A Wallet for a Safety Pin

A Digression of a Fashion Statement or Stress Relief Mechanism

A Wallet for a Safety Pin
Safety is a State of Mind (Shutterstock license, 2024)

It is interesting to me that the “modern” safety pin was developed by a man (the inventor, Walter Hunt) who was worrying a piece of copper wire while worrying himself over conjuring something marketable enough to repay a $15 debt. That was in 1849. Although similar devices were in use thousands of years before that time, none incorporated the “safety” part of the safety pin (the cap concealing the sharp end).

I also find it interesting that the precursor is called fibula or brooch. What a shin bone and an adornment have in common is a mystery to me, but there you have it. Can one pin someone to the floor using their fibula?

Again, I digress. The safety pin has held a certain mystique for me since my high school days. I am an 80’s child and I am very familiar with the Punk Rock movement. I listened to a fair amount of Sex Pistols (although not directly related to safety pins, Sid Vicious was famous for wearing another symbol of the movement: the padlock on a chain on his neck. Today the padlock has a completely different significance as a necklace, especially to certain members of the gay men’s community (mostly Bears, to indicate they are locked together with their significant other)).

Again, I digress. The safety pin had more significance to me in my late high school – early undergraduate years. In high school, I was known to sport a safety pin in my ear (it was cut in such a way the it looked like my ear was pierced). In college, I had a friend (well he is still my friend) who wore a single safety pin attached at the very point of the left side, “popped” of course, collar of his ubiquitous denim jacket.

I followed suit, but in a more expressive way. I was a joker-rebel scholar in my undergraduate years. I wore long, flowing, unbuttoned coats all around campus. It always appeared as if I were wearing a cape (I owned a few of those as well, woolen, very warm). Underneath, I wore my ubiquitous denim jacket with the popped collar. A safety pin affixed to the left tip of the collar. The pin was one end of a chain of safety pins that started, or ended, in my ear. Seven large safety pins all linked together. (Taking off my jacket was rather a daunting task.) Unlike in high school, the pin in my ear was the one that I had used to pierce it in the first place. (How I avoided a major infection is beyond me.)

The jacket was nick-named “The Full Metal Jacket” (no direct reference to the film, but an ingenious twist on the title). The Full Metal Jacket was so called because it had no fewer than 37 novelty pins and other assorted (non-drug related) paraphernalia attached to it. The whole ensemble was quite the fashion statement under my “cape.” This put me in mind of the James Stephens poem “The Coolin” (Coolin being an informal Irish word for sweetheart). It begins, “Come with me under my coat, and we will drink the milk of the white goat, or wine – if it be thy will.”

The remnants of the Full Metal Jacket. Alas, the denim is gone.
The remnants of the Full Metal Jacket. Alas, the denim is gone.

Again, I digress. After college, when I had to be a “grown-up” with a real job, the safety pin chain disappeared. Since that time, however, I have kept the safety pin from my ear in my wallet. Sometimes, when I was out clubbing, it would reappear in my ear.

There are four non-wallet items that I have kept in my wallet for many years (some more than others). The safety pin was the second object. The other three have their own stories: a Deutsche Mark from my first trip to the then Bundesrepublik Deutschland (1984), a 100 lira, mint condition, coin given to me by St. Peter (actually it just appeared in the box of rosaries I was carrying for friends to have blessed by the Pope) whilst visiting the Basilica (1998), a 1 euro, mint condition, cláirsearch coin (2002, my first trip to Ireland and the year that Ireland adopted the euro as official currency). All fascinating stories in their own rights.

The safety pin lives in my wallet. I transition it to whichever wallet I am carrying (that depends on where I am). If I am traveling abroad, I carry a wallet that holds my Passport. I have a special wallet for Deutschland that has separate compartments for the different denominations, and a large, zippered compartment for coins. I have a few others for when I am wearing my tuxedo – a very small wallet that holds only the necessities and, of course, the safety pin.

I use the safety pin much in the way that it was invented. I use it as a stress-relieving object. I hold it by the spring end in my right hand, the thumb nearly touching the safety cap. Then I place my left thumb perpendicularly to the safety cap. The right thumb presses down to bring the pointed end to the very edge of the cap so that it is still “closed” then I push with my left thumb to return it to the center of the cap. I can do this for hours. I usually do it 100 times at a go and try to keep the number of times the sharp end disengages completely to fewer than five (it hurts when that happens). When I am done, I have this nifty dent in my right thumb and a few poke marks on my left thumb, and a feeling of relief from whatever it was that I was stressing about.

If you ever find a wallet with a safety pin tucked in the compartment behind the bank cards, it is more than likely mine.


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