Wire hangers are one of the most fascinating everyday items we use without understanding their symbolic meaning. Have you ever asked yourself what a wire hanger symbolizes? Chances are, you haven’t. In fact, you probably associate them with being cheap and flimsy, always bending out of shape or becoming tangled up in your closet. However, beneath their mundane appearance, wire hangers have a deeper, more significant meaning than most people realize.
For starters, wire hangers have become synonymous with abortion. This connection dates back to the 1960s, where illegal abortions were performed in secret clinics with sparse supplies. It’s said that back then, a coat hanger represented the only viable tool for performing these procedures. Thus, wire hangers became a notorious symbol of desperation and danger in the pro-choice movement. Over the years, the connection between wire hangers and abortion has cemented in pop culture, even inspiring a movie called “Coat Hanger” in 2019.
However, there are various other interpretations of what a wire hanger symbolizes. Some people have found them representative of a tough and resilient spirit, symbolizing a life of overcoming obstacles and hardships. Others use wire hangers as a way of creating unique DIY projects or art. Whether you see it as a symbol of strength or the dangers of illegal abortion, it’s clear that wire hangers hold a special place in our collective imagination and cultural identity.
Origin of the Wire Hanger
The wire hanger, also known as the clothes hanger, is a simple yet incredibly useful tool used for hanging clothes. It is believed to have been invented in the late 1800s by Albert J. Parkhouse, a timber merchant from Michigan. According to the story, Parkhouse was frustrated with the cumbersome wooden coat hangers of his time and decided to fashion a replacement from a piece of wire.
While Parkhouse is credited with inventing the wire hanger, it wasn’t until 1903 that it was patented by fellow Michigander Anson S. Wheeler. Wheeler, a mechanical engineer, recognized the potential of the wire hanger as a space-saving device and set about perfecting its design. He created a machine that could swiftly and efficiently bend a straight piece of wire into the now-familiar shape of a hanger.
From there, the wire hanger quickly caught on and became a staple in both homes and retail stores. It was not only more lightweight and space-efficient than wooden hangers but also cheaper to produce. By the 1920s, wire hangers had become the norm in clothes stores, and by the 1960s they had become a household name.
Historical uses of wire hangers
The wire hanger has a long and interesting history, spanning back to the early 1900s. Originally, wire hangers were designed as a lightweight and cost-effective alternative to the traditional wooden hanger, which was much heavier and more expensive to produce. The first wire hangers were handmade, often using leftover or recycled materials, such as coat hangers or old wire fences.
- In the late 1800s, Albert Parkhouse patented the first wire clothes hanger. He was a worker at a wire product company in Michigan and noticed that they were discarding a lot of wire. With his ingenuity, he bent a wire into the shape of a hanger and started a company called the “Parkhouse Brothers” that would mass-produce his invention.
- By the 1920s, wire hangers were being mass-produced and were widely available. They were used not only to hold coats and other clothing items but also for various industrial and agricultural purposes, such as to support plants and hang tools.
- During World War II, wire hangers became even more essential as the government needed the metal for the war effort. People were encouraged to donate their wire hangers to the cause and use wooden hangers instead. As a result, wire hangers became a symbol of patriotism, and “Wire hanger drives” were held across the country to collect as much metal as possible.
Today, wire hangers are still widely used in households and businesses, and they continue to be a popular choice due to their durability and affordability. They are also commonly used in the fashion industry, where they are used to transport and display clothing items. Additionally, wire hangers are still used in industrial settings for a variety of purposes, including in the automotive and construction industries.
Despite their versatility and usefulness, wire hangers have also become a symbol of controversy, particularly in regards to their use for abortions. The term “coat hanger abortion” refers to a dangerous and illegal method of ending pregnancy that was commonly used before abortion became legalized. This is a grim reminder of the dark side of the wire hanger’s history and the importance of safe and legal abortion practices.
|First wire hanger patented by Albert Parkhouse
|Wire hangers widely available for purchase
|World War II
|Wire hangers collected for the war effort
Overall, the wire hanger has played an important role in history, both in terms of its practical uses and its symbolic meanings. From a simple wire frame to a controversial object, the wire hanger has certainly made its mark on the world.
