“Bobby pins” are metal (or plastic) clips made with two flexible prongs, with one prong typically straight and one ridged. They are slid into the hair with the prongs open and then the flexible prongs close over the hair to hold it in place.
English manufacturers Kirby, Beard & Co. Ltd. of Birmingham made hairpins similar to the bobby pin, before the bobby pin’s invention. The trademarked pin, the “Kirbigrip,” was just one of the pins produced by Kirby. The bobby pin was invented by Luis Marcus, a San Francisco–based cosmetics manufacturer, after World War I and came into wide use as the hairstyle known as the “bob cut” or “bobbed hair” became fashionable. He originally sold two handmade bobby pins for 35 cents. Although Marcus thought about naming the pin after himself, he named them “bobby” after the bobbed hairstyle.
In addition to bobbed hair, bobby pins are often used in up-dos, buns, and other hair styles where a sleek look is desired. They are typically plain and unobtrusively colored, but some are elaborately decorated or jewelled. Unobtrusive and extremely easy to master, the bobby pin has become a must-have in almost every modern boudoir.
Bobby pins have many other uses:
— to hold head coverings such as bandannas in place
— as makeshift lock-picks by straightening out two bobby pins to pick the lock
— as a clothespin for drying lightweight articles
— as clips to hold multi-portion packages closed between uses
— slipped over book pages as a bookmark
— to protect the fingers from burns while smoking the final portion of a marijuana cigarette. In such use, the bobby pin is known colloquially as a “roach clip.”
Like barrettes, decorated bobby pins are sometimes meant to be noticed. A decorated bobby pin can have beads, ribbons or other details on it, and is usually worn to pull back front sections of hair. Bobby pins may also be tinted a hair colour, such as blonde, brown, or red to blend better into the hair.
Some are made without the wavy rigid side and instead are smooth and curved. They are made this way to help with the grip factor and they stay closer and more tightly attached to the hair that it is pinned to. They may also be padded in order to avoid creasing the hair.
I think this post qualifies to be called “everything you ever wanted to know about bobby pins.”