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Alice and Bob are in a tight situation; maybe they need to break into a closet, or maybe they have been locked up by the bad guys. Either way, a lock is blocking their... way. Bob's mind is racing. How are they going to get out? And what is that click! he just heard? Wait a second... did the lock just open?!

Alice holds up something. "My Handy Hairpin," she says. "Don't leave home without it."

When a resourceful character picks a lock, be they handcuffs, doors or secret diaries, with a hairpin, you get the Hairpin Lockpick. Most often utilized by females as they are way more likely to have a hairpin actually on their person. Note that a hairpin can be used to pick some locks in Real Life, but only if you break it in half and use one piece as a torsion wrench, and one as the pick.

Subtrope to Improvised Lockpick (pending).Compare MacGyvering and Master of Unlocking.



  • Night Nurse in Doctor Strange: The Oath opens a door this way. The impressed Strange can only comment "You should wear your hair like that more often."


  • In Fatal Instinct, Ned once walks into his office to find Lola waiting there for him. When asked how she got in, she says, "Isn't it amazing what a real woman can do with a hairpin?" Cut to the door, the lock of which has been completely destroyed.
  • There's a subversion in Shanghai Knights where Sir Arthur Conan Doyle is attempting to do this but Chon Wang gets impatient and shatters the door window with a lock, reaches in, and unlocks the door.
  • Michelle Pfeiffer uses a hairpin to pick Jack Nicholson's handcuffs in Wolf.
  • The father in Home Movie teaches his kids how to do this. It comes back to bite him in the ass.
  • Terminator 2: Judgment Day. Sarah Conner uses unfolded paper clips to pick the locks on the straps holding her and the lock on the door of her room.


  • In The Amazing Maurice and His Educated Rodents, because Malicia believes she's the main character in an adventure story, she thinks hairpins are better at picking locks than actual lockpicks. Everyone else is very surprised when this actually works.
  • In the Doc Savage novel "The Lost Oasis," a woman tries to pick the lock on her slave collar with a hairpin after seeing Doc perform a similar feat. She doesn't have the necessary training.
  • In Harry Potter and The Chamber of Secrets, Ron picks the lock on Hedwig's cage with a pin.
  • If Nancy Drew didn't have those Industrial-Strength bobby pins, she would still be locked in many a closet.
  • Subverted in A Series of Unfortunate Events, where the fallacy in this trope is pointed out, and Violet uses an electrical plug as a lock pick.
  • Stephen King's Misery has a segment where the author-hero Lampshades that he fortunately learnt how to do this as research for one of his books. King gets to Show His Work by having the character show his work, it's a somewhat recursive book.

Live Action TV

  • On Burn Notice, Michael has noted that Fiona's hairpin is as good as a lockpick.
  • In an episode of Flight of the Conchords, Mel uses a hairpin to open the bathroom door. While Bret's in the bathroom.
  • In one episode of Friends, Chandler and Joey are trying to open a locked closet door. Joey asks Chandler whether he has a bobby pin; Chandler runs his hand through his hair, then says, "Oh, that's right — I'm not a 9-year-old girl."
  • In an episode of Gilligans Island, Ginger says she did it in a movie once, and wants to try it on a locked chest. She doesn't get a chance to try it, though.
  • In an episode of The Man from U.N.C.L.E., a captured Napoleon Solo steals hairpins from a female jailer with his mouth, and then uses them to pick the locks on his restraints.
  • Maddie does it in an early episode of Moonlighting.
  • In an episode of Thunderbirds, Parker uses one of Lady Penelope's hairpins to open a sophisticated electronic lock on a Bank of England bullion vault.
  • Used by Victoria in the Doctor Who serial Fury from the Deep.

Video Games

  • Nico Collard of the Broken Sword series knows how to pick a lock with a hairpin, and does so in most of the games. Being an Intrepid Reporter, it's probably a useful skill to have.
  • In Drakensang - The Dark Eye, you can use hairpins to open chests.
  • In Fallout 3 and the sequel Fallout: New Vegas, Bobby Pins are your standard lockpicking resource. Fortunately, loads of them have survived The Great War intact.
  • No One Lives Forever has a lockpick disguised as a hairpin.
  • More of a jewelry example in Quest for Glory II, but the Hero as a Thief must use the decorative golden pin given to him by the Katta as a mark of friendship earlier in the game to pick the lock of a cell door. Actually, creative lockpicking is something of a recurring theme throughout the series for a Thief hero...

Web Comics

  • The hairpin from Problem Sleuth is in the same category of items as keys: All their weapon counterparts are guns (pistol for key, Tommy gun for ring of keys, heavy machine gun for hairpin).

Western Animation

  • Lampshaded and Subverted in one episode of Kim Possible: Ron and Monique are facing a locked door, so Ron asks Monique whether she has a bobby pin. Her response? "I don't know; why don't you ask my grandmother?"
  • Producing a hairpin to pick locks was one of the only things Daphne ever did of use in Scooby Doo.
  • In The Perils of Penelope Pitstop episode "Carnival Calamity," Penelope used one of her hairpins to open the padlock on the loop-the-loop ride.
  • Done on a Looney Tunes Wartime Cartoon about women in the work force. When a factory breaks down, a repairwoman goes into her toolbox and pulls out a bobby pin, which she uses to start the factory up again.
  • Parodied in a Rocko's Modern Life version of Hansel and Gretel Debbie.

 Heffer/Hansel: Hey Debbie, don't you have a hairpin or something?

Rocko/Debbie: No, but I have a key (pulls out of hair).

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