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Hat Pins Then & Now

Woman in pink vintage hat with hat pin collection
Vintage Hat & Hat Pin

Hat pins have been around for centuries, but they reached their peak of popularity in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. During this time, women's hats became increasingly elaborate due to their giant updos. Therefore, hat pins were as essential of an accessory as the shoes on your feet. They were a status symbol, considering not everyone could afford them. The nicer the pin, the higher up in society a woman might be.

Sketch of a vintage women in a hat
Vintage giant hat example, this isn't even the biggest!

Vintage hat pins ranged in size getting smaller as time went on both due to hairstyles changing, but also because of the length of them. In the early 1900s, officials regulated how big they could be after being deemed a considerable weapon. Police would actually stop women and measure their pins which sometimes were 6-12 inch needles that could almost double as a skinny knife. Also by law, they had to be concealed or covered so as not to accidentally poke people in passing. If you ask me, a woman who needed to use her hat pin to defend herself deserved to have her trusty accessory.

Vintage woman in huge hat holding an umbrella
Don't Mess with Martha!

So essentially, one can almost narrow down exactly how old a vintage hat pin is purely based on how long it is. They can be made from a variety of materials, including metal, glass, and enamel, and are incredibly easy to find both online and at antique shops still to this day.

Straw hat and vintage hat pin collection
The Collection Begins with Four Roses

For the longest time, I've been shoving bobby pins through my hats to keep them in place. It doesn't always work or will rip the hat since they don't have sharp points. But, now that I'm actually starting to wear straw hats more this summer, it dawned on me how a hat pin would be a perfect solution for holding them down. So I searched "vintage hat pins" and scrolled until I landed on a Poshmark seller who had this set of four gold floral pins for $18. They were perfect *Hits Purchase*

Woman in straw hat with hat pin.
Favorite Straw Hat and Hat Pin

I got to thinking...well now I need a vintage hat!

Today, I went to a local antique shop and saw an array of vintage hats on a shelf. One with a black veil, one made of beautiful tan wool, one that was HUGE and overly embellished (just not practical for my personal style), then I saw it, the perfect pink hat. It almost looked like a flight attendant hat from the 50s. Gasp!

Woman in vintage pink bow hat
Look at the bow!

I was so delighted to see it had two little pricks on the side, obviously from whoever wore it years ago placing her own hat pins in to secure it to her updo. Isn't that just the sweetest thought? I love the bow feature on the top, it's so freaking cute I can't stand it.

I do feel that this has opened up another "thing" I must "collect". I won't feel satisfied until I find a giant one that is pre-regulation standards and/or a couple of general unique designs and then perhaps my hunger for more will subside.

There are also little vintage holders made just for pins. You might have seen them at antique stores and not even realized what it was.

Vintage hat pin holder
Vintage Hat Pin Holder for Sale

This one here is for sale right now on Etsy!

They can easily be mistaken for salt & pepper shakers, but the holes are just a tad larger. I've also seen DIY little hat pin holders. I certainly will be keeping an eye out when thrifting and antiquing for the perfect vintage container now that I have a few. I find the challenge of finding one while thrifting would be so fun now I know what to look for.

If you're interested in collecting vintage hat pins, there are a few things you should keep in mind. First, be sure to buy from a reputable dealer if you're planning on paying a lot for them. I went on the cheaper end for my first set and will surely do some research if I find a collectible. I found this Hermes' one that I have my eye on (feel free to snag it if you love it, I've got my eye on many lol)

Second, consider the condition of the pin. Vintage hat pins can be delicate, so it is important to find one that is in good condition or else it's useless. Obviously, avoid shafts that are bent (side eye).

Here are some of the most popular materials used to make them that could help you in your search:

  • Metal: Silver, gold, brass, and copper are all popular materials for vintage hat pins.

  • Glass: Enamel, rhinestones, and beads are often used to decorate vintage hat pins made from glass.

  • Other materials: Ivory, bone, and tortoiseshell were also used to make vintage hat pins, but these materials are now considered to be endangered or illegal to trade.

Here are some of the most popular designs:

  • Flowers are an obvious design and my personal favorite.

  • Animals are another popular design for vintage hat pins. They can be realistic or whimsical, and they can be made from a variety of materials.

  • I've seen more current ones with shells and gems which could be cute for different occasions (like OMG, a beach hat with a shell)

  • Figurative designs, such as portraits, landscapes, and scenes from mythology, are also common.

Woman in straw hat with vintage hat pin collection.
The collecting begins

No matter where you find one, I just think it's exciting to keep vintage accessories circulating so we keep the history alive. I love the idea of the new generations recycling these old styles, so next time you toss on a boater hat, pin it down with a proper hat pin designed for just that purpose!



*some links are affiliated*


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