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Hairpin Lockpick

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"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 similar, you get the Hairpin Lockpick. Most often utilized by females as they are way more likely to have a hairpin actually on their person.

This is Truth in Television, as locksmiths and amateur enthusiasts can jimmy a lock with materials like paper clips and hair pins quite easily. However, unless it's a very simple lock, you have to break it in half and use one piece as a torsion wrench and the other as the pick.


Sub-Trope to Improvised Lockpick. Compare Skeleton Key Card, MacGyvering and Master of Unlocking.


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    Anime and Manga 

    Comic Books 
  • 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.
  • Tintin in the Lake of Sharks plays this straight, after he and a pair of young siblings are locked up by Rastapopolous.
  • In The Further Adventures of Indiana Jones #7, Marian gains access to Marcus' study by picking the lock with a bobby pin.
  • Strangers At The Hearts Core: While investigating her parents' disappearance, Supergirl finds their house's door is locked from the inside; undeterred, she picks one of her hairpins and snaps the lock open.
    Supergirl: Hmmmm, looks as if Kandorian locksmiths could learn a few things from Earthmen— this lock'll be a snap to pick— with a hairpin!"

    Fan Works 
  • In A Jump to the Left, Xander demonstrates that he can pick handcuffs with a paperclip. He also explains that keeping it in the collar of a shirt makes anyone who notices assume it's to keep the collar stiff while also keeping it close enough to grab with your mouth.
  • Fates Collide: Yang Xiao Long can do this, saying she taught herself how to do it to sneak into her father's liquor cabinet.

    Films — Animated  
  • Abu uses one to free Aladdin from his shackles in the dungeon.
  • The Mansions of the Gods: After Asterix and Dulcia's husband fail to break open the door to the building in which Getafix and Appeldjus are being held captive, Dulcia pulls out one of her hairpins and picks the lock within seconds.

    Films — Live-Action  
  • 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 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. Justified as she's a Distaff Counterpart, and the earring is implied to be her version of a Q gadget.
  • A variation in Madeline, Pepito uses a paper clip, and later on, Madeline's hairpin, to start a few motorcycles.
  • Another variation in the climax of Pompeii: when Cassia is chained to the chariot of the Big Bad and an epic Chariot Race is taking place, she tears a splinter from the wooden platform of the chariot and manages to unlock her chain with it.
  • The Golden Child. When Kee Nang needs to get through a locked door into the house headquarters of a biker gang, she pulls a hairpin out of her hair and jimmies the lock.
  • In Final Justice, Maria uses a hairpin to pick the lock to the door on Don Lamanna's mansion, then says she has been doing this since childhood.
  • In Rags, Kadee's friend gets Charlie out of a closet by picking the lock with her hairpin.
  • In Superdome, the killer breaks into Rita's hotel room this way before killing her with a Vorpal Pillow in her sleep.
  • In The Prowler (1951), Webb pulls a bobby pin out of Susan's hair and uses it to pick the lock on John's desk to help himself to a packet of cigarettes.

  • 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."

  • 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. It turns out the twins taught him, and he teaches Harry.
    • In the next book it's mentioned that Harry used this method to get his school things, which had been locked up by the Dursleys.
  • 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.
  • In Malediction Trilogy Cecile de Troyes does it several times. Justifies, as the locks are not that complicated (this being equivalent of XVIII century or so) and she was taught how to do it by her older brother.
  • In "The End of the Pier Show", Richard borrows a hairpin from Vanessa and uses it to unlock the door of the room they've been imprisoned in, pretty much without breaking stride.
  • My Dark Vanessa: When the shower drain gets clogged with hair one too many times, the janitor gets fed up and locks the bathroom. Ms. Thompson has to pick the lock with a paperclip.

