A Modern Classic
Furniture makers can join in the celebration, as the hairpin leg turns 80 years old. Trendily retro, it is enjoying a bump in popularity along with everything in mid-century modern design, as well as designs favouring mixed metal and wood.
The story behind the iconic metal table leg design called ‘the hairpin,’ starts three-quarters of a century ago with Nazi Germany’s annexation of Austria in 1938, includes a young industrial designer’s journey across the Atlantic in 1939 and the designer receiving his big break in the Big Apple in 1940. The designer, Henry P. Glass, in an October 2001 interview, said:
[Fellow Industrial Designer Russel Wright]…”liked my work and when, in 1941 he launched his campaign ‘American Way,’ he honoured me with an important assignment, to design a complete line of wrought iron furniture.
I created a rather startling group of tables, chairs, sofas, etc. which commanded immediate and favourable attention in the trade press, particularly in the weekly ‘Home Furnishings.’ Its editor-in-chief, Alfred Auerbach, coined the name ‘Hairpin Group’ because of the shape of the ‘steel wire’ legs. It was a great success, mainly in the media, I don’t know how much of this furniture was actually sold in stores. It certainly created a trend, countless furniture pieces of all kinds were put on ‘hairpin’ legs for several years.”
Later in the interview, Glass, who spent more than six decades designing automobiles, houses and more, states that the hairpin leg was the product of which he was the most proud. The leg went into production in 1941, became a media darling, and was found on countless pieces of furniture.
Today, the 80 year old design enjoys anew the full interest of the media, professional furniture makers, interior designers and do-it-yourselfers.