A clothes hanger, or coat hanger, is a device in the shape of:
Both types can be combined in a single hanger.
There are two basic types of clothes hangers, the wire hanger, a simple loop of wire in a flattened triangle shape, with the wire continuing into a hook at the top, and the wooden hanger, a flat piece of wood cut into a boomerang-like shape, and with the edges sanded down to prevent damage to the clothing, with a hook, usually of metal, protruding from the point. Some wooden hangers have a rounded bar from tip to tip, forming a flattened triangle, this bar is designed to hang the trousers belonging to the jacket. There are also plastic coat hangers, which mostly mimic the shape of either a wire or wooden hanger. Plastic coat hangers are also produced in smaller sizes to accommodate the shapes of children's clothes.
There are also clothes hangers that have been padded with fine materials, such as satin, for expensive clothes, lingerie and fancy dresses. The soft, plush padding is intended to protect garments and keep them from getting shoulder dents from wire hangers.
Some hangers have clips along the bottom for suspending skirts. Dedicated skirt and trousers hangers may dispense with the triangular shape and just be a rod with clips. Specialized pant hanger racks may accommodate many pairs of trousers.
A garment bag is designed to accommodate a clothes hanger with clothes such that the hanging hook protrudes from the top of the garment bag.
Some historians believe President Thomas Jefferson invented the wooden clothes hanger. However, today's most used hanger, the wire hanger, was inspired by a coat hook that was invented in 1869 by O. A. North of New Britain, Connecticut. An employee of the Timberlake Wire and Novelty Company, Albert J. Parkhouse has also been credited with the invention.
In 1932, Schuyler C. Hulett patented an improved design, which used cardboard tubes mounted on the upper and lower parts of the wire to prevent wrinkles, and in 1935, Elmer D. Rogers added a tube on the lower bar, which is still used.
A wire clothes hanger was also a featured prop in a central scene in the 1981 movie Mommie Dearest, in which Joan Crawford, played by Faye Dunaway, went into the room of her daughter, Christina, at night while the girl was sleeping to admire the clothes hanging nicely in her closet. She then became enraged upon discovery that Christina had once again used a cheap wire hanger, instead of a nice one as she had instructed her to use, woke her up and gave her a thrashing. Joan's constant cry of "No wire hangers, ever!" quickly worked its way into pop culture and the phrase is now synonymous with those who tend to always want to be in control.
Clothes hangers are also now made of, though rarely, a rubber substance.
Foldable clothes hangers that are designed to be inserted through the collar area to make it easier to use, and reduce stretching are a new, yet useