Hairpin Lockpick

"Another fine illustration of your need for tactical assistance. Admit it, Michael. You need me. You don't even have your own hairpin."
Fiona Glenanne, "False Flag", Burn Notice

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, paper clip, or some other everyday object, 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. Or if it's a very simple lock.

Compare Skeleton Key Card, MacGyvering and Master of Unlocking.


Manga and Anime

  • 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 The Golden Age, Classy Cat-Burglar Paula Brooks (Tigress) uses one to break into the Secret Diary of Tex Thompson, revealing that he is the Ultra-Humanite and that Dynaman is Adolf Hitler's brain in Daniel Dunbar's body.
  • In Agent 327, a safety pin is standard issue for every Dutch secret agent for exactly this reason.

  • 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.
    • Bonus points because Linda Hamilton actually managed to do it for real.
    • In Terminator Genisys, when Reese is handcuffed to a hospital bed, he uses forceps to pick the lock. He succeeds within seconds.
  • The Silence of the Lambs: Hannibal unlocks his handcuffs with a pen clip.
  • Colombiana. The hitwoman protagonist uses one to get out of her cell after a Get Into Jail Free ploy. The hairpin appears to be a professional lockpicking tool however.
  • In Frozen, Olaf uses his carrot nose as a lockpick to save Anna, who was trapped in a room by Hans.
  • In Coherence, Mike manages to open the mysterious box with a pin from his pocket. Lampshaded by his line: "Holy shit, it worked."
  • In Con Air, Cyrus and Nathan use needles to unlock their handcuffs as part of their Great Escape plan.
  • In Tomorrow Never Dies, Bond uses his love interest's earring to unlocks the handcuffs that had them both tied together.
  • A variation in Madeline, Pepito uses Madeline's hairpin to start a motorcycle.

  • The cleaning lady asks the bank director: "Boss, could you lend me the key for the vault?"
    Director: "Of course not! How did you get the idea?"
    Cleaning lady: "Well, you told me to clean up everywhere, and today I forgot my hairpin."

  • Averted in A Brother's Price: One would think Spirited Young Gentleman Jerin knew how to do this, but no - he carries a set of actual lockpicks on his person. At all times. His grandmothers were spies and his younger sisters greet visitors by searching their luggage for suspicious things. Without them noticing, of course. It runs in the family.
  • 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. It runs in the family.
  • 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.
  • Judge Dee uses a hairpin from his topknot to pick the lock of a secret passageway in The Haunted Monastery. The Big Bad that Dee finds on the other side is surprised, as he has the only key.
  • Subverted in the Towers Trilogy. Xhea spends an entire hour unsuccessfully attempting to pick a lock this way using a filched surgical tool; finally, the tool breaks, and Xhea concludes that the door must be sealed by the strongest lock in the known universe.
  • In the Doctor Who novel "Engines of War", the Time Lords created an intricate, sonic proof lock that someone might unlock via a different, cruder method. Cinder breaks out using her bracelet.

Live-Action TV
  • A Chekhov's Gun in the Burn Notice episode "False Flag". Michael borrows one of Fiona's hairpins to get himself out of handcuffs. He later uses the same hairpin as a replacement trigger bar spring for his pistol to defeat a hitman.
  • 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 Gilligan's 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 UNCLE, 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.
    • In "The Doctor, The Widow and the Wardrobe", Madge Arwell offers to pick the lock of the TARDIS with her hairpin when the Doctor can't find his key. He points out that it's a multi-dimensional, triple-encoded temporal interface, then is bemused when she succeeds. "Suddenly the last nine hundred years of time travel seem that bit less secure." Turns out she's brought him to a real police telephone box.
  • Artemus Gordon utilizes this technique in "The Night of Sudden Death" when he's left locked in a cage by his partner.
  • Spoofed as always in Get Smart. Max asks 99 for a hairpin so he can pick a lock, but she doesn't have one. Then Max remembers he has one himself. When an amused 99 asks why a man wears a hairpin, Max indignantly replies that it's for picking locks.
  • In Breaking Bad, when Jesse is being held captive by the Neo-Nazis, he picks the lock on his handcuffs with a paper clip. It only takes him a few seconds.
  • Occurs multiple times on White Collar as Neal uses anything at hand to pick locks and get out of handcuffs and Peter even uses the pin from his dry cleaners tag to get out of handcuffs at one point.
  • In the Star Trek: Voyager episode "Hope And Fear", Captain Janeway uses a microfilament from her commbadge to adjust some nodes in Seven of Nine's Borg circuitry so that she could walk through the force field of the prison they were held in and gain control of the ship that was bringing them into Borg-controlled territory.
  • In Continuum, Jasmine Garza picks the lock on her handcuffs using her nipple piercing.
  • ''Walker, Texas Ranger. When Sydney and (of course) Alex are kidnapped, the former uses a hairpin to undue their handcuffs. Unfortunately, the bad guys walk in just as they've gotten free and not only smack her and restrain them both again, but order the maid to "make sure she doesn't have any more".
  • In the two-part episode of Castle "Target"/"Hunt," when Alexis is kidnapped, she uses her friend's bobby pins to pick the lock. Castle had learned how as book research and taught her. She does describe using the torsion and pick and actually breaks a few before succeeding.
    • In an earlier episode, Castle offers to pick the cuffs when he and Beckett are chained together, but she isn't wearing hairpins.

Video Games
  • In Bioshock Infinite Elizabeth is downright surprised Booker doesn't pick locks, and on being asked why she does, she explains, "I spent my life surrounded by nothing but books and time. You'd be amazed what I can do." By the time he shows up, the people maqintaining her Tower prison/apartment have it sealed with a bank vault door and use Songbird as a guard, so it's no shock they actually let her keep studying how to pick simpler locks..
  • 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 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...
  • Twice in Hotel Dusk: Room 215, Kyle uses part of a coat hanger to pick the lock on his suitcase and a hotel door.
  • In Blackwell Convergence, Rosangela picks a door lock twice with a paper clip.

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). It's also actually used as a lockpick during the final battle.
  • One of the first things Rory from Demon Fist learned in his travels was to always hide a pin in his clothes.

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. Velma, of all people, did this on The New Scooby-Doo Movies when Don Adams was locked in a trunk.
  • 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 Rockos Modern Life version of Hansel and Gretel (called Hansel and Debbie).
    Heffer/Hansel: Hey Debbie, don't you have a hairpin or something?
    Rocko/Debbie: No, but I have a key. (pulls key out of hair)
  • Jackie Chan Adventures: Subverted in the last episode of Season 4. When the J-Team is trapped in a cell, Viper tries using a hairpin to pick the lock, but it doesn't work because the lock is magically sealed.