Safety pins, invented in 1849 by mechanic Walter Hunt, are so common we hardly think about them unless a piece of clothing needs temporary support. Some of their uses have fallen out of favor, such as holding together diapers on babies or attaching sanitary napkins to old-fashioned belts. British punks made them a fashion statement. One performer claims safety pins were used to remedy “the arse of your pants falling out”, but they quickly moved into body decorations where they pierced ears, noses, and who-knows-what else. Other uses have swelled in popularity, namely attaching four to a participant’s shirt to an athletic event number.
A recent use is as a political statement. Wikipedia puts forth a claim that the Dutch wore secret safety pins to symbolize unity during WW II, although this hasn’t been validated. After the 2016 UK Brexit vote, safety pins were used by people to show solidarity with refugees and other migrants.
Now this innocuous item is a response to the US presidential election. By fastening a safety pin to their clothing, people hope they’re allying themselves with groups threatened and bad-mouthed by politicians. I hastened to pin mine on recently. But after a few days wearing it, I’ve removed it.
Why? Now it’s become yet another instance of how people use any circumstance to criticize and bad mouth one another. Or a topic that bloggers, constantly under self-generated pressure to produce writing (like me), can plumb. One blogger described the movement as “mainly self-serving and useless,” for people who agree politically to identify each other. Other people have taken to the net to launch attacks against wearers because the pins are a sop to white consciences.
I give up. Whatever the election accomplished, the brouhaha over safety pins has crowned. No more efforts by me to support what I in my naiveté have always done—support lost causes. I’ll take all my safety pins and simply use them to jab things.
By the way, I’ve seen no one else in my area wearing a safety pin.