Invention of the modern wire hanger
Did you know that the modern wire hanger was invented in the early 1900s? Before this invention, people used hooks or wooden hangers to hang their clothing. However, hooks left unsightly marks on clothes, and wooden hangers were expensive to manufacture and not very durable.
- Albert J. Parkhouse, an employee of the Timberlake Wire and Novelty Company, is credited with inventing the first modern wire hanger in 1903.
- Parkhouse was inspired to create a hanger that would keep clothes wrinkle-free and not damage them.
- The new hanger was made from a single piece of wire bent into a triangular shape with two hooks on the top.
Parkhouse’s invention was a game-changer for the fashion industry, making it easier and more affordable to transport and store clothes. In fact, the wire hanger became so popular that it is now found in almost every home across the country.
Nowadays, wire hangers are manufactured in various sizes, shapes, and materials. There are hangers designed for heavy coats, delicate fabrics, and even ones with rubber padding to prevent slippage. In addition, some clothing brands have started to use eco-friendly wire hangers made from recycled materials.
|Pros of wire hangers
|Cons of wire hangers
|Thin and take up very little closet space
|Can leave dents on clothes and damage delicate fabrics
|Inexpensive and widely available
|Not suitable for heavy clothing items like coats and jackets
|Easy to hang, remove, and store
|Can rust over time and stain clothes
Despite their drawbacks, wire hangers remain a household staple and a symbol of modern-day convenience. From holding your favorite party dress to keeping your blouses and pants wrinkle-free, they will always have a place in our closets.
Pop culture references to wire hangers
Wire hangers have played a significant role in pop culture, as they are a common item that has been used in various movies, songs, and shows. Here are some famous pop culture references to wire hangers:
- Mommie Dearest (1981): The movie is known for the infamous scene where Joan Crawford, played by Faye Dunaway, becomes enraged when she sees her daughter using a wire hanger and utters the famous line, “No wire hangers, ever!”
- Friends (1996): In the episode “The One With The Male Nanny,” Joey accidentally breaks a hanger in the hotel room he is staying in and proceeds to use a wire hanger to hold up his pants.
- The Simpsons (1995): In the episode “Bart’s Girlfriend,” Marge tells Lisa that the dry cleaner has lost all of her wire hangers, to which Lisa replies, “Well, we’ll just have to make do with coat hangers.”
Wire hangers have also been used in music, with the song “Wire Hangers” by Aiden featuring lyrics such as “Wire hangers on my bedroom floor, can’t find a pretty dress no more.” In addition, fashion designer Alexander McQueen used wire hangers in his runway shows, using them as makeshift antennas for his models.
However, it is important to note that the negative connotations associated with wire hangers have mainly stemmed from the movie Mommie Dearest, where it was used as a symbol of Joan Crawford’s abusive behavior towards her children. In reality, wire hangers are simply a common and affordable household item that can be used for a variety of purposes.
|Purpose of a wire hanger
|Shirts, jackets, pants
|Wreath frames, mobiles
|Unclogging drains, retrieving lost items
While wire hangers may have a notorious reputation in pop culture, it is important to remember that they are a versatile household item that can be used for a variety of purposes beyond just hanging clothes.
Environmental impact of wire hangers
Wire hangers are a common item in every household. They are cheap and convenient, but their impact on the environment is something we often overlook. Here are some of the environmental effects of wire hangers:
- Plastic waste: Wire hangers often come wrapped in plastic when you buy them, adding to plastic waste. Moreover, plastic hangers are replacing wire hangers, which are non-recyclable. As a result, more plastic waste will end up in landfills and oceans.
- Landfill issues: Wire hangers are not biodegradable, so when they end up in landfills, they stay there forever. The accumulation of wire hangers can pose environmental hazards and take up space in landfills.
- Resource depletion: The production of wire hangers involves using resources such as steel, which can contribute to resource depletion.
It is worth mentioning that there are alternatives to wire hangers that are more environmentally friendly. For example, wooden hangers are biodegradable and can add a touch of elegance to your closet. Another alternative is the use of hangers made from recycled materials.
If you have a stash of wire hangers, consider donating them to a charity thrift store or a local dry cleaner. Dry cleaners will often take wire hangers back to reuse them. Remember, small actions like this can have a big impact on the environment.
