There’s being a slave to fashion, and then there’s using fashion as a weapon. In the early 20th century, women were taking the latter quite literally — especially when it came to hatpins. These accessories were must-haves for women living in urban centers who were riding the growing wave that was the latest style trend: the big hat. These hats were over-sized, fluffy, frilly and in need of anchoring in order for them to stay in place. Enter the hatpin, which as it turns out did its job well but also found an unintended use in the hands of women tired of unwanted advances from men.
According to a story published in the Chicago Tribune in 1900, hatpins ranked number six on a list compiled from court records of household items used by women as weapons. Ahead of hatpins were broom handles, knives and plates — not exactly convenient to be carrying around on solitary walks about the city. “Mashers’, as the men of ill-repute of the era who preyed upon women were known, weren’t the only ones who became extremely wary of hatpins.
Even when being used as designed, hatpins were still responsible for injuries often suffered in crowded rooms and on public transportation. And it wasn’t just an American problem, with police agencies across Europe debating whether or not to enforce length restrictions.
Story by Jay Moon
- “The Hatpin Peril” Terrorized Men Who Couldn’t Handle the 20th-Century Woman
- Before Mace, a Hatpin Was an Unescorted Lady’s Best Defense
- When men feared ‘a resolute woman with a hatpin in her hand’