How Many Pins to Make a Bun?

Getting ready for the ballet

At the Ballet 5:8 School of the Arts Front Desk, we frequently help parents - particularly those with younger children - navigate the intricacies of ballet training and the ballet uniform. One of the most common questions we get has to do with hair: how do I accomplish a nice "ballet bun" like the one described by the student handbook? Those of us who have been doing hair for ballet for years have a tendency to make the process look easy. And, in fact, it can be relatively easy to make a neat, clean ballet bun. The trick is that this takes a good amount of practice and, importantly, the right toolkit. One of my favorite questions for students and parents who ask me for help with hair is, how many pins do you think I use? Knowing how many pins to use is an important step if you hope to give yourself a chance of success when it comes to making a nice ballet bun. The exact number of pins used doesn't matter as much as the general idea: and the general idea is usually a lot more pins than you may imagine at first.

Do you have a guess yet to my question? If you're thinking of guessing high, that's exactly the right idea.

Thirty-five pins.

If this is a surprise to you, as it has been for many of the people I've talked with, then I'm very glad we're having this conversation. Hopefully, your next attempt at a nice ballet bun is going to be a lot easier.

But 35 pins? Are you sure you need...that...many? 

As I said before, the exact number doesn't matter nearly as much as the general idea: more is better. Ballet hairstyles are much different than other, "normal" hairstyles in many ways, but the risk involved is, perhaps, one of the biggest. By risk, I mean the risk of falling out. For the most part, "Normal" hairstyles that involve pins only need to survive a bit of gentle natural movement of the head while walking, standing, and sitting. Ballet hairstyles, however, need to survive...well...a lot: jumping, spinning, bending over upside down, and everything in between. If the dancer's hair isn't securely fastened in the ballet bun, it will inevitably become an awful - and unsightly - nuisance, flying in the dancer's face, getting stuck in her eyes and mouth, and likely, coming out more every minute once the first strand gets loose. The solution to avoiding all of this, both the nuisance and the risk, is to have a somewhat military attitude when it comes to creating the ballet bun. More pins is better. Always more. The best ballet buns are very pretty on the surface, but quite sturdy on the inside and, short of removing the pins, not going to go anywhere.

So, how many pins do you use?

*The best ballet buns use a combination of two types of pins: Bobby pins and hairpins. Bobby pins, mostly flat but with one raised end, are the easier of the two varieties to find in stores. These are great for securing the edges of nicely formed ballet bun, but the bun is shaped most easily (and will hold its shape better) if it is constructed with the "U" shaped hairpins. The best hairpins come in different lengths: longer pins are good for longer and thick hair, and shorter pins are good for shorter and thinner hair.