Who Invented Bobby Pins? (Invention Timeline Explained)

What’s the first thing that pops to mind when you think of bobby pins? Thanks to popular culture, I wouldn’t be surprised if the first thing that came to mind was the use of bobby pins as a lockpicking mechanism. Cool as that sounds, bobby pins are — first and foremost — a type of hairpin.

The interesting thing about bobby pins is they’re so mundane; often to the point where no one really wonders where they came from. It’s ironic to say that such a thing is interesting, but think about it! How did the bobby pin get its start? Who first invented it? There’s an entire history related to bobby pins that most people don’t know about. Let’s look into the history of bobby pins, and see if we can sort out a timeline.

Who invented bobby pins?

A cosmetics manufacturer, Luis Marcus, is credited with the creation of the bobby pin. Way back then, he sold two bobby pins for 35 cents!

The bobby pin’s key contributors (and evolution)

  • Ancient China, Greece, and Rome
    Invented and popularized the hairpin

    To talk about bobby pins is to talk about the invention of hairpins in general, and that would be credited to the Romans, the Greeks, and the Chinese of ancient history. It’s said that the true history of the hairpin goes as far back as 30000 BC!

  • Kirby, Beard & Co. Ltd
    Developed hairpins very similar to the bobby pin

    Before the creation of the iconic bobby pin, Kirby, Beard & Co. Ltd, English manufacturers, developed hairpins that were pretty close in design to bobby pins.

  • Luis Marcus
    The creator of the bobby pin

    Finally, Luis Marcos created the bobby pin, and he thought of the name based on the bobbed hairstyle. He thought at one point of naming it after himself, but he figured the bobby pin was a much better fit.

When were bobby pins invented?

Luis Marcus was known to have invented the bobby pins sometime during the late 1910s to the early 1920s. During the 1920s, it really caught on during the flapper era!

A brief history of bobby pins

Talking about bobby pins, if you want to learn about the history of the bobby pin, it’s never a bad idea to look into the point of origin. No, I don’t mean to the point when the bobby pin was invented. After all, the bobby pin is a type of hairpin, which means we’ll have to look into the origins of the hairpin as well if we want to be thorough! Perhaps the most surprising thing about the origin of the hairpin is it goes farther back than most people realize. For example, it’s believed that hairpins go back as far as 30000 BC. That’s a mind-bogglingly long time ago for people to start creating inventions such as the hairpin!

That said, it wasn’t until the dawn of the ancient Chinese, Greeks, and Romans when hairpins started hitting it off. The Chinese, in particular, used hairpins as a symbol of authority. Now that we have a foundation when it comes to hairpins, we can talk about the invention of the bobby pin.

Before the inception of the bobby pin, Kirby, Beard & Co. Ltd, English manufacturers, developed hairpins that were pretty close in design. However, it was Luis Marcus who eventually created the iconic design of the bobby pin, alongside devising the name. He would sell pairs of bobby pins for 35 cents each, and it was named after the bobbed hairstyle. Funny enough, he thought to name it after himself, but figured the bobby name was a better fit. The rest is history!

The bobby pins timeline

  1. 30000 BC
    The potential creation of the hairpin

    Yes, I’m absolutely going to go 32,000 years into the past for the potential creation of the hairpin. While we don’t need to go that far, when else are you going to get an invention that goes this far back in time? It’s a good opportunity to really deep dive!

  2. 3000-1500 BC
    The use of hairpins by the ancient Chinese

    The ancient Chinese had a habit of using specific objects as a source of authority and power. Intricate hairpins have an air of superiority and elegance, which was why the Chinese were fond of hairpins.

  3. 1910s
    Kirby, Beard & Co. Ltd’s creation of hairpins very similar to bobby pins

    Kirby, Beard & Co. Ltd created their own brand of hairpins, similar to the bobby pin but not quite.

  4. 1910-1920s
    The creation of the bobby pin

    Luis Marcus was known to have created the bobby pin sometime during the late 1910s. He sold a pair for 35 cents each, and named it after the bobbed hairstyle.

Where were bobby pins invented?

Bobby pins were invented in San Francisco by Luis Marcus. It quickly got the attention of the masses and became hugely popular during the 1920s.

