The safety pin is probably one of the most ubiquitous items in the world, but did you know that it has quite a history? The precursor of the modern safety pin was actually of Greek origin.
They called it a fibula, which is a type of brooch that was already being in widespread use in the 14th century. Surely people of every era needed a way to keep their fabrics together, and it was only a matter of time before they learned to use wood, bone, and other materials as proto-pins to keep their garments together.
Much, much later, in the new world, we have an American mechanic by the name of Walter Hunt who, out of the need to pay off a debt to a friend, invented what would later be called the safety pin. Walter Hunt designed the first modern safety pin by bending a piece of metal in such a way that it had a built-in, coiled spring.
The coiled spring would allow the sharp point of the pin to go up and down. The other end of the bent metal would have a smooth clasp that would lock the pin to itself and prevent the user from jabbing himself with it.
Walter Hunt’s patent for the modern safety pin was eventually sold (he used $15 of it to pay off his debt), and he lived his life well away from what became a massive reproduction of his idea.
He probably never envisioned that his invention, which was so deceptively simple but extremely useful, would ever reach the level of popularity that it had now. It was this type of history that makes safety pins even more colorful as a household object.
There are variations of the safety pin that allowed it to be safely used in more sensitive situations. For example, the nappy pin, which had extra modifications and safeguards to prevent the sharp point from damaging the wearer’s skin, was eventually introduced and helped millions of mothers keep their babies’ nappies on, too.
The larger and safer nappy pin was also called the loincloth pin, became well known as a garment fastener. Since they hold garments together so well, it became so easy for people to patch torn garments or make temporary repairs when something tore. This is probably the reason why a lot of people collect safety pins and store them at home because you never really know when a safety pin would come in handy.
Like other symbols of our time, like the folded red ribbon or the pink ribbon, the safety pins symbol eventually emerged from the woodwork. It was in the 1970s that people began noticing that punk bands and punk lovers were wearing silver safety pins more and more. Some even wore them as safety pin tattoos.
Some experts say that safety pins helped define the kind of counter-culture that punk rock represented, and it was a way for people to identify themselves and identify with their community. Still, others say that the safety pin was there for more practical reasons, such as fixing a torn jacket or pair pants.
Obviously, the meaning will vary from person to person, or group to group, depending on the intended meaning. We can only infer that in the case of punk rock bands, they used it to signify rebellion. In later years, the silver safety pin (operative word – safety) was used during the 2016 Brexit referendum to admonish the government and show support for migrants in the United Kingdom.
While definitely political, it is enlightening to know that a lot of people stood up for those that are voiceless, and even with a small symbol like the safety pin, they were able to show their solidarity with these people.
Cool uses for safety pins
A safety pin might be deceptively simple, but this doesn’t mean that it lacks substance or usefulness, as our list will reveal:
- Tired of trying to bend your shoulders just to reach the zipper on your back. Use a safety pin to extend your reach.
Clip the zipper with a safety pin and tie a piece of string to it (floss or yarn would work) and use that to pull up your zipper. You can then just tuck the short string and safety pin inside the hem and you are ready to go.
- The garlic press is extremely useful but it is also one of the messiest things in the kitchen to clean.
You can’t really scrub off the raw garlic with a sponge so we suggest that you grab a large safety pin, unlock it and use the pointy edge to push out the debris from your garlic press. You’re done in a few minutes and your garlic press will be pretty and clean again.
- Going into another city is always exciting – and risky. If you have a backpack or purse with zippers, it’s best to put an extra layer of protection on them so that people won’t be able to open them so easily.
A large safety pin should bind together the two zippers on your backpack, and the same would apply to your purse.
While this isn’t a permanent lock on your back, a bag thief would have a tougher time slipping his hand into your backpack while you are busy because he has to open the safety pin first. Genius!
- Tired of being shocked by static electricity all day? While a lot of people are barely bothered by this, we know that the ones that are bothered will feel the shock every time.
You can remedy the static electricity by putting a small safety pin on your pants. The safety pin will serve as a ground wire and will it will route the static electricity away from your body.
- And finally, if your socks are always missing, use a safety pin to keep those pairs together.