July 8, 2009

Packaging makes perfect: vintage bobby pins

In an era of gift wrapping rooms, designer shopping bags, and Ikea-meets-Mac box streamlined packaging, it might seem that we’re spoiled for riches when it comes to the decor that surrounds the goods we purchase, give, receive and pine for. On one hand there is an element of truth to this, yet there is little denying the by-and-large, the artistic style (fonts, images, slogans, etc) that comprise the wrappings on modern items is far cry different from that of the past.

As an avid fan of vintage and antique design, I’ve decided to start a series of posts (that will sprout up from time-to-time) about some of my favourite types of vintage packaging and the products they were created to showcase.

For this introductory “Packaging Makes perfect” post, I’ve opted to highlight the exceedingly pretty paper cards on which bobby pins were sold during the mid-twentieth century.

While bobby pins (or hair grips, as they are sometimes known outside of North America) are can readily be found at most any drug store or shop that sells hair accessories, their use nowadays is not as common as it once was. In order to achieve a majority of the hairstyles – from simple to highly intricate – of the 1920s through to the 1960s, bobby pins were called into play. Interestingly, these simple metal hair grips took their name from the fact that they were used to help ladies of the twenties keep their “bobbed” hairstyles in place.

Fundamental to achieving many vintage hairstyles, bobby pins were used prolifically through the middle of the last century (in the days before the myriad of styling products we have today were available) and are subsequently often utilized today to achieve many vintage up-dos, rolls, curls and other lovely looks. Though WW2 metal rations sometimes made bobby pins harder to come by during the war years, even then most women were able to find some of these humble little hair grips.

While they were sometimes sold in metal tins, just as with modern day versions, vintage bobby pins frequently came on a paper card. Though it’s not uncommon to find bobby pins in packs of fifty or more today, in the past they were often sold in lots of ten to thirty.

The paper card backs upon which the pins were tucked featured an array of lovely designs. Some used illustrations, others photos of women wearing stylish hairdos. Some were elaborately shaped so as to be cut like the shape of a part, or all, of the picture they depicted, whereas others came in more common shapes like circles, half-moons, or rectangles.

The following are a selection of vintage bobby pin packages from Flickr, all of which I think are absolutely beautiful. They’re like miniature works of art that depict so many elements of style from the 30s, 40s and 50s.

♥ ♥ ♥

{Sta-Rite brand bobby pins featuring pretty Ginny and Lou. Were these gals made up or were they real women?}

{Wearing one heck of a wiggle dress (and bullet bra!), the cute girl on this Bobbie Smith brand package is certainly ready for a night out on the town!}

{The doe-eyed, blonde beauty on this card for Flamingo brand hair grips looks like she just stepped out of Hollywood.}

{Sporting the slogan “Fits any purse”, this font and image style on this card of Victory brand bobby clips would indicate (to me at least) that it was from the 1930s or early 40s.}

{While I’m not sure I’d be swayed by the brand’s name, “Scoldy Lox”, the dainty pink rose and Good House Keeping seal of approval on this bobby pin card might win me over.}

{Simple and sweet in shades of royal blue and peachy-pink, this card from DeLong appears to have held up even better than the pins it still houses.}

{With eyebrows to match the height of the rolls in her golden blonde hair, the lovely lady on this card for Campus brand bobby pins embodies the red lipped woman of the 40s and 50s to an absolute tee.}

{Defined on this card from Curly Lox as being “hair snaps” these cleverly designed pins appear to have encircled a roll of hair to hold in neatly in place. I for one this is a splendid idea and wish that I could find hair snaps like this stores today!}

{As this photo illustrated card from 1952 for Flamingo brand bobby pins shows, it wasn’t just the front of the package that looked pretty!}

{All images above are from Flickr. Please click on an image to be taken to its respective Flickr page.}

Given the very delicate nature of paper, it’s such a joy that numerous examples of vintage bobby pin cards have survived to this day.

If you’re interested in picking up a sample or two of this delightful type of package (or to use the pins they come with – though to be honest, I would want to preserve them exactly as they are, pins and all), both etsy and eBay seem to stock a steady supply of vintage bobby pins at surprisingly reasonable prices (generally between $3 and $15 dollars). The following selection of vintage bobby pin packs are currently available on etsy.

{Gayla brand pins from 1947. $9.99 (US) from etsy seller Stella Ranae Vintage.}

{Rubber tipped hair grips produced by Solo. $3.95 (US) from etsy seller Regina’s Studio.}

{These pins appear to be very straight and simplistic in design, but no less lovely thanks to the colourful red and yellow card back they come on. $4.00 (US) from esty seller Boomerville.}

{An adorable pair of kittens grace this pack of First Prize brand bobby pins. $5.00 (US) from etsy seller Innocent Painting.}

{These hand painted bobby pins hail from the late 50s or early 60s and would be used for more ornamental purposes than their plain metal counterparts. $2.75 from etsy seller The Automat.}

The packaging on vintage bobby is a delight to behold. Full of style and whimsy, it speaks to an age of womanly beauty that many of us now strive to recreate with our own hair and wardrobe styles. Whether you want to use the actual grips themselves or not, old school bobby pin packages are an affordable way to bring a cheerful dose of vintage design art into your home.


A terrific and inexpensive way to keep track of bobby pins and other small metal hair accessories is to store them in magnetic paper clip dispenser.