    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 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.
  • Doctor Who
    • Used by Victoria in the 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. Despite all the technobabble, it's basically this trope Recycled In Space
  • 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 undo 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.
  • In Haven, as a former criminal, Duke Crocker knows how to pick locks with pins, ballpoint pens, etc.
  • Person of Interest.
    • In the episode where John Reese meets his future Love Interest Zoe Morgan, she lampshades that he must be one of those guys who can get out of anything with a paperclip. Later when they're captured, Zoe cuts a deal for her life, but secretly leaves a paperclip in Reese's hand. Sure enough, he unpicks his handcuffs and escapes.
    • In "YHWH", Harper uses a hairpin to pick the lock on Fusco's handcuffs, shaping it with her teeth first. Fusco finds this kinda hot.
  • In the pilot of Supernatural, Dean uses a paperclip to free himself from handcuffs in the police station. Like most depictions of this trope, he merely bends it to make it work.
    • In "Adventures in Babysitting", Dean has to work with the 14-year old daughter of another Hunter. He refuses to take her into a demon nest to rescue her father, so handcuffs her to the steering wheel. Well aware that she had the same training he did, Dean then insists she hand over her lockpick. However she gets free anyway using a bobby pin.
  • In "Chapter Six: The Monster" from Stranger Things, Nancy's mother uses her hairpin to open Nancy's room after her knocking remains unanswered.
  • Subverted in Father Brown when Father Brown faces a locked door and asks for a hatpin: as an antique model, the key was left in the keyhole on the far side of the door, and he's able to poke it out and pull it under the door on a sheet of paper. Mrs. McCarthy looks slightly disappointed that he doesn't actually pick the lock with the pin.
  • In Bizaardvark, Belissa escapes from military school by picking the lock on the gate with a hairpin she stole from Paige.
  • In a two-part episode of Hazel, Hazel has to retrieve some tranquilizers from a mobster's desk so she can dope the food of a roomful of crooks with them and, hopefully, escape while they're incapacitated. She sneaks into the mobster's office and discovers that the desk drawer is locked, so she immediately pulls out a hairpin and opens the lock. However, before she can get the pills, she hears someone coming, so she shoves the drawer back in and hides. One of the crooks comes in to get a couple of tranquilizers for his boss. He's surprised that the desk is open, and locks it when he leaves. Thus, Hazel has to hairpin it open twice.
  • MacGyver (1985): In "Lost Love, Part 2", Mac frees himself from handcuff captivity with a bobby pin that he got from Lisa, a soviet double-agent and one of his many girlfriends. When he was free from the handcuffs, he can't use the pin to open the door of the room he is trapped in, so he uses the handcuffs to pick the lock the same way he did to free himself from the handcuffs.
  • At the start of one episode of Scarecrow And Mrs King, Lee is teaching Amanda how to open handcuffs when your hands are cuffed behind your back. At the end of the episode, she has to do exactly that, using Lee's stickpin as a picklock.
  • House of Anubis used this a few times.
    • In the first season, Nina was locked in the attic by Patricia. With no key, she was still able to escape by using a hairpin.
    • In the second season, Eddie taught Fabian how to do it properly when he was trying to break into the cellar, and Fabian later used Amber's hairpin when they were rescuing a kidnapped Trudy.

    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 maintaining 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, Fallout: New Vegas and Fallout 4, Bobby Pins are your standard lockpicking resource. They're damaged and eventually break when you screw up the Lockpicking Minigame, but fortunately, loads of them have survived The Great War intact. The trope is even lampshaded in Fallout 4, as one of the issues of Tumblers Today (a collectable magazine that improves your lockpicking ability for every issue you collect) has a cover claiming that hairpins are superior to a locksmith's tools.
  • The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel subverts this in the first game during the field study in Bareahard. Rean, Fie, and Emma all attempt to sneak into the sewers to rescue Machias, who has been arrested on false charges of breaking into a military fortress. The entrance to the sewer is locked, and Rean is worried that using his sword to break the lock would create noise and attract unwanted attention. Emma decides to deal with this with a hairpin, except she casts a spell to make the door open. It's never clarified if the pin was needed for the spell, or if it was used to avert attention from her magic. When Rean is suspicious about how she unlocked the door, she tries to avoid suspicion about her magic by saying it's a trick she read about in a book.
  • 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.
  • In The Binding of Isaac: Rebirth, the Paper Clip trinket allows you to unlock chests without having to use a key (you'll still need keys for locked doors and key blocks, though).
  • In Kathy Rain, Kathy uses a bent paperclip to open her jail cell.
  • Parodied in Zak McKracken and the Alien Mindbenders. The group has to unlock two doors using two provided keys, but one of them disintegrates as soon as it's picked up. What do you do? Well, the key in question was pretty big, so you use wire cutters to cut down the hairpin sign from a closed down salon and use the hairpin sign to pick the lock.
  • Possible in 16 Ways to Kill a Vampire at McDonalds. The main character has to take them out of her hair, which covers her neck and prevents her from luring the vampire, but gives her access to a plunger to turn into a stake and some duct tape.
  • Unlike the first Resident Evil where Jill uses an actual lockpick given to her by Barry, she in Resident Evil 3: Nemesis and Claire in Resident Evil 2 use what looks like a safety pin that was bent into a makeshift picking tool. Likely this is why it works on far less locks than the pick in the first game did. Ethan in Resident Evil 7 uses what looks like an ice pick to jimmy open locks, which breaks them after one use.
  • Leisure Suit Larry 7: Love for Sail!: Larry manages to use the needle after bending it with vice grips, both of which he found in the La Costa Lotta complimentary Lil' Hair Weave Kit, to open his handcuffs at the beginning of the game.

    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.
  • Prince Zander from Latchkey Kingdom, who by this point has gotten a bit used to being captured, is seen trying to open a cage door with a bobby pin. He fails and breaks the pin, but pulls another out of his hair rather than let that stop him.
  • In one Darths & Droids, Jim asks if his character Padme has a bobby pin in her hair. Since Padme happens to be chained up at the time, the GM assumes that Jim intends this trope and congratulates him on the idea. Since Jim's actual idea is much more foolish, Jim decides to use this trope instead.

    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?"
  • The titular character of Samurai Jack uses the pin holding up his topknot to pick locks in a couple episodes.
  • 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.
    • Penelope also uses a hairpin to do a repair on her car the Compact Pussycat in an episode of Wacky Races. That is, after she's pulled out half the engine to see what the problem was to start with.
  • Done on the Looney Tunes Wartime Cartoon "The Weakly Reporter" 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 (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.
  • Star vs. the Forces of Evil,
    • Marco says he learned how to pick locks with bobby pins from watching prison movies. In "St. Olga's Reform School for Wayward Princesses", he uses a bobby pin to pick the locks on the school's doors. However, when he is captured and strapped to a chair, he attempts to pick the locks with a bobby pin in his mouth, but he accidentally drops it.
    • Subverted in "Total Eclipsa the Moon": After running into a locked door, Eclipse asks Moon for a hairpin. Moon hands her one, then Eclipsa puts it in her own hair and uses a hole in the wall to circumvent the door entirely.
  • Courage the Cowardly Dog: In "The Mask", Courage locks Eustace and Muriel in their bedroom while he goes out to find Bunny. Muriel eventually unlocks the door with a bobby pin, to Eustace's amazement.
  • House of Mouse: In the short "Locksmiths", Mickey, Donald, and Goofy are locksmiths whose office door is locked and they can't find their key. In one attempt to get out, Mickey uses a hairpin to unlock the door, which opens up to reveal many other doors behind it (including one with the Doorknob from Alice in Wonderland) before Mickey opens up on Clarabelle Cow taking a Shower of Awkward.
    Mickey: Heh-heh, wrong pick.
  • Sally Bollywood: In "Call My Lawyer", Sally uses a hairpin to the pick the lock on Bob's locker in search of incriminating information.
  • The Loud House:
    • Leni uses this in "It's A Loud, Loud, Loud, Loud House". Given that she's the Dumb Blonde of her family, her sisters are understandably shocked.
      Leni: What? There's more to my head than just air, you know.
    • In "Kernel of Truth", this is how Stella opens the door behind which the popcorn culprit is hiding.


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