Let’s take a look at the numbers:
|Number of wire hangers produced annually in the U.S.
|Amount of steel used annually to produce wire hangers in the U.S.
|Percentage of recycled metals used in wire hanger production in the U.S.
These numbers show that wire hangers have a significant impact on the environment and that we need to consider alternatives to reduce our impact.
Alternatives to Wire Hangers
Wire hangers may be a staple in many closets, but they are far from the only option. Here are some alternatives that can help you keep your clothes organized and looking their best:
- Wooden hangers: These hangers are sturdy and durable, making them ideal for heavy coats or suits. They also come in a variety of styles and finishes to match any decor.
- Padded hangers: Padded hangers are perfect for delicate fabrics that could be damaged by other types of hangers. They provide a soft, cushioned surface that prevents creases and wrinkles.
- Plastic hangers: These hangers are lightweight and inexpensive, making them a popular choice for many people. They are also available in a range of colors and styles, so you can find the perfect match for your closet.
While these are just a few alternatives to wire hangers, there are plenty of other options available. When choosing a hanger, consider the weight and style of the garment, as well as your own personal preferences. No matter what type of hanger you choose, make sure it is strong and durable enough to support your clothing and keep it looking its best.
Wire hangers in fashion industry
Wire hangers are commonly used for hanging clothes in closets, but did you know that they have a deeper symbolism in the fashion industry? Here are some insights into the role wire hangers have played in fashion history.
- Inexpensive alternative: Wire hangers were initially used in the fashion industry simply because they were a cheaper alternative to wooden hangers. This is because wire hangers could be mass produced and were lighter to ship, making them a cost-effective option for retailers.
- Brand recognition: In the 1970s and 80s, major fashion brands such as Christian Dior and Yves Saint Laurent started using custom wire hangers as a way to increase brand recognition. These hangers would feature the brand’s logo or name, and would be given to customers with their purchases.
- Iconic movie scene: The use of wire hangers in the fashion industry was popularized even further by the 1981 movie “Mommie Dearest.” In the film, actress Faye Dunaway portrays Joan Crawford, a Hollywood actress known for her fastidiousness around her clothes and belongings. In one famous scene, Crawford scolds her daughter for hanging her expensive dresses on wire hangers, exclaiming “No wire hangers, ever!” The scene has since become iconic and cemented the image of wire hangers as a symbol of cheapness and neglect.
Overall, while wire hangers may not be the most glamorous item in the fashion industry, their use has made a lasting impact on the industry’s history and branding strategies.
Here is a table summarizing the pros and cons of wire hangers:
|Can leave marks on shoulders of clothes
|Lightweight, easy to ship
|Tend to bend easily
|Customizable for branding purposes
|Not as sturdy as wooden hangers
Despite these drawbacks, wire hangers have remained a staple in the fashion industry, and continue to be used in stores and homes around the world.
DIY Projects Using Wire Hangers
Wire hangers can represent more than just a way to hang clothes. With a little imagination and a bit of creativity, these simple hangers can be transformed into a variety of practical and artistic DIY projects.
8. Jewelry Holder
- Start by straightening out the hanger, keeping the hook at the top intact.
- Bend the hanger into a circular or oval shape, creating two or three overlapping tiers.
- You can add some decorative beads or ribbon to each tier to make it look more interesting and visually appealing.
- Hang it on the wall or prop it up on a dresser, and use the different tiers to hold and organize different types of jewelry, from earrings and bracelets to necklaces and rings.
This simple DIY project is not only practical, but it also adds a touch of elegance to any room, while helping to keep your jewelry organized and easily accessible. Additionally, for a more rustic and personalized look, you can spray paint the wire hanger and add some small decorative touches.
How wire hangers are made
Wire hangers are a common household item that is used for holding clothes in the closet. While we may not think much of them, the process of creating them can be quite interesting. Here is a breakdown of how wire hangers are made:
- The manufacturing process begins with a coil of wire that is fed through a machine called a nail-header. The nail-header cuts the wire into the desired length for the hanger and places a small bend at one end.
- The wire then goes through a series of rollers that shape it into the classic hanger shape. The rollers also smooth out any bumps or kinks in the wire.
- Once the hanger shape is achieved, it goes through a machine that cuts off the excess wire and bends the other end to create a hook.
