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Bandana Butt Kerchief in a Keyhole Hanky Signal Sign Sexual Preference and Celebration

Before being appropriated by gangs and gays, the bandana was already versatile, as this cover painted by Peter Driben illustrates.  In 1950, when Whisper put the bandana butt on their cover, they were used mostly to blow a nose and wipe a brow, to hide a face during a bank robbery and to keep the dust out of lungs during sandstorms or smoke out during a prairie fire.

Now, a bandana is a "color" used by gangs the Bloods, the Crips, the Nortenos and the Surenos.  Although it is no longer necessary, it was a signal used by gay men to indicate sexual preference.  I think the correct name for the square, paisley rag is "kerchief" but I can safely say the gays called it a hanky. 

In Bob Dylan's new song "Early Roman Kings" it is used as a signal and location device, as well as a celebration: 

If you see me comin'
And you're standing there
Wave your handkerchief
In the air

Every culture has used the bandana.  The best use is in New Orleans, where traditionally white hankies appear at ALL the hot spots.  A party, a funeral, a church…to wipe sweat and then be waved in the air to dry them off.  If you have not been to a New Orleans dance and seen white hankies waved in the air, you have not lived.


Whisper Magazine with Peter Driben illustration January 1951

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