessness among the masses, I never thought of it as an evocation of 50s homoeroticism/boy culture. Awesome analysis. More please.

  16. I thoroughly enjoy the costume discussion and the subtext it adds to the show, but I have a hard time reconciling I-can’t-watch-those-kinds-of-videos Kurt with someone who would (at this point anyway) know that much about his own sexual preferences. This seems more of a decision by the costume designer or producers or actor (or some combination).

  17. And then Kurt reusing a piece that soon? His clothes and accessories cycle, but we don’t tend to see him with recurring attachments to particular objects in quick succession other than shoes. So I think that’s notable as well.

  18. I just love that Kurt topped an what I love even more is that they managed to sneak in little hint that goes over most peoples heads because I know we were all curious about who would top.

  19. I THOUGHT I WAS THE ONLY ONE THAT NOTICED THIS. I am dying for someone to ask Chris/Darren/Ryan/etc. this. With that many queer people/queer-knowledgeable people on the show, this can’t *not* be intentional.

  20. I’m decidedly not well enough versed in clothing cues of queer subculture to know if this observation changes any of the conclusions and speculation above, but I’m pretty sure in 3×03 Kurt is actually wearing a fox tail again, not a handkerchief. Of course, I could be wrong, but the fox tails have intrigued me for some time, so I always try to spot them.

  21. Welcome! Hi!
    Well, the photo is pretty clear to me — you can see at the end how it goes transparent but still very much red,so it does look like a hanky. The fox tails, well, just have a look at the comments here! and you’ll find plenty of chat about that! Also, photos of every time it’s been spotted.

  22. That’s hilarious if they did it on purpose, and I can’t believe I missed it. I was the one having a choking fit years ago during an ice skating exhibition program when the lights went up on Josef Szabocik, back to the camera, white T-shirt, faded blue jeans, and a big ol’ red hanky in the pocket. I was all “did they REALLY do that? Am I seeing it?” And then the music started up and it was “Born in the USA,” and I exhaled and thought, “oh, THAT’S what they were doing with it, album cover, OK.”

    Which of course brings up the question of whether Bruce Springsteen had any idea. I’m sure this has been addressed before SOMEWHERE, I just never went looking for it.

    And. Um. Yeah. Kurt’s hands, now. *happy sigh*

  23. Probably because you were alive and old enough to be aware of popular music in 1984? It was ubiquitous.

    Josef Szabocik’s costume was DEFINITELY a hanky, though. I could. not. breathe.

  24. Ah yes, I’ve watched that second a few times since making my comment and while I’m having a bit of a hard time seeing the color on my screen (I’m unfortunately stuck near a window on this very sunny day), the movement as Kurt jumps is a touch floaty, more like a handkerchief than a fox tail. I’m fairly well convinced (of course I’m going to watch the scene a few more times when I’m in more favorable light…mostly because the jumping is adorable).

    Thank you for pointing me to the fox tail post!

  25. No problem. And I’m just going to give you a moment of perspective about your “unfortunately” and “very sunny day”.

    I have just cleaned out two hen houses in the lashing rain — and it’s been raining for more or less 3 weeks. What I’d give for glare! (also, matte screens rock). 😉 Enjoy the sun!

  26. Yikes! That is a lot of rain. I am thankful for this sunny day (it wintry mixed all over me yesterday)…it’s just so extreme as to make my matte screen on full brightness hard to read, and I’m kind of baffled because that is some SUN. Okay. I’m done talking about the weather 😛

  27. Pingback: Glee: Micro-continuity and you « Letters from Titan

  28. Pingback: Mind Blown: Blaine’s collar « Deconstructing Glee

  29. Pingback: Glee: One sweater-vest, five tons of conjecture « Letters from Titan

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