Every vintage hat collector knows and keeps a few hatpins. This accessory, which was most popular between the 1880s and the 1920s, is often made of precious metals and adorned with gemstones. Plastics and other materials were later used as the technology was perfected. Often found between six and twelve inches, depending on the size of the hat, it is a tool that is part of hats and their history.
The first hatpin came about in the Middle Ages. Ladies often used wires and small pins to fasten their veils and wimples securely to their hair. Though these were nothing like the type of hatpins later used, they were definitely the beginnings.
Shortly before the 1880s, the creation of hatpins, decorative ones in particular, became a cottage industry. These handmade pins became very popular among women. So popular that the market was often flooded with hatpins! This prompted the British Parliament to pass an act restricting the sale of pins to just two days a year, January 1st and January 2nd.
Like the hats they secured, hatpins changed with trends. When the United States patented the first pin making machine, it began producing pins with long tapering points, like the kind we know today. This eventually led to the mass-production of pins by jeweler Charles Horner, a move that eventually inspired other jewelers and jewelry designers to begin creating jeweled pins, a long time and popular trend. Unger Bros. and Tiffany & Co. are just two of the companies that were known for producing jeweled pins.
During the suffrage movement, women began using their hatpins as a symbol of their movement and their freedom. It was during this time that hatpins were seen as possible weapons. An English judge had ordered that no hatpins could be used in his courtroom. In Arkansas, a law was passed declaring that pins could not be longer than nine inches long, and should a woman need a longer one, she would have to obtain a permit. It was a tumultuous time for ladies, and their hatpins felt it!
Eventually, however, hat pins did become smaller. As hats became smaller, large pins became unnecessary. Then hats became so small that pins themselves were no longer needed. By the beginning of World War II, not only were the pins themselves unnecessary, but hats went out of fashion as well.
Today, hatpins are often seen as a part of history. Some women, especially those who use vintage hats, however, still have a hatpin or two lying around. Apart from their basic use, they also make great decorative pieces for some simpler headwear!