4 Bobby Pin Tricks You Need To Memorize, Pronto

When it comes to versatility, you just can't beat the bobby pin. It's beyond easy to use — most of us just pop them in instinctually to get our hair out of our faces, no mirror or thought required. But, turns out we're missing out on a whole host of amazing follicular feats that the humble bobby is capable of outside of our usual messy buns.

To get the scoop on some inventive new ways to use our grips (as the Brits call them), we teamed up with the mega-talented Clay Nielsen, a stylist at NYC's newly opened Spoke & Weal salon in Soho. Nielsen gave us the bobby breakdown, and shared some pro tricks and tips on how to use them to create some really breathtaking styles.

It's all part of a new series we're calling Tool Time. For each installment, we'll take a common hair, makeup, or nail tool and give you a detailed breakdown of its components, and then show you some out-of-the-box ways to play with it. From flat irons and hair bungees, to fan brushes and Beautyblenders, Tool Time will make you a total styling savant, teaching you all the insider tricks the pros know by heart and helping take your beauty game to a whole new level.

Read on to start your tool re-education.
Photo: Via iStock.
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First, let's get reacquainted with the finer points of the bobby pin. According to Nielsen, there are four main components to it: the eye, the ridge, the blade, and the balls. Pause to snicker, because no matter how old we get, we can't help but titter whenever someone says "balls." 

Okay, moving on. The eye is the loop at the top of the pin that holds the bulk of the hair, says Nielsen. It can also be where you hold other things, like other bobby pins. You'll see what we mean later on.

The ridge is the wavy side of the pin. Nielsen says it allows for compression — those spaces help extra hair fit between the blade and the ridge. For that reason, slides, which are pins without waves, don't hold as much hair because they don't have that space. 

The blade is the flat side of the pin and is meant to be applied against the scalp.

As for the balls, Nielsen says that they aren't a standard feature on all pins — you'll find bobbies without them just as often as you'll find those with them. "Supposedly, they are for comfort," he explains, but notes that he doesn't really notice much of a difference between the two types.

While you can use any bobby pin, Nielsen says his go-tos are Kenig + Alcone's King Rubber Pins — they have the best grip.

Now that your know all the parts, it's time to put that knowledge to good use.
Photographed by Brayden Olson.
The Pin Accent
If you've ever been on Pinterest, then you know that bobby pins have a booming second life as statement accessories. Triangles, chevrons, starbursts — crafty DIY mavens have been pinning up a storm creating shapes made of bobbies as accents to their styles. While cute, we think those shapes can read a little too twee IRL — and Nielsen agrees. If you want to keep things chic, he says to "stay away from blatant shapes, and think of it more as an accessory and not a statement piece." 

For this look, Nielsen created a soft, dry, airy texture to Cece's hair and accented it with a row of golden pins. Spray Oribe Foundation Mist all over damp hair, and then apply Surfcomber Tousled Texture Mousse section by section to hair's mid-lengths and ends. Blowdry hair using your fingers. Create a center-part using a brush with mixed bristles — Nielsen likes Laight & Mercer Dry Hairbrush — and then pull hair back into a low ponytail, securing it at the nape of your neck (or the occipital bone). Create a loose, three-strand braid with the hair in the ponytail, secure it with a clear elastic, and then twist it around and pin it into a textured bun.

For the pin accent, Nielsen says that the pins aren't really securing anything so it's more about placement here. He warns that it might take a bit of trial and error to get it how you like it, but to try to keep things symmetrical and equally spaced.

Place the first pin about a finger-width away from the hairline. Pinch a small amount of hair (about a finger-width wide) on one side of your hair, and then place the bobby pin downwards, following your hairline and grabbing onto the pinched section of hair. The pin should be ridge side up, but placed into the hair so the side of it is against your head — not the blade, like you might be used to.

After you place the first one, take your second pin and push it in starting at about midway down the first pin — so they almost overlap. Your starting point for the next pin will be halfway down the previous pin, and so on for all of them. Nielsen says each pin should be sticking up a little, not pushed all the way down — you want them to be apparent. You'll use about five or six pins total, stopping when you hit the bun.
Photographed by Brayden Olson.
The Pinband
In addition to its striking look, this pin contraption does double-duty by functioning as a stylish way to hold hair back and away from your face. Start by spraying hair from mid-lengths to ends with Bumble and bumble Classic Hairspray to give hair hold and shine. Create a side-part and tuck hair behind your ears. On the opposite side of your part (the one with more hair), apply a no-crease clip, like this one from Kenig + Alcone, to hold the hair in place while you pin.

