Pin-up culture in Scotland


Pin-Ups: Toulouse-Lautrec and the Art of Celebrity exhibition at the Scottish National Gallery Photo Credit: Iona Young

Pin-up girls have been a global phenomenon since the 19th century. Originally pin-up culture began as a form of advertising for burlesque dancers and actresses, with the term ‘pin-up’ coming from the pinning up of photos and posters on walls.


Jane Avril as seen at Pin-Ups: Toulouse-Lautrec and the Art of Celebrity. Photo Credit: Iona Young

Paris, known as the ‘city of pleasure’ at the end of the 19th century, was famous for its bohemian lifestyle which brought a generation of pin-up personalities such as Jane Avril and Yvette Guilbert.

Later the trend moved on to celebrities, particularly during war times. All American girl Betty Grable was a staple vision on the lockers of American soldiers during the Second World War.

Alice Higgins, also known as “Minnie Knot”, won the Miss Scottish Pin Up 2018 competition hosted at the Scottish Tattoo Convention. She tells us more about pin-up culture in Scotland. 

What do you enjoy about pin-up culture?

I feel that the pin-up culture encourages body positivity within women. Often the media can focus on negative portrayals of women’s bodies, however, from my experience, a lot of the wonderful ladies of the pin-up scene that I have met joined this community as a means of embracing who they truly are. It goes a lot deeper than just a portrayal of a woman’s sexuality and is more about celebrating and enjoying our own expression of our femininity. I enjoy how pin-up culture can shift perceptions of body image and encourage women to love their own bodies.

Alice Higgins

Alice Higgins. Photo Credit: Emerald Photography

Do you feel there is a pin-up scene in Scotland?

I think there is most definitely a pin-up scene in Scotland, it’s just about knowing where to look for it. I have found that the Scottish pin-up community have close ties with the Scottish burlesque and Tattoo scene too. For example, Glasgow hosts the Glasgow Festival of Burlesque which showcases an array of talented pin-ups performing some of the finest burlesque acts. There are also some amazing cabaret events in Glasgow such as The Gatsby Club, which is a pop up 1920’s themed cabaret club night which is great fun for those who appreciate a bit of retro.

Do you have any pin-up inspirations?

I could give you examples of classic pin-up icons such as Betty Page or Marilyn Monroe as my pin-up inspirations but truthfully my one and only pin-up inspiration will forever be my Granny Martha. She always wore the best dresses back in the day for going out to the dancing with my Papa and she even had her own clothing store on the main street of my hometown back in the 1960s. She is my ultimate style icon and always will be.

Do you have any tips for anyone wanting to get involved in pin-up culture in Edinburgh?

On the last weekend of March, The Miss Scottish Pin up competition is hosted at the Scottish Tattoo Convention held at The Corn Exchange. The event opens the doors to many pin-up enthusiasts and it has been a great opportunity for me to meet like-minded pin-up ladies like myself.

Also, the incredible ladies of Vanity Thrills Hair and Beauty hold a stall at the Scottish Tattoo Convention each year offering pin-up hair and makeup to the public at a discounted rate. These ladies specialise in styles from bygone eras and have worked wonders on my locks throughout the years, coiffing my hair to vintage perfection.

“My one and only pin-up inspiration will forever be my Granny Martha”

Edinburgh also has so many charity shops and vintage stores dotted around everywhere, with the likes of Armstrong’s on the Grassmarket, which sells beautiful vintage clothing to help find that perfect pin-up look. I also like to look out for pop up vintage events such as Judy’s Affordable Vintage Fair and The Vintage Kilo Sale which come to the city every couple of months.

What did you enjoy about the Miss Scottish Pin-Up competition?

All the ladies who participated were incredible and there was so much support and encouragement from everyone. I would encourage any Scottish pin-up’s out there to give it a go and apply this year. Part of the prizes I received included a ‘Golden Ticket’ into The Miss Pin Up UK contest and a photo shoot for a publication in ‘Pin Up Worship Magazine’ which were both amazing opportunities for a Pin Up lover like me.

The exhibition Toulouse-Lautrec and the Art of Celebrity is showing at the Scottish National Gallery until January 20.


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