In the 1970s, gay people joyously defined themselves out in the open for the initial time in our culture’s history. The gay lib movement, largely sparked by the 1969 Stonewall riots, gave a new opportunity for expression, especially in cities like San Francisco.

Combine that with a pre-AIDS existence, and it produced for 1 hell of a celebration.

Photographer Hal Fisher was particularly interested in these newfound gay signifiers, and as portion of his 1977 publication Gay Semiotics, he provided detailed itemized descriptions of the gay experience in San Francisco at the time. Note the very early use of the term “basic gay,” though we’re guessing he didn’t mean it fairly the identical way.

Here’s a sampling of his work. You can purchase a copy of the paperback book right now, but i’ll set you back upwards of $ 500.


Handkerchiefs signify behavioral tendencies by means of each colour and placement. A blue handkerchief placed in the appropriate hip pocket serves notice that the wearer desires to play the passive role during sexual intercourse. Conversely, a blue handkerchief placed in the left hip pocket indicates that the wearer will assume the active or standard male role in the course of sexual speak to. The blue handkerchief is commonly used in the remedy of nasal congestion and in some circumstances holds no which means in regard to sexual preferences.

Red handkerchiefs are utilised as signifiers for behavior that is often regarded as deviant or abnormal. A red handkerchief positioned in the correct hip pocket implies that the wearer requires the passive part in anal/hand insertion. A red handkerchief placed in the left hip pocket suggests that the wearer plays the active role in anal/hand insertion. Red handkerchiefs are also employed in the treatment of nasal discharge and in some situations might have no significance in regard to sexual make contact with.


An earring in the right lobe could suggest that the wearer prefers to play the passive part in the course of sexual activity. Conversely, an earring in the left lobe could signify active behavior on the component of the wearer. As opposed to the other signifiers, even so, Correct/Left placement of the earring is not constantly indicative of Passive/Active tendencies on the element of the wearer. Furthermore, the earring or stud is usually adopted by non-homosexual guys, thus producing the earring the most subtle of homosexual signifiers.


Keys are an understood signifier for homosexual activity. A crucial chain worn on the correct side of the physique indicates that the wearer desires to play a passive function in the course of a sexual encounter. Conversely, keys placed on the left side of the body signify that the wearer expects to assume a dominant position. Keys are also worn by janitors, laborers and other workers with no sexual significance intended.


Amyl nitrite is a prescription capsule drug employed in the therapy of angina pectoris (heart disease). Amyl nitrite, or “poppers” as it is recognized in slang terminology, is inhaled through either the nose or the mouth. Right after inhalation the user experiences a quickened heartbeat and the sensation of blood rushing to his head. Amyl nitrite is specifically popular on dance floors and right away prior to sexual climax. Considering that Amyl Nitrite is offered only by prescription, manufacturers have produced a number of commercial substitutes as effectively as a variety of inhalers. Even though Amyl is employed by heterosexuals, its immense popularity among gays has earned it the title “The Gay Drug.”


Standard GAY


STREET Fashion


The western or cowboy prototype is identified by articles of clothes: cowboy or western boots, jeans, flannel or western style shirts and in some situations hats. When the image appears in gay magazines the settings are normally barns, corrals or fence posts. The cowboy represents the frontier and a male-only society. The machismo qualities of the western archetype are vigorously exploited by advertising. Modern day cowboys are employed by the media to play up masculinity and sexuality in methods that are subconsciously understood by the gay populace.


The leather prototype is the most effortlessly recognized appear. Black leather products contain everything from hoods to jackets, pants, caps and underwear. Accoutrements contain motorcycles, chains and various sexual products. In the gay media black leather becomes a symbol for the unknown or untried. It is entirely, vehemently, macho in look. Although the other archetypes have their roots in myths accepted and celebrated by the culture-at-big, the leather cult, like its straight counterpart is rooted in non-acceptance and non-conformity.





h/t Harmful Minds

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Photographs: 70s Gay Subculture Preserved In Wonderful Detail In “Gay Semiotics”
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