Place your finger just below the clip, and push the hair flat against the head. Stick your first pin right behind the ear. The pin should go in horizontally, with the majority of it hidden underneath the hair. Your second pin should go in at a 45-degree angle, interlocking into the bottom of the first pin. 

Your next pin should also go in at a 45-degree angle, mirroring the previous pin. Ideally, it should interlock with the ends of the previous pin. Your next pin should go through the eye of the previous pin, again at a 45-degree angle but in the opposite direction. Continue this pattern until you get to the opposite ear, and then place your final pin horizontally behind the ear, just as you did with your first one, making sure it interlocks with the end of the previous pin. Once all your pins are in, gently remove the no-crease clip.

The closer the pins are, the more intricate and labor-intensive your "Pinband" will be, says Nielsen. "It's more grown-up — chicer and rock-'n'-roll," he explains. "That Saint Laurent thing — it looks expensive and cool. The front looks sleek and tethered, but then there's all this intrigue in the back. You don't have to deal with a headband, but you still get that juxtaposition of textures — controlled and styled at the top, but soft and loose at the ends. It's not overdone and it looks polished, but also somewhat effortless."
Photographed by Brayden Olson.
The Bobby Spine
Love the Old Hollywood-glamour side-sweep, but hate how hard it is to actually keep your hair to the side? This trick is for you. The Bobby Spine discreetly holds your hair in place without requiring you to obsessively run your fingers through it à la Kristen Stewart, or keep your head at an angle the entire night. Not to mention, it looks pretty badass.

Create a deep side-part. At the back of your head, backcomb the hair at the root. This is to give your pins a "place to live," says Nielsen. "A half-way house for pins," if you will. Use a paddle brush to gently brush over the backcombed hair — over, not through it — to make it look smooth, but still keep that texture underneath. Your hair should be brushed to the side and over one shoulder.

Starting at the nape of the neck, push in a pin at the very base of the head in an upward direction. It does not need to be perfectly straight — it's okay if it's a bit off-center. Nielsen says to use your hands to hold the hair to the side as you're pushing in your pins: This will ensure it stays in place for your final look. 

Push in the second pin near the end of the first, again in an upward angle and making sure to interlock them. Continue to crisscross pins up the back of the head. Nielsen says they don't need to be perfectly parallel — it's okay if they're at a bit of an angle up the back of the head. When you get to the top of the head, take your final pin and place it in a downward direction (rather than upward, like all the others), interlocking into the previous pin and thereby locking all of the pins in place.

This technique "allows you to secure a style and make sure it will last," explains Nielsen. "This gives you the rigidity of a structured style but it still has movement, and you don't need to lacquer the hair [with product] to achieve it."
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Photographed by Brayden Olson.
The Bungee Bun
This little contraption is like a hairstyle MacGyver — you're using two accessories to create a completely different accessory. Nielsen took a clear elastic and pulled two bobby pins through it to create a hair bungee, then used that DIY bungee to create a looped-through bun. Hairstylists love bungees because they give a really secure grip on your style, but they are also notoriously hard to get into your hair on your own. According to Nielsen, this trick gives you the security of the bungee but is much easier to get into the hair.

Once your bungee is ready, gather your hair into a ponytail. At the base of the ponytail, secure your first pin. Hold the pin in place with your finger, and then take the other pin, stretch it slightly, and wrap it and the attached elastic around the base of the ponytail multiple times, until it’s secure. Then, push the pin into the base of the ponytail.      

Create another DIY bungee, and then lift up your ponytail and hold it against your head, placing the first pin in about an inch or two above the ponytail. You don't want it to be too close to the ponytail's base, or else you won't get the loop you need for the finished look. Instead of wrapping the elastic around the hair multiple times, this time you’re going to just lay it over the top of the ponytail, pushing in the second pin on the opposite side. This will secure the ponytail against the head about midway up the tail, leaving the rest of it loose.      

The pinned hair should have made a small loop that you can stick your fingers through. If you can't, pull the hair apart a bit to loosen it up and create that gap. Stick your fingers through the gap, and grab hold of the hanging hair from your ponytail. Feed that hair back through the loop. The ends should be left loose, but if you're having trouble getting the hair to stay, Nielsen says to spray a pin with hairspray, and then place it in the center of the hair, underneath the loop. This will keep the hair in place while still allowing the ends to be loose.

"Spraying a pin with hairspray before applying helps add more grip and really secures it to the hair," explains Nielsen. "It's not something to do if you might be removing the pin, i.e. trying a new style for the first time. But, it's a great trick for if you want a really good, secure grip."

According to Nielsen, this bungee trick has many applications. If you've found that pins or elastics alone don't work when you're trying to create a certain style, give the pin bungee a try instead. "Learning one new technique can open up a world of styling options," he says.


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