The most ancient hairpins have been used both as an important decorative elements for female hairstyles and also as an reinforcing, functional elements. They are found in archaeological excavations and date back to the Bronze Age (between 4000 and 3000 B.C. ).
The Ancient Egyptian, Greek, Roman and Germanic women used hairpins. Those hairpins were made of bone and wood, but later also from precious metals, which were supplemented with gemstones, engraving, filigree and granulation techniques.
Hair clips made of wire or flexible metals are just as old. It's possible that the ancient hairdressers who used them, were the representatives of Etruscan civilization.
If we pay a special attention to the ancient hair jewelry trends, then we will notice that hairstyle accessories created at that time can be divided into two groups: simple pins with more or less decorative heads and concave "U" shaped hair pins.
Some of the earliest Greek, Roman and British hairpins were decorated with luxurious heads. They were also supplemented with anthropomorphic bone incisions, as well as their heads were made in the form of flowers, animals or abstract figurines. Particularly luxurious were enamel hairpins of Ancient China during the 13th-15th century.
The Etruscan and Ancient Roman hairpins were very long and with richly decorated heads in the form of some fruits. Meanwhile, Anglo-Saxon hairpins were often decorated with bird motifs and garnet inclusions.
In the Western culture, the most luxurious and more cleverly created hairpins were worn in the Spanish court during the 16th century. And everywhere else where this fashion was imitated... Compact hairstyles were complemented not only by embroidered hair nets with beading, but also by luxurious precious metal hairpins incorporating precious gems. There were a hairpins with ball-shaped heads, butterflies, fleas and various fantastical creatures. At the end of the 16th century, jewelers began to ornate hairpins with more militant motifs, featuring even sword-shaped pins. In addition, bouquets and multicolored bird feathers were added to the range of hair jewelry. In Spain those decorations were almost as vivid and shining as in the newly discovered America.
The next era of hair pins came with the second half of the 18th century when Marie Antoinette - the fashion trendsetter of the French royal court, set the tone. At that time, using the aigrette, pin of oriental origin became popular hair jewelry trend. It was usually made also as a hairpin featuring a diamond spray that was embedded in hair, usually on the right side. Aigrette(s) were made in a variety of decorative shapes - as flower bouquets, wheat germs, or peacock feathers.
Often the 18th century hairpins featured an era-appropriate and witty forms. The heads of hairpins were just like windmills - with moving or rotating heads!
In the fashion era of Empire, at the beginning of the 19th century, hairpins became surprisingly similar to those of the antiquity. The ladies of that new fashion era decorated their hairstyles with long ivory or gilded silver pins with ball-shaped heads. During the 19th century, hairpins were already competing with decorative hair combs that were decorated with corals, agate, glass or tortoise shell.
In the Art Nouveau era, neo-classical styles tend to blend with the neo-romantic mythical images and the interpretation of natural forms.
At the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries, continued trend of hairstyles with some striking attributes of oriental luxury. The Art Deco era has come up with the new challenges and a desire to highlight the aesthetics of new materials, such as plastic. Contemporary hairpins in the Western Europe are more often functionally constructed and made of cheaper materials and without décor.
Functionality has won. But is this always the case? You can decide it for yourself. It seems to me that during the festive occasions, the eclectic use of hairpins is visually similar to the ancient way of using them.
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My name is Edīte Parute and I am a fashion historian and researcher from Latvia, association member at "The Association of Dress Historians" (UK) and author of the book "Stila un modes enciklopēdija"/"Encyclopedia of Style and Fashion" (2010) as well as author of many publications.