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Hairpins vs. Bobby Pins: They Are Different

Margaret Minnicks has been an online writer for many years. She writes articles that are interesting to her readers.


Hairpins and bobby pins are not the same. They are different in their appearance and in their purpose. The one you that would be more helpful depends on what you need the device to do.

Since both are inexpensive, you might want to have both of them on hand in case you need them for the same hairstyle.

A hair pin or hairpin is a long device that keeps a person's hair in place. A bobby pin is also a long device used to hold a person's hair in place. So, what are the differences between the two?



Today, women can have every possible hairstyle. Most of them require a hairpin or a bobby pin to keep the hair in place. Fancy hairstyles are common in all cultures and a hairpin is a must.

While the most used hairpins are made of metal, they can also be made of plastic, bronze, ivory or wood. Women tend to purchase the plain hairpins because they are not seen when placed in the hair. On some occasions, women will purchase decorative ones with ornaments and jewels to do more than just keep the hair in place. They add beauty to hairstyles.

Modern versions are made of wire that are from two to six inches in length. They are bent in half with a u-shaped end and a few zigzags along the opposite sides. The zigzags help keep the pin in place and will not come out during normal movements of the head.

China's Hairpins

In the United States, hairpins are usually invisible in the hair. They are an important symbol in Chinese culture. Hairpins are essential items for everyday hairstyling used by women and men especially for keeping a bun in place while also decorating the hair.

In some culture like China, hairpins worn by women could also represent their social status and transition from a girl into an adult.

Girls do not use hairpins until they reach the age of 15. Then they take part in a rite of passage ceremony where they are initiated into using hairpins. Before age 15, they were considered children and wore their hair in braids. At age 15, they are considered to be young women and can wear their hair in buns that require the use of hairpins to secure the hair to the head.

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Not only do hairpins symbolize the transition from childhood to adulthood in China, but they have a lot to do with engagement and marriage as well. When a woman becomes engaged, she takes a hairpin from her hair and gives it to the man as her pledge. After the wedding ceremony, the husband puts the hairpin back into his spouse’s hair.

Bobby Pin

Bobby Pin

Bobby Pins

A bobby pin is not the same as a hairpin even though some people use the words interchangeably. The bobby pin is a type of hairpin even though a hairpin is not a bobby pin.

Bobby pins became popular in the 1920s and are so named after the bobbed hairstyles that women wore. At that time, most bobby pins were plain, but some were also decorated and had jewelry on the end.

You can always tell a bobby pin from a hairpin because the bobby pin is a small double-pronged hairpin that slides into the hair with the prongs open and then the prongs close over the hair to hold it in place. The bobby pin doesn't open as wide as the hairpin. However, the bobby pin can hold more thick hair than the hairpin.

Uses for Bobby Pins

The main use of a bobby pin is to hold hair in place. It can be used in buns and other hairstyles when the person wants a sleek look. The device is used to hold the hair in the desired position by pushing the straight side up into the hair.

The bobby pin also has other uses.

  • Bobby pins are sometimes used to keep head coverings in place. Head coverings include headbands, bandannas, yarmulkes, graduation caps, and nursing caps for those who still wear them.
  • Bobby pins with decorations and jewels can be used to beautify the hair.
  • When two bobby pins are straightened out, they can be used to pick a lock.
  • They can be used as a makeshift clothespin for drying lightweight clothes.
  • If you are short on paper clips, use bobby pins.
  • The hair device can be used as bookmark over pages in a book.

If you know other uses for bobby pins or hairpins, feel free to list them below in the comment section.

Inspiration for This Article

While looking for something to hold my long hair in place, I stood at the hair products section at the Dollar Store for several minutes trying to determine the difference between hairpins and bobby pins. I gave up and bought both.

However, I am using the bobby pins more than the hairpins.

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