The History: Flagging & "Our Back Pockets" 

The name Our Back Pockets in part references the practice of ‘flagging’ among gay men in the San Francisco leather scene of the 1970s. In this system, wearing a handkerchief in your back pocket let other men know that you were interested in hooking up.  You’re a bottom? Hanky in the right pocket.  Feeling toppy? The left. The color of bandana signaled interest in a specific kink, and could get quite involved.  

The hanky code is now a well-known aspect of queer history, but it is just one example of how throughout time queers of all flavors have devised ways to find each other while safely flying under the mainstream radar.  Lesbians in the 1940s sported nautical star tattoos on their inner wrist.  The triangle used to persecute homosexuals and other “asocial” troublemakers under the Nazi regime has been reclaimed as a symbol of queer identity and resistance.  Today we routinely rely on the little things to recognize our own: nail polish, a rainbow sticker, a haircut.

The objects we surround ourselves with not only communicate with others, they reinforce our own identities and values.  When so much of the world is telling us to disappear, daily reminders of who we are and what we stand for become vital. Take a look in your bag (no, really) - consciously or not, the ephemera we carry with us tells our story.  

The Mission: to celebrate queer lives by making art that can be used to create community and sink into the fabric of our everyday.

Our Back Pockets

I have always been a drawer, a maker, a doodler. For one of our early anniversaries, I made my partner a small card; she carried that love note in her inner coat pocket for years.  When a metamour was getting elective surgery, I made her a congratulatory card which was, in my humble opinion, *hilarious*.  Something clicked.

 Have you ever met a queer that didn’t like puns? (I think I’ve met, like, two.)  But these events and relationships that we celebrate - body modification of all kinds, anniversaries, many different kinds of family - are often sensationalized and taken so seriously.  This doesn’t match up with how so many of us experience them.  They are accomplishments that are extremely hard won but that can be met with joy and humor, as long as we are among our own. We are not offered ready-made ways to express this type of celebration, we have to create from scratch every time. Luckily we are good at creating our own culture.  It’s what we do.  But it’s my hope that by making functional art and offering up some tools, finding your people and telling them you care will become just a little bit easier. 

The Artist: Erica Lockwell

Erica LockwellHi, I'm Erica (she/her)! I am the person behind Our Back Pockets, and think of myself primarily as an artist and illustrator. As a former archaeologist, I an interested in how little things, like how we adorn ourselves or the ephemera we exchange, influence and create culture as a whole. I’m also queer!

Often LGBTQ+ experiences are either sensationalized or infantalized, but I endeavor to reflect queer life in a way that is diverse, honest, welcoming, and warm.

I start most of my designs by hand. I like to pair the subtleties of watercolor with bold linework and the application of digital tools. By depicting complex content in a cozy aesthetic, I hope to both normalize and cherish a range of experiences.

I make these things for you, but I also make them for me.

If you want to know more about Our Back Pockets, inquire about commissions, or have any questions at all, please feel free to email me at erica@ourbackpockets.com