What Is a Hairpin?

Sherry Holetzky
Sherry Holetzky
Man with hands on his hips
Man with hands on his hips

A hairpin is a type of pin or clip, designed to hold hair in place either through the use of tension or by being pushed through the hair, rather than clasping at one end the way a barrette does. There are many different types of hair accessories but the hairpin is one type that has been around for a very long time. A type of hairpin known as the bobby pin was designed in the 1920s to work with bobbed hairstyles, often as a way to hold a bow in place at the side of the face. Many varieties of the hairpin are now often used to create many diverse looks and styles.

Some ancient styles of hairpins were fashioned like a large pin or stick and often had detailed designs carved at one end. After winding the hair, the pin would be pushed through it to maintain the style. The decorative portion would appear above that section of hair, creating an attractive embellishment.

Hairpins can also be used for curling the hair through the use of pin curls. Back in the 1940s, 1950s, and 1960s, women and girls in the US often favored hairstyles made up of these curls. Pin-curled hair was considered a very glamorous look. This look is still used today, especially with vintage style clothing or sometimes for formal occasions.

To create such a style, a small section of hair is twisted. Hair is generally dampened first or a bit of gel is applied, and the twists are then pinned into place with a tension style hairpin. In a few hours or after allowing hair to dry overnight, the hairpins are removed to reveal soft wavy curls.

A hairpin can also be used to pile hair on top of the head and pin it in place. Pins are frequently used in creating French twists and other up-swept styles. Sometimes, they are used in very simple ways as well, such as to keep bangs out of one's eyes. Hairpins are available in many different sizes and styles to suit a variety of needs.

There are many different types of decorative hairpins as well. A decorative hairpin can add just the right touch to a number of different looks. Some have jewels, sequins, pearls, or even tiny flowers attached to them. Adding decorative pins to an up-sweep is a nice look for prom, for bridal hairstyles, or for other formal occasions.

The term "hairpin curve" may also be heard in conversation and is often used to describe dangerous turns or curves. The phrase may also refer to a road that has sharp turns that may resemble the waved portion of a hairpin. Sometimes a road is designed to go back and forth over an area rather than going straight up or straight down, while others may only have one wave or curve.

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