Hat Pins: What are They and Why Where They Banned?


A Hat Pin, quite simply, is a pin for your hat. It is a long metal pin, with a head any one end which is often adorned with beads or pressed metal. The first record of hat pins being used is from the 15th Century, and they were most commonly used from 1880-1930.

Now you don't, as it may first seem, stick the pin into your head. The way a hat pin is used, is it is slid through the hat, under a lock of hair, and back into the hat. Just like pinning two lengths of fabric together, but in this case, one of the fabric pieces is your hat, and the other you hair.

Depending on the length of the pin, you could slide slide it all the way through to the other side of the hat. And depending on your hairstyle you could slide it through your updo, making it much more secure that only having a small piece of hair caught in the pin. The image her his a depiction of an Edwardian hairstyle with a hat held on by a hatpin.

To do this, you needed a particularly long pin. The average hatpin is 6-8 inches (15-20cm), but can be found up to as long as 14 inches (over 35cm)!

This is where some controversy begins...

(Trigger warning for mentions of violence, and assault)

Women began to use their long hatpins as self-defence weapons! There were records

of women using their foot-long hat pins to stab men who attempted to attack them on the streets. Some may see this as wonderful, women having a way to defend themselves from robberies, physical violence, or sexual assault, much in the way Pepper Spray can be used now. One notable instance was in 1898 when a woman defended a cable-car conductor from an attack by two would-be thieves, using her hat pin to stab both the attackers. (I've put a link here to a wonderfully written article that focuses on the politics of the 'Hat Pin Panic' if you wish to learn more: https://blurredbylines.com/blog/hatpin-panic-mashers-stabbings-hat-pins/ )

However this was short-lived, not soon after hat pins became a common self-defence tool, laws were made regulating the length of hat pins allowed to be worn. Laws varied from country-to-country and state-to-state. In Australia the first law on hat pins was written in 1911 in Sydney. (Interested in more history of the hat pin panic in Australia and America? check out this article: http://www.auswhn.org.au/blog/hatpin-panic/ )

But while this panic seemed all-encompassing, it quickly died as fashions changed and large hats requiring large hat pins became unfashionable. I am curious though if these old-laws may still be in place. Would it be illegal for me to go out with a 10 inch hat pin today?

What do you think, were these laws just in preventing accidental and intentional violence, or a means of stripping women's power to defend themselves and others?


Until next time,

Acacia Mary

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