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BOBBY PINS a case study carmen morales dmgt 702 fall 2013

Contents innovation..................................................4 the bobby pin............................................5 before the bobby pin..............................6 driving the innovation............................7 systems perspective..............................8 attributes of innovation.........................9 diffusion and change agents............11 recontexualization................................14 he future of bobby pins.....................15 conclusion...............................................17 sources.....................................................18


What is Innovation?

The purpose of this case study is to explore a simple but commonly used product, the bobby pin, and how its development and diffusion fits the definition of an innovation. Innovation is the process by which an invention, whether it be a product, process, or set of ideas, is made practical, useful, and sellable. This definition of innovation is inspired by definitions found in Handbook of Organizational Measurement by Charles W Mueller, Invention is a Flower, Innovation is a Weed by Bob Metcalfe, and New Product Management by C.M. Crawford.


The Bobby Pin Although there is some debate on who the true inventor of the bobby pin may be, the invention is commonly attributed to Sol Harry Goldberg of Hump Hairpin Manufacturing Company in 1913, though the patent for the term “bobby pin,” submitted in the 1930s, was long held by the Bob Lépine Corporation of Buffalo, New York¹. The bobby pin is said to have been given its name because of the problem that it was intended to solve: holding the popular hairstyle of the 1920s, the bob, in place. In the UK, it is also known as a kirby grip as it was initially manufactured there by Kirby, Beard, & Co Ltd. Unlike hair pins before it, the bobby pin had two prongs and “humps” along one prong that created a greater grip on the hair and was more likely to stay in place. This improvement makes the bobby pin an incremental innovation. Throughout the last one hundred years, the bobby pin has remained a staple of women’s hair products, playing a part in dozens of hair trends through the decades; however, the basic design has remained relatively unchanged.

¹ Glam Media. “Get A Grip.” Women World . (accessed November 7, 2013).


Before The Bobby Pin The bobby pin was preceded by hair pins, single pronged pins that ended in a pointed or rounded tip, that were used to pin hairstyles, hats, or headdresses into place. Hair pins have existed since ancient times, and hair pins made of wood, bone, stone, and metal have been found in Africa, Asia, Europe, and the Middle East. Two pronged hairpins seemed to have emerged in Asia, but were never given a specific name to differentiate themselves from single pronged hairpins. Bent-wire hairpins are believed to have originated in England in the 16th century, but the bobby pin as we know it now did not come into being until the 20th centuryยน.

ยน Sherrow, Victoria. Encyclopedia of Hair: A Cultural History. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 2006.


Driving The Innovation

The invention of the bobby pin as we know it today was most certainly driven by social triggers. A short and rebellious new hair style brought about in the late 1910s, the bob, became extremely popular in the 1920s. Women needed simple and inexpensive pins to keep these hairstyles in place, so the social demand for such a product drove the innovation of the bobby pin.


Systems Perspective When considering a systems perspective, there are a several actors at play when considering the bobby pin. Firstly, the materials were needed, metal and rubber. This caused a problem during WWII when metal factories were primarily used for military purposes, making bobby pins harder to find¹. A second actor in this system is fashion and hairstyle trends. The bobby pin as we know it came to be in demand because of the bob cut hairstyle popular in the 1920s. As hairstyles have changed over the years and decades, bobby pins have gone through ups and downs in popularity. A third actor in the diffusion of bobby pins was packaging design and production. Since plain bobby pins themselves were and are not very exciting to look at, promoting specific hairstyles and benefits of the bobby pin on the packaging was essential for showing the use and value of the bobby pin. ¹ The Washington Post. “Bobby Pins War Victims.” The Washington Post, January 18, 1942, sec. 10.


Attributes of Innovation Trialability Observability The observability of the bobby pin was high. With many women, including celebrities, bobbing their hair, bobby pins and their use in the hair style was highly observable.

Bobby pins were simple, easy to access, and inexpensive. Getting your hands on a pack of bobby pins to try them out would have been quick and easy to achieve.

Complexity Bobby pins are not complex or difficult to use, and many women were likely familiar with traditional hairpins. Moving from hairpins to bobby pins was surely an easy transition.


Attributes of Innovation Relative Advantage The relative advantage of the bobby pin was that it was simple, available to match a variety of different hair colors, and gripped hair better than single pronged hair pins or wider two pronged hair pins. Packs of bobby pins were cheap and were marketed towards a specific and very popular hairstyles, making it easy to sell.

Compatibility Compatibility of the bobby pin with existing values and needs of potential adopters was high, as it was a cheap and easy product to use and worked well to accessorize with the current and growing trend in hair style.


Change Agents The change agents were the first celebrities and bold women to get the bob hairstyle and use bobby pins to hold it in place, since the bobby pin’s popularity stemmed directly from the popularity of the bob. Additional change agents were the barbers who were willing to cut the first bobs for women who were looking for a change. Many hairstylists would not venture to cut hair into bobs, so the willingness of barbers to do so promoted the hair cut and bobby pins as a productš. Product packaging and marketing materials also promoted the bobby pin over other pins as the perfect product to hold one's hair into place.

š Spivack, Emily. "The History of the Flapper, Part 4: Emboldened by the Bob." Smithsonian Magazine. (accessed November 4, 2013).



Early adopters were young, bold women who were willing to break from the current trend and cut their hair short. Their new hairstyle worked well with several different hair accessories, such as the bobby pin and the hairband. This included celebrities and stylish “flappers” who stayed on top of the trends¹. The laggards were older and more traditional women who valued traditional hairstyles and styles of dress, but as the haircut and the style became a standard in the 1920s and as hairstyles continued to evolve in the 1940s and 1950s, they too would purchase bobby pins.

Unintended Consequences There were several unintended consequences of this innovation. The first is the decrease in the popularity of hairnets, which was also a result of the change in popularity of certain hairstyles. Bobby pins and bobbed hairstyles also created in a boom in beauty shops, where women would have their hair cut and styled².


¹ Spivack, Emily. "The History of the Flapper, Part 4: Emboldened by the Bob." Smithsonian Magazine. (accessed November 4, 2013). ² Sherrow, Victoria. Encyclopedia of Hair: A Cultural History. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 2006.


Recontextualization The bobby pin has been so widely used among women over time in so many different hair trends that it has often been designed in several ways other than to blend with a hair color; made out of gold, covered in jewels and patterns, in bright and bold colors, and more. Bobby pins continue to be used for both retro and new and inventive hairstyles.

Goody has recently developed new types of pins that replicate the effect of multiple bobby pins as users have expressed their dislike for having to use dozens of bobby pins for simple hair stylesยน.

Bobby pins have also proved to be a versatile tool for other activities, such as picking locks, keeping small bags closed, as bookmarks, and more.

ยนBobby Pins & Hair Pins | Goody Hair Products." Bobby Pins & Hair Pins | Goody Hair Products. (accessed November 7, 2013).


The Future of Bobby Pins It’s hard to say whether bobby pins as we now know them will ever go out of style, as their popularity depends on the hair trends of the time. Even though newly designed pins do serve to replace bobby pins for some styles, they only serve a purpose for specific hairstyles and are not as versatile. The humble bobby pin seems to be here to stay, and at the present time, is also in style, as people continue to find new and inventive ways to use them.


Conclusion As a successful innovation, the bobby pin evolved from the existing pins available into a simple, easy to use, and practical product that is a staple of any woman’s set of hair styling tools. It set out to solve a problem created by a specific hairstyle, and was so practical and well designed that it continued to be a part of as well as the focal point of many hairstyles over the past century.



“Bobby Pins & Hair Pins | Goody Hair Products.” Bobby Pins & Hair Pins | Goody Hair Products. id=1a7ea079-c44c-481e-8d02-db7cd0b32277 (accessed November 7, 2013). “Hair Pin.” In Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia. 6th ed. New York, N.Y.: Columbia University Press, 2009. 1. Crawford, C.M.. New Product Management. Homewood, IL: RD Irwin, 1983. Glam Media. “Get A Grip.” Women World. (accessed November 7, 2013). Metcalfe, Bob . “Invention is a Flower, Innovation is a Weed.” MIT Technology Review. http://www. (accessed November 1, 2013). Price, James L., and Charles W. Mueller. Handbook Of Organizational Measurement. Marshfield, Mass.: Pitman, 1986. Sherrow, Victoria. Encyclopedia of Hair: A Cultural History. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 2006. Spivack, Emily. “The History of the Flapper, Part 4: Emboldened by the Bob.” Smithsonian Magazine. (accessed November 4, 2013). The Washington Post. “Bobby Pins War Victims.” The Washington Post, January 18, 1942, sec. 10.


Case Study: Bobby Pins  
Case Study: Bobby Pins  

Savannah College of Art and Design