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Are Jockstraps the New Hanky Code?

Wednesday Jul 18, 2018

Although Andrew Christian has always strived to empower men around the world to embrace their sensual side and show off the goods that were given to them, history hasn't always been as kind to male thongs, jocks, and general package showboating.

To put it bluntly, queerness and the celebration of Pride is something that didn't start off with go-go boys dancing in lace briefs -- it began much more coded and secretive. And the risks of being caught were much higher.

Back in the 70s, when homosexuality was still mitigated to the shadows, and gay bars had yet to become a hot commodity, the hanky code was invented to allow men clarity when it came to who to cruise based on their sexual preferences.

During this time, a bar's liquor license could be suspended by the liquor board if delegates found out an owner was serving openly homosexual patrons. Although this wasn't technically legal, it never stopped the board from finding small infractions that would get a business' right to sell alcoholic drinks revoked.

As a result, establishments would refuse to serve gay patrons to avoid their business going under from lack of sales. The hanky code allowed men to walk around bars and cruise each other without fear of not being served; it was a sexual liberation.

The hanky code, in theory, was simple: which color hanky you put in your back pocket correlated to what you enjoyed sexually and what you were on the look-out for in a partner. For example, a light blue hanky meant that you were into oral, a green meant you liked daddies, a black hanky meant S&M and so-on.

Not all hankies were dirty; some reflected the more sexually tame of the queer community: lime green indicated you were looking for dinner or willing to buy someone dinner -- which is basically what everyone on Tinder is doing today.

If you're unfamiliar with the Julius' "sip-in" that preceded even Stonewall, members of the New York City Mattachine Society, a national gay rights organization taking inspiration from the civil rights sit-ins of the South, decided to challenge the regulation that prohibited bars from serving gay clients. With reporters in tow, four activists declared they were gay and asked to be served at Julius'. They were turned away, and it sparked a court case that would eventually force the liquor license board to be transparent about the fact that bars were entitled to serve whomever they'd like.

After this incident, gay bars began cropping up everywhere. It was an iconic moment for the queer community, as they know had an open and legal place where they could fraternize and explore their sexuality outside of what colored cloth they were wearing in their back pocket.

It would be a few years until the next massive wave of gay liberation would come outside of the Ballroom scene and drag queens -- go-go boys. Although go-go boys were sometimes utilized during the 60s, it wouldn't be until 1988 that they would resurface in a big way.

The jockstrap invention doesn't directly correlate to the re-emergence of go-go boys, but it does significantly influence queer culture and, in part, the dress code of go-go dancers.
The jockstrap was invented in 1874 by C. F. Bennett of a Chicago sporting goods company, Sharp & Smith, to provide comfort and support for bicycle jockeys working the cobblestone streets of Boston.

Although it would go on to be used by sports teams across the world, the gay community embraced the jock for two reasons: one, it accentuated a part of the male body that is admired and lusted for, and two, it was a cheeky rejection of the heteronormative expectation we put on athletics.

The type of jock straps varied as more features were added to be utilized by the athletic community, and queer fashion quickly followed. From swimmer jocks designed to protect a swimmer's modesty under his trunks to the traditional thick-banded athlete's jockstrap to hockey -- invention was born out of necessity. No longer were sexy lingerie lines limited to only marketing towards women; for the first time, the male body was to be embraced by the fashion industry in ways that had previously been unmined.

So are jockstraps the new hanky code? Maybe so. Time and various queer designers have allowed the gay community various options, cuts, materials, and colors to put on and express its sexual liberation. Jockstraps may not always have the same cut and dry meaning that the hanky code provided, but you can tell a lot about someone's sexual preferences from the type of underwear they sport.

Whatever your preference is, there is a sexy pair of underwear that can match it, and that's progress. Some may look back at the hanky code and turn up their noses, thinking about how regressive and repressed it all seems. But let's not forget that there is a long history of seeking fetishes in the shadows until, as a community, we bring them to light.

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