- The hangers then go through a series of cleaning and polishing machines to give them a smooth and shiny finish.
- Finally, the hangers are loaded onto a conveyor belt and packaged for distribution.
It may seem like a straightforward process, but the machinery used to create wire hangers is complex and requires skilled technicians to operate. The constant need for precision and attention to detail in the shaping and finishing stages is impressive.
In addition, there are various types and sizes of wire used to make hangers, including stainless steel, galvanized steel, and aluminum. Each material has its own unique properties and benefits for the end product.
|Type of wire
|Durable, rust-resistant, and can hold heavier items
|Strong, lightweight, and less prone to rust
|Lightweight and affordable, but not as strong as steel
Overall, the process of making wire hangers may seem simple, but it involves a complex series of machinery and skilled technicians to produce the final product we see in our closets every day.
Various types and colors of wire hangers
Wire hangers may seem like just a simple, ubiquitous item found in virtually every closet, but they can actually come in a variety of types and colors, each with their own unique symbolism and uses.
- Standard Wire Hangers: The most common type of wire hanger is the standard, plain wire hanger. These are often used by dry cleaners or come with newly-purchased clothing. They may not be the most aesthetically pleasing option, but they get the job done.
- Coated Wire Hangers: To add a little more pizzazz to a plain wire hanger, manufacturers may cover them in a variety of colors such as white, black, or blue. The coating also prevents clothing from slipping off as easily as it might on a plain metal hanger.
- Padded Wire Hangers: These wire hangers feature a cushioned or padded exterior that makes them ideal for hanging delicate or easily-creased garments such as silk or cashmere.
- Hanger Trees: Hanger trees are not specifically a type of wire hanger, but they are worth mentioning because they are often used with wire hangers. Hanger trees are like small trees with branches on which you can hang multiple hangers, making them an ideal solution for small closets or limited storage space.
As for colors, wire hangers can come in virtually any color imaginable. However, the most common colors are plain or coated silver metal or black or white plastic coatings.
|A classic and versatile color symbolizing strength and durability
|A sleek and modern color representing power and sophistication
|A clean and minimalist color associated with purity and simplicity
|A calming and professional color often used by healthcare providers or businesses
|A feminine color often used for baby items or wedding dresses
|A luxurious and opulent color representing wealth and success
Before you go tossing all your wire hangers in favor of more aesthetically-pleasing options, it’s important to note that wire hangers are actually very eco-friendly. They can be recycled and are often made from materials such as steel or aluminum, which have a high recycling value. So, next time you find yourself with a pile of wire hangers, don’t throw them away – recycle them!
FAQs: What Does a Wire Hanger Symbolize?
1. What does a wire hanger symbolize in pop culture?
In pop culture, a wire hanger is often used as a symbol of desperation and sadness, especially in reference to the 1987 film “Mommie Dearest.”
2. What does a wire hanger symbolize in fashion?
In fashion, wire hangers are often used to hang clothes in stores and are a symbol of practicality and efficiency.
3. What does a wire hanger symbolize in art?
In art, a wire hanger can be used as a symbol of minimalism or even rebellion, as seen in the work of artist Tom Friedman.
4. What does a wire hanger symbolize in politics?
In politics, wire hangers can be a symbol of opposition to abortion rights, as they are often associated with unsafe and illegal abortions.
5. What does a wire hanger symbolize in literature?
In literature, a wire hanger can be used symbolically to represent a character’s emotional or mental state, such as in the short story “Popular Mechanics” by Raymond Carver.
6. What does a wire hanger symbolize in psychology?
In psychology, a wire hanger can be a symbol of powerlessness or control, depending on the context in which it appears.
7. What does a wire hanger symbolize in everyday life?
In everyday life, a wire hanger is often seen as a versatile and practical item that can be used for a wide variety of purposes.
Closing: Thanks for Reading!
Thanks for taking the time to learn about what wire hangers symbolize in different areas of our culture. From pop culture references to art and literature, these humble objects have taken on a variety of meanings over the years. Whether you use wire hangers for hanging clothes or finding creative DIY solutions, they are a useful item that we can all appreciate. Be sure to check back for more interesting insights into the symbols, objects, and cultural touchstones that shape our world.