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A barrette is a clip for the hair that can be both useful and ornamental. There are several types of barrette. Some have a curved and possibly decorative front and are backed by a metal clip. Others are all metal, or all plastic. A few more expensive styles can feature a ceramic front, fabric bows, or be a combination of metal and semi-precious or glass stones in the front with generally a metal clip backing.
Width and length of the barrette are variable. You can purchase short tiny plastic ones for young children, even suitable to a toddler with just a bit of hair. These plastic child’s barrettes may feature whimsical designs, like clowns, or various cute animals covering the front. They should be used with care in younger children as they can represent a choking hazard.
Shorter metal clip barrettes can be used to pull back front pieces of hair in girls, teens or women. Larger barrettes, and some can be as long as 3-4 inches (7.62-10.16 cm) are designed to pull back longer pieces of hair or larger amounts of hair and are usually worn at the back of the head. If your intent is to pull back hair, length of the barrette is not the only consideration. You should also look at the width of the barrette since it will give you an approximation of how much hair can be secured by it.
Most metal clip barrettes have some give, but trying to gather too much hair, can make it impossible to close the clasp. Alternately, if the clasp does get closed, strain on the metal portion can detach the plastic/metal designed front from the clip. This is normally glued on, and can come apart, especially if your hair clip is an inexpensive one. You can frequently rescue these by re-gluing the front piece back to the metal clip with Super Glue®.
To see if you’re enclosing too much hair in the clip, instead of forcing the clip, bring the upper portion of the clip down over the hair to see how easy it is to close. If it feels like you’re going to have a hard time, gather a smaller amount of hair or choose a longer, wider barrette. One style that remains a classic is to bring the front pieces of the hair back to the center of the back of the head, and affix the barrette.
Depending upon the design of your barrette you can really use it as a fashion statement. Quite elegant styles like those with rhinestones may evoke the art deco movement and be beautiful in the hair. When you just want to get your hair off your face, barrettes are useful too, and for this you can use simple small ones that may not be stylish but are practical.