Sometimes it’s obvious when a hanky isn’t a flag — or, rather, that it doesn’t mean what you think it means. For example, I’m pretty sure this class is flagging Communism and not fisting:
Other situations can be more ambiguous. It didn’t seem so far-fetched that Snoop Dogg would be a top, but it turns out I was too ready to read his navy-on-the-left as indicating his sexual preferences, when it actually signals his gang allegiances.
I keep a blue flag hanging out my backside
But only on the left side, yeah that’s the Crip side
– Snoop Dogg, “Drop It Like It’s Hot“
(Incidentally, Crips and Bloods have nothing to do with disability pride or menstrualiciousness either. Major cultural dissonance right here.)
Sadly this means that hanky code as we know it hasn’t yet made it into Madame Tussaud’s. But it’s probably useful to be aware of alternative codes before you go cruising.