Hair Pipe Breastplates

Kiowa Indian wearing a Hair pipe Breastplate

Hair Pipe Breastplates
Facts and information about the History of Clothing and regalia of Native American Indians and their Hair Pipe Breastplates. The adornment known as a Hair Pipe Breastplate is a familiar item worn by Native Americans. Hair pipe breastplates were invented by the Comanche in the 1850's and was adopted by many other tribes of the Great Plains including the Crow, Sioux and Assiniboine tribes. The term 'Hair Pipe' is used as the name for long, slim, hollow, cylindrical beads that were used as hair decorations, chokers and breastplates.

Hair pipe breastplates were made by stringing rows of the long beads on buckskin cords to form an elaborate breastplate.

Hair Pipe Breastplates Fact Sheet

  • Hair Pipe Breastplates Fact 1: The Native American fashion for wearing this type of breastplate originated by accident and by the Native Indians determination never to waste any item.
  • Hair Pipe Breastplates Fact 2: Cheap pipes with their bowls made from corn cobs and stems with a thin hollow stem originally made from bone (Corn Cob Pipes) were trade items which, along with many other items, were traded by white traders for deerskins
  • Hair Pipe Breastplates Fact 3: Native Americans began to use the long, hollow stem of the pipes as beads
  • Hair Pipe Breastplates Fact 4: Great Plains Indian women wore their hair in two, thick braids which they decorated with beads. They began to use the hollow pipe stems as another available type of hair adornment
  • Hair Pipe Breastplates Fact 5: The use of the stems of Corn Cob Pipes as hair decorations led to the origin of the name "Hair Pipes"
  • Hair Pipe Breastplates Fact 6: Ingenious use of the stems as a type of bead led to the development of other ornaments such as chokers worn by the Osage and Otoe tribes and the famous breastplates worn by the Native American who inhabited the Great Plains including the Kiowa, Sioux, Crow and Assiniboine tribes.
  • Hair Pipe Breastplates Fact 7: Hair pipe breastplates were made by stringing rows of the long beads on buckskin cords to form an elaborate and highly distinctive breastplate
  • Hair Pipe Breastplates Fact 8: A breastplate was secured by cordage, sinew or leather and hung over the head like a necklace
  • Hair Pipe Breastplates Fact 9: The distinctive adornments came in different styles with rows of different sized beads threaded horizontally, vertically and diagonally
  • Hair Pipe Breastplates Fact 10: Patterns were made using colored beads as spacers and other ornaments such as fringes, brass and glass beads, shells and ribbons were added
  • Hair Pipe Breastplates Fact 11: The size of each breastplate varied enormously according to the number of beads used in each row and the number of rows. The bottom of the breastplate ended above the waist
  • Hair Pipe Breastplates Fact 12: Tribes such as the  Cherokee and Chippewa used a should bag called a Bandolier which were also decorated with hairpipe beads
  • Hair Pipe Breastplates Fact 13: In the 1990 movie 'Dances with Wolves' a hair pipe breastplate was used in a trade exchange between the hero and his friend 'Wind In His Hair'.
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Updated 2018-01-01

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