Pin-up girls: what are they, what characteristics do they have and examples

pin up girls

Surely you have ever heard or read the term pin-up. Maybe you have been able to see some photos of pin-up girls on the Internet that have caught your attention. But in reality, what you may not know is that that image, photo, illustration was actually a vindication of women.

And is that pin-up girls were considered “rebellious girls.” But in reality there is a story behind that maybe you should know it if at any time those photographs have interested you. Can we explain it to you by dressing it with visual examples?

What does pin-up mean

What does pin-up mean

The term pin-up refers to an image, mainly of a woman, who, with a sensual, suggestive posture, or looking or smiling in a mischievous way, captures the attention of the viewer. This term appeared a long time ago and, although it may seem like a “nickname” for those people who were dedicated to being portrayed or illustrated in this way, the truth is that they were used regularly in magazines, calendars, posters, etc. In Spain, this could be translated as “magazine girl”, “calendar girl” …

But what does it mean to be a pin-up girl? Well, you should know that “pin” means pin; while “up” is up. Two English words whose union comes to form the expression “hanging on the wall.” For this reason, all the photographs, calendars, postcards, illustrations… that were hung on the wall, and also had a suggestive, provocative posture… they were considered pin-up.

Now, the best known are pin-up girls but, in reality, there were also illustrations and photographs of men, only in less quantity. And did you know that they weren’t always called pin-up girls or pin-up boys? Well, no. For a few years they received another nickname, more vulgar and vulgar, such as “cheesecake”, or in Spanish, “cheese cake”, in the case of women; and “beefcake”, or meat pie, in the case of men.

The origin of pin-up girls

The origin of pin-up girls

To discover the origin of pin-up girls we have to go back to 1920. Specifically, in the United States. At that time, women were very repressed, that is, if they did something that was outside the norm, they were frowned upon. And at that time there were women who wanted to break with those schemes and start empowering women. Thus, images and posters began to appear with girls who posed scantily clad, in a seductive, mischievous and yes, something sexual as well. His target audience at that time were young soldiers, since they considered that these types of scenes served to boost their morale (or something else) and that is why so many scenes are seen with these types of photos in movies.

Also, another version of why they were called pin-up girls is this, the fact that they served to “raise the morale” of the soldiers, or make that “pin” go up.

During the 1920s and 1930s, these types of publications (photographs, illustrations, posters, magazines…) began to be distributed in droves. First, among the American soldiers, but soon after its audience expanded.

And it is that in the 40s and 50s pin-up girls were a booming fashion. In that decade (the 40s) was when World War II broke out and all American soldiers carried pictures of pin-up girls because they had become a kind of patriotic symbol and a “talisman” to return home. In fact, they didn’t just hang them on the walls of their bedrooms or in their lockers; They carried them everywhere, even on warplanes, because they were very important to them.

Already in the 50s, because there were so many images, illustrations … the market ended up collapsing, and that what it did began to be interesting. People saw them so much that they no longer attracted anyone’s attention and for that reason, some of those pin-up girls, or boys, began to work in other sectors, or even to dedicate themselves to the cinema, the stiptease or the most uploaded magazines of tone, like “Play Boy.” Even more so when in the 60s nudity or lack of clothing was no longer prohibited in the images. Although at that time it almost disappeared, until in 2014 it became fashionable again.

Characteristics of pin-up girls

Characteristics of pin-up girls

Being considered one of the group of pin-up girls in that boom era was a compliment to those people. And it was the same with men. But to be so, you had to represent a series of characteristics that defined those people. And these were the following:

The attitude of pin-up girls

As we have told you, being a pin-up girl meant breaking with the norm, and not caring about doing it or what they will say. Therefore, you had to be a very self-confident woman, with high self-esteem and who did not care to seduce, be daring, spicy, even naughty, always with elegance and glamor, since what differentiated them from other types of women is that they do not fall into vulgarity. In other words, they left the honey on their lips when hinting and suggesting, but without going any further.

Characteristics of pin-up girls

Wavy hairstyles

Waves, loops, and even toupees were a trademark of pin-up girls. In addition to the colors in the hair, although this was not usual. In fact, there were brunettes and blondes, but redheads used to attract the attention of many because of that unusual color.

In addition, they used to adorn their hair with bows and other accessories to give touches of color, especially when it was more “normal.”


As for makeup, pin-up girls used to use little, and almost always based on bringing luminosity to the face and the parts of their body that were seen. Where they most sought to enhance their “charms” was in the lips and eyes. For this, they used as a favorite the black color in their eyes, with long delineations in the lines of the eyes, and they outlined the eyebrows very well and increasing the eyelashes in the process.

As for the lips, the most common color was red.

Characteristics of pin-up girls

The clothes

Or the scarcity of it. And it is that as the years passed the “uncovering” was being a characteristic of these images. In the 1920s, traditional dresses showed parts of the female body, but without going further. However, from the 40’s things changed, especially using illustrations where artists let their imagination “fly” a bit by recreating scantily clad women (not without them, but short and tight).

The real photographs were not left behind either, since they showed independent, powerful and confident girls, but light clothes. In fact, these photos came to be used to “give away” to their admirers, or as a form of presentation for possible jobs.

Characteristics of pin-up girls

Pin-up girls

Finally, we leave you with a selection of photos of pin-up girls. And is that names like Elke Sommer, Janet Leigh, Bettie Page, Betty Grable or Ann Savage are related to this movement.

Pin-up girls

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