Fashionable Pins – A History

When I set out to write this post I didn’t understand the scope of pin history. It starts in the Neolithic period with bone pins like this one…

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Although anthropologists are not sure why people made these bone pins, or what the marks on the pin indicate, we are sure they are pins. Many examples made of bone, some of semi-precious stone, and a very few remaining wooden pins exist today.

Fast Forward to large scale agriculture and civilization, to the court of Queen Puabi of Ur who was buried with her gold hairpin. Because it is typical for the gentry to affect the fashions of royalty we would not be out of the realm of possibility to imagine Sumerian women adorning themselves with hairpins; although we have no proof of this very human behavior in the Sumer history books.

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In ancient Egypt the upper classes wore pectorals, some were pinned directly to the clothing and others hung from beaded chains. In this way, pectorals are a pin and pendant cross-over.

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Anthropologists state pectorals were decorative and functional as they conveyed the wearers status.

In Ancient China, hairpins were worn by men and women alike. Elaborate or plain they denoted a persons station and rank in the world. By weaving the hairpins in and out of the hair they held elaborate coiffures in place.

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For clothing closures, the Ancient Chinese did not use pins. Instead, ancient Chinese fashionistas used silk cord to braid and knot elaborate frogs which held garments closed. Frog closures remain a popular option, especially for heavy fabrics. You can learn how to make your own frog closures >here<.

Ancient Grecian fashionistas wore fibulae; clasps decorated with fine metal work. Over time the fibulae became more ornate. They were a go-to accessory for men and women and bespoke the wearer’s financial station and personal style.

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The same is true of Ancient Rome and Constantinople. Ornate gold fibulae are a staple of the fashionable wardrobe and spread from Rome like wildfire.

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During the middle ages, Viking women used two brooches to secure their aprons to their smocks. The practice of piracy and plunder brought many pin styles, including the twisted metal Celtic brooches, to the Northern lands.

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In lower latitudes, brooches were phasing out in favor of ties and button closures so hairpins became the preferred item of decoration as seen in this Baroque painting.

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During the late Middle Ages, the burgeoning merchant class embraced this fashion. France exported the coveted hairpins all over the known world and then it was the Renaissance. Hair Pins were all the rage.

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Hairpins were replaced by fascinators thanks to the 14th century Tudors, as well as wigs and even birdcages under the influence of the French aristocracy during the 18th century. Yet, brooches staged a come-back with semiprecious stones and delicate metal work as well as cameos during the Victorian era.

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Fascinators and cameos are still with us, as are brooches and even hairpins for the most special of occasions. During the 19th century, U.S. President Lincoln adopted the pin as a political button. The buttons encouraged political conversation and helped him win the election of 1860.

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Cameos swept across the West with pioneers. In the 1920s Art Deco brought angular flair to the brooch pin. One hundred years after Honest Abe, pins cried for peace, love, and an end to the Vietnam war.

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Today, pins are everywhere. Collections of political pins, hairpins, brooches, cameos, hat pins, and hippie pins inspired the upcoming generation’s design of social pins on their quest for inclusive identities, political action, and belonging. The history of the pin is still being written.

Until next time, we’ll see you on social media.

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Further reading:
Click on the LINKs for photo
credits and to learn more.

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