  1. I would'nt want to take them off the pack..there to to nice

  2. Now THAT is a POST! Excellent information and lots of pretty pictures. Wonderful.

  3. I like the look of the curly lox hair snaps very much!

    One of my fave posts for a while, thank you xx

  4. Kittens and bobbby pins, what a perfect combination ;-)

  5. Im *swooning* over the packaging, BEAUTIFUL!!! I wouldnt want to take them off the card either X

  6. Yes, totally agree! The packs look too pretty to open and use!

    Wonderfully informative & visually attractive! Many thanks! (As you know, I have such a keen eye for beauty!!)

    xxLOL LOLA:)

  7. What a great post...Flickr is the motherlode of great images! Thanks for sharing.

    Drop by anytime, I'm usually close by.

  8. They really are adorable, wished they sold pretty pin packs like that now.

  9. I love how they packaged things up like this back then. I have some goodies from my grandmother's sewing basket which are sewing needles with similar illustrations.

  10. Great post. I love it. I remember seeing bobby pins around all the time when I was growing up.

  11. Wowowowow those are so neat!

  12. Oh, they're all so lovely! Packaging is really made to be thrown away most of the times, these days, whereas packaging of the past seems so much more decorative.
    -Andi x

  13. how darling! i have a couple boxes of the flamingo brand. I'll send you pictures some time! i also love your idea of the magnetic paper clip dispenser. i always have loose bobby pins lying around and can't seem to every keep track of them


  14. ooh my mama loved her some bobby pins. takes me back.

  15. I am swooning! Jessica! This is AMAZING! I will never look at my bobby pins the same again!

  16. I don't think I'd use them. I'd put them in a frame and display instead. Thanks for a roll back in history and for the wonderful vintage pics and information about this wonderful invention!

  17. My grandmother always used bobby pins and I always remember they'd be lying all around her house. Thanks for the great memory. Also, great graphics.


  18. WOW what a great post honey!! I LOVE all those bobby pin pictures! funny story..My mom never got my ears pireced & My Grandmother was a seamstress & wore bobby pins, so I got creatve & I would put buttons through the bobby pins & then clip them on my ear, I had "earrings in all sorts of button shapes, colors & sizes! LOL

  19. @ Gingeyginge, I agree, I really don't think I could take them off the pack. With the exception of the hair snaps (maybe ;D), as they are so intriguing, I'd love to try them!

    @ The Glamorous Housewife, Thank you very, very much for your exceedingly kind words, honey!

    @ Matilda, thank you so much, honey! I'm really enamored with them, too! I think that I'll create an eBay (keyword) saved search in case they ever pop up there.

    @ Shay, I absolutely agree! I know my cat (Stella) would certainly adore my bobby pins ;D

    @ Dustjacket attic, so do! I've seen a few pretty ones (with somewhat old fashion looking flowers) at Asian home/sundry stores, but nothing that can even begin to hold a candle to these beauties.

    @ Amy, how lovely that you have some older sewing needles with lovely packaging. I the world lost a little something when companies did away with the splendid art and design of mid-century packaging.

    @ Trains and Sewing Machines, thank you very much, sweetie! (Love your user name, BTW.)

    @ Maggi, thank you, honey! I think they're terrific, too.

    @ Andi B. Goode, very true! I wonder if people of the era had any idea how much the gorgeous everyday packaging they saw all the time would be come so sought after and adored down the road. Looking at a lot of the modern packaging out there now, I can't foresee people clamoring to collect it 50 or 60 years from now (but you never know!).

    @ MissRedLips, oooohhh, I would love to see the boxes, thank you! You're so lucky to have those gems, were they thrift store finds?

    @ thatgirlblog, I don't recall my mom wearing bobby pins too much (child of the 80s that I am), but she did use plastic combs a fair bit, and whenever I use those now, I think of her :)

    @ Marie, awwww, thank you very much, my dear, that's so sweet of you to say.

    @ Tracey, thank you very much for your lovely comment. That's an awesome idea! If you had a few packs they might also look really lovely displayed in a shadow box.

    @ Rupert Alistair, what a charming memory :) Thank you very much for your comment, it's lovely to meet you!

    @ GypsyFox, that is so creative! I wasn't allowed to get my ears pierced until I was 13, but you better believe it was I did on my 13th birthday (wow, 12 years ago now!). Did you end up getting them pierced when you got older?

    Thank you each very much for your comments! I always adore hearing from you and sharing in our mutual love of the vintage universe :)
    ♥ Jessica

  20. Great photographs! I remember seeing some of these in my grandmother's vanity drawer, she used to let me play dress up and I would use all her pretty vanity goodies. I wish I had kept some, they would be so pretty on display!


  21. I'm catching up on blog reading. And I'm happy to find this one. What an informative post! I have never heard of the clasp type pins before.

  22. I would love to have every single one of these! What a wonderful display they would make!

  23. @ Michelle, what a sweet memory! Perhaps you could find some of the same brand(s) your grandma had in her collection online (on etsy, eBay, etc) and then create a display in remembrance of her.

    @ Sher, thank you, hon! I'm playing catch up tonight on the blog front myself too. I'd never heard of those either, but gosh am I intrigued by them now! :)

    @ Bee and Rose, I would adore having them as well! I don't have any vintage bobby pins at the moment, but after seeing how reasonably priced they are, I might have to pick up a pack or two :)

    Thank you very much, lovely ladies, for your comments! I hope you each have a positively beautiful week ahead!
    ♥ Jessica

  24. I found a box with 100 small boxes of vintage hair pins. After I mentioned that I loved the boxes out school decided to sell each box for 1$ so I bought a few.

    1. What a fantastic find! That's a very good price for vintage bobby pins these days. Congrats on your new vintage accessories.

      Thank you for your comment,
      ♥ Jessica