Some of you might have seen them, many of you would not and a minority, perhaps, still uses them.
I’ve seen millions of them. Not really, but certainly zillions, as I grew up in a house with five users of hairpins: my grandmother, my mother and three sisters.
Smaller hairpins were used to keep small tufts of hair in place and the larger ones to keep ‘buns’ looking tidy and stylish.
The neatness was aided and abetted by a net.
And with changing times and changing styles, the hairpin manufacturing business and the net manufacturing business must have taken a beating.
So what happens to the ‘factories’ that make the hairpins and the nets, certainly profitable businesses once upon a time? What happens to the labourers in the factories, to their families?
The same day I was ruminating on the fate of the hairpin and the attendant implications, serendipity took me to a story of the 125th anniversary of the Swiss Army Knife, which in turn took me to Victorinox’ official site.
And I learnt that the Swiss Army Knife was born of a need for Swiss knife manufacturers to stave off the competition they faced from German knife manufacturers.
I read bits and pieces on numerous sites and blogs. Here’s a bit I read on Deutsche Welle:
The Swiss army knife had very humble origins, said Carl Elsener, chief executive of knife maker Victorinox. His great-grandfather started this business in 1884 in a small village called Ibach.
"He was manufacturing different knives for the kitchen, for farmers, for small boys and so on, and then he learned that the Swiss army had decided to buy a knife for every Swiss soldier," Elsener said.
He seized the opportunity and designed a simple soldier's knife which the army loved.
"The first knife for the Swiss army had black wooden handles, a large blade, a screw driver to clean the gun, and it had a tin opener," Elsener said. "But it was a bit heavy and bulky, so he designed a new one, more elegant, with a cork screw."
It was called the "Schweizer Offizier Messer" or Swiss officer's knife.
"Then after the Second World War, we had all these American soldiers in Europe, and they bought the knives in huge quantities in the PX stores, as souvenirs of Europe," Elsener said. "But it was too difficult for them to say Schweizer Offizier Messer, so they just called it the Swiss army knife, and that's the name it's now known as all over the world."
So the Swiss knife manufacturers lived to fight another day, as did soldiers in many an army.
So what do the hairpin manufacturers do?
What do the workers in a pager factory do?
What will those currently engaged in the manufacture of tooth powder do?
Are shaving brushes close to death? What will these factories do?
The list is endless. Modern times kill brands and categories at a ruthless pace and the need to quickly reinvent products and offerings has never been greater.
Learn from Victorinox. Not from the hairpin.