From starting off as bones and twigs to the many shapes and forms that exist today, the humble hair clip has been around for quite some time now. And it makes perfect sense—where would we, or folks through the ages, be without these handy accessories keeping annoying strands of hair out of our faces?
Hair clips are indispensable to most of us and are a staple in handbags and caboodles around the world. The best part? Whether you want something practical or pretty, you have a plethora of options at your disposal.
Here’s a guide to the different types of hair clips, pins, etc. that you can use for your styling.
The Different Types of Hair Clips and Pins
Using the right clip can make a huge difference to your hairdo. Whether you just want to keep the hair off your face when working or create a magical updo that’s seemingly held up on its own or flaunt something decorative, there’s a hair clip for every situation and purpose.
Here’s a rundown of the different types of hair clips and pins you can add to your beauty cabinet.
The simplest and probably most well-known type of pin on the list, bobby pins are unbelievably useful and versatile. These pins feature one grooved prong and one straight, smooth prong, with rounded ends that make it easy to push them into your hair.
The narrow body and grooved side make this clip the most secure, giving you the strongest hold out of all pins. These pins can single-handedly create red-carpet-ready hairdos, holding up portions of hair for hours on end.
Bobby pins are commonly available in classic black so that they can be easily disguised, but they’re also available in different colors for those who want to flaunt them.
A gift from the fashion-forward folks of France, French barrettes are small metal clips with a fastener and tension bar that pops into place to keep them secure. Classically, these clips were only two simple metal lines, but today, a variety of decorations, such as patterned cloth and ribbons, are placed on top to make them more stylish.
Barrettes are typically worn at the side of the head or the back. If a barrette isn’t strong enough to hold your hair in place, you can supplement it with a bobby pin.
Claw Hair Clip
Remember the vibrant butterfly clips that were the mainstay of 90s fashion and were rocked by everyone from Britney to Jen Aniston?
Claw clips have the same clipping mechanism as butterfly clips, with two large-toothed combs joined by a spring. In fact, the only difference between claw hair clips and butterfly clips is the absence of butterfly wings in the former!
Claw clips are generally used to clip hair back and are common replacements for hair ties, which means that they sit directly at the back of your head. Worn low at the back, they can create a low ponytail, and worn high, they can be used to secure a half-up or pin back your bangs.
However, unlike conventional ties, claw clips are more comfortable, can be used on any hair type, don’t snag, and don’t create kinks either.
Speaking of, butterfly clips definitely deserve a spot on this list for being such a revolution! If you want to bring back the 90s or rock a retro party, butterfly clips are your best friends. Twist or braid sections of your hair and keep them in place with several butterfly clips (you’ll need that many since these decorative clips can’t hold back much hair at once).
Duckbill clips are named so for the resemblance they share with a duck’s bill. These functional clips are commonly found in hair salons, where they’re used by stylists to clip back sections of hair while coloring or cutting. The sharp point and the thin, long body make this clip an excellent tool for sectioning, negating the need for a separate comb.
However, because they’re thin and long and don’t have teeth, these clips don’t hold the same amount of hair that sectioning clips do and aren’t effective replacements (unless you’re using them to section off thin sections of hair for hairdos like braids).
Sectioning clips are also known as alligator clips and feature an upper half with teeth joined to the lower half. Though extremely similar to duck bill clips, sectioning clips have teeth, which lets them hold back thick sections of hair for long periods.
Sectioning clips can be used to secure sections of hair while styling it (such as while curling, straightening, fixing extensions, blow-drying, or braiding) or even simply to hold back your hair in day-to-day life.
U-shaped pins resemble bobby pins—though it’s actually the other way around, considering that U-shaped pins are the predecessors of bobby pins!
Originally called bobbing pins, U-shaped pins are distinguishable, as their name suggests, by the long U-shaped bodies that they sport. These pins are heavy lifters, excellent at securing hair, and have long been used to create complicated updos. Unlike bobby pins, you don’t need to open them to use them; they can simply be slid into and hidden in your hair as is.
Snap clips were an integral part of hair fashion for anyone who went through the 90s, though if stars such as Dua Lipa and Elsa Hosk have anything to say, this throwback to the 90s is back!
Snap clips feature a simple snapping mechanism that fastens hair. The clips are formed from a single piece of metal and are designed to keep hair out of your face.
These clips are great for any length of hair, come in many different colors and sizes, and are easy to use, even on the fine hair that kids have. In fact, their easy-to-use nature makes them a great option for tots who are just learning to style their hair.
You can opt for a classic black if you’re using these in an elaborate hairdo or use decorated, vibrant snap clips for a fun look!
Banana clips are effective at securing long, thick sections of hair, thanks to their build—an outer circle that locks and encompasses teeth in the middle.
Banana clips are named for their curved form and come in many different types, such as round, clincher, and fishtail. These clips can also be used to secure ponytails, instead of hair ties, and can make hair seem longer than it actually is.
These clips are great for thick, long, textured hair. They’re also available in flexible materials that are easier to handle. You can opt for a plain, solid clip for everyday wear or a more decorative piece for an important event.
Double-Prong Curl Clips
Double-prong curl clips are similar to sectioning and wave-setting clips, used commonly to aid styling. These clips are typically wrapped around fresh curls until they’ve cooled down enough to secure their shape.
Wave-setting clips are designed to keep hair in place after it has been styled, without creating any kinks or dents, so that you can get on with the rest of your makeup and getting-ready routine.
Geometric Minimalist Clips
These minimalist clips feature simple, thin prongs like bobby pins but give the end appearance of a French barrette. These clips, available in minimal geometric shapes such as circles, triangles, stars, or even astrological symbols, keep hair in place very securely, as long as the section of hair being secured isn’t too thick.
Minimalist clips are typically used to secure hair at the back of the head in a half-up style or keep hair strands out of the face by clipping them back at the temples.
French pins are a more decorative version of the U-shaped pin and are also known as French forks. These pins are also larger, which means that they can lift more hair and be used to secure buns.
However, French pins can be slightly complicated to use as they aren’t just slid into the hair like other types of pins; instead, they need to be flipped and turned to keep hair secure.
Single-Prong Curl Clips
Similar to duck bill clips but much smaller, single-prong curl clips are good for securing small amounts of hair, such as when you’re doing pin curls and need to hold your curls in place.
Comb clips are not technically “clips” as they don’t clip hair but simply hold it back, just like a decorative comb. Comb clips are the perfect combination of style and functionality, and are even sported by brides on the big day!
Comb clips are also known as hair comb clips, side comb hair clips, and comb hair clips.
Hair Stick Pins
Hair stick pins were traditionally used in the Orient. Though they closely resemble chopsticks, with smooth, tapering, pointed ends, hair stick pins are obviously not chopsticks! These pins are excellent at holding up hair, just like French pins, but can be slightly complicated to use (nothing a little practice can’t solve, though!).
Hair stick pins can be quite decorative, with bejeweled tops.
As you can see, hair clips and pins are available in many different shapes and sizes—and the above isn’t even an exhaustive list! You’ll also find clips and pins such as spin pins, bumpit pins, and pearl hair clips, which aren’t mentioned in our list but are still super effective.
Each type of clip has a purpose—some are purely decorative while others are purely functional. Using the right clip or pin for the job will go a long way in your styling, and once you have the right tools in your armory, you can start bidding adieu to bad hair days!