The importance of bobby pins

  • The timeless design of the hairpin

    Considering the origin point of hairpins — dozens of thousands of years ago — people have considered the need to pin their hair for a very long time. It’s a timeless design that eventually led to the creation of the bobby pin, which in itself is a timeless design.

  • A versatile tool

    Bobby pins were originally meant to hold up the hair, specifically with the bobbed hairstyle. However, its design allowed people to use it for all sorts of applications. There are even some people that use bobby pins as a bookmark! 

  • Seamless and easy to use

    One of the reasons why Luis Marcus’ bobby pins were all the rage when it first started out was due to how easy they were to use. They were sold at 35 cents per pair, and they were seamless. The bobby pins were designed to easily pin the hair without being seen.

  • No new significant changes to the bobby pin since its inception

    Remember when we mentioned that the hairpin has something of a timeless design? The bobby pin is the exact same thing. Since its inception, there have been no changes to the bobby pin due its overall usefulness.

Bobby pins by the numbers

  • 35The very first bobby pins were sold by Luis Marcus as pairs, selling for 35 cents per pair. It got extremely popular in the 1920s, so most people likely thought it was well worth the price.
  • 2While it’s not recommended, some people practiced lockpicking with the help of bobby pins. People would straighten out 2 bobby pins, and use them to try to pick locks. It’s a strange, unorthodox way of using what is essentially a hairpin, but lockpicking with bobby pins has made its way into pop culture, and many people associate it with the ability to pick locks.
  • 1There are plenty of uses for bobby pins, and one such use was putting a nail in place for the hammer. Not everyone was willing to hold a nail up with their fingers due to the potential of accidentally hitting it with a hammer. All it takes is a single bobby pin to keep a nails in place.
  • 2,000,000,000It’s a pretty huge number, but studies show that women have a tendency to lose around 2 billion (!) bobby pins per annum. It’s probably the reason why that phrase “lost as a bobby pin” came to be!

Five facts about bobby pins

  • The two primary colors

    While bobby pins can be manufactured in just about any color these days, there were two primary colors when they were first released. Bobby pins were usually black and blonde, as they’re meant to be hidden in the hair. It certainly did a good job of doing just that!

  • The toothpaste bobby pin connection

    Funny enough, bobby pins started to find themselves being used for things other than hair. For example, did you know that bobby pins were used to get every drop out of a tub of toothpaste? It’s certainly a very frugal method, that’s for sure.

  • A surprisingly effective money clip

    Bobby pins were indeed popular among women as a hair pin, especially for the bobbed hairstyle. However, that didn’t stop it from being one of the best money clips at an affordable price.

  • From hairpin to clothespin

    As if being used as a money clip wasn’t enough, some of the sturdier bobby pins can even be used as a makeshift clothespin. It’s specifically effective with lightweight clothing.

  • Dozens of uses

    It’s so funny to think that bobby pins are popular today as a swiss army knife of sorts, rather than a hairpin. It has dozens of uses, and the only number that overtakes the bobby pins’ number of uses is the times they’ve been misplaced!

FAQ about bobby pins

  • Are bobby pins a must-have for the household?

    Put simply, there are few tools that match the versatility of the bobby pin. It’s a good idea to have a pack of bobby pins around simply due to its overall versatility. The fact that it’s so cheap is icing on the cake.

  • What are some of the strangest ways to use a bobby pin?

    Did you know that bobby pins can make surprisingly effective DIY earrings? They can also be used as a makeshift zipper in the event that your zipper breaks off.

  • Were bobby pins popular when they were first introduced?

    Bobby pins grew in popularity around the time they were introduced — between the late 1910s and early 1920s. People enjoyed the overall design and its versatility. There’s a good chance people were already using bobby pins for things other than pinning the hair as early as its inception.

  • Is it a good idea to learn how to pick locks with the bobby pin?

    I wouldn’t call it the best idea, but for those who enjoy picking up a skill or two, it’s not a bad idea to learn lockpicking with bobby pins. Just don’t expect it to be as easy as it is in the movies!

  • Will bobby pins ever go out of style?

    Bobby pins are what you’d call evergreen trends. They’re unlikely to go out of style, simply due to how useful they are.

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