Hair Pins and Hair Nets for Sale in 1918-1919

Eaton’s Fall and Winter Mail Order Catalogue, 1918-19, from Library and Archives Canada. (Follow link and zoom in for higher resolution image.)

One thing I’ve been doing this past year is experiment more with my hair. I am inspired by historical hairstyles partially because I enjoy the aesthetic, and partially because I have waist-length hair and the majority of women’s hairstyles prior to the 1920s (and even some popular hairstyles during the 1920s) are designed with my hair length in mind. I have acquired quite the collection of hair sticks but I rely a lot on hair pins and bobby pins. I ran across this page from a mail order catalogue circa 1918-1919, and there are some delightful details – including the fact that some hair pins have largely remained identical in design for the last 100 years.

Other details I’d like to draw your attention to:

  • Several of the hair nets they advertise were made with actual human hair.
  • For the false hair additions, they specifically note that for “drab and grey shades”, send in a sample of your own hair and they’ll send the product that’s the closest match.
  • Apparently it was a popular enough request that they had to explicitly ask customers not to send them “combings” (which I believe are the hair leftover on your hairbrush) to make into new items, that that wasn’t a service they provided. My understanding is that people in the Victorian and Edwardian eras would often make their own hair pads or hair “rats” (to bulk out their hair and comb their existing hair overtop) from their own discarded hair. I wonder if there were any companies that made them professionally with the customer’s own hair?
  • For that matter, now I want to know more about the industry that must have existed around selling your own hair to companies who would make products like this, considering the number of items on this page that advertise as being made of real human hair! I worry if I dig even a bit deeper I’ll uncover something horrific about poverty and poor women selling their hair, though. That would track for the period.
  • I also have to wonder how “natural” the fake beards and toupees actually looked in real life.

One thought on “Hair Pins and Hair Nets for Sale in 1918-1919

  1. A lot of human hair today comes from particular events in Asia where women cut their hair as part of a religious ritual. It’s straight and dark, and thus in-demand for black women unsatisfied with their natural hair. Source: the 2009 documentary/comedy “Good Hair”.

    I’ve only been interested in historical styles for a little while, but I find the fascinating part is what the “look” tells us about the rest of peoples’ lifestyles. For instance, who was doing laundry, how many outfits a person could afford to own and how long they had to last, how society was stratified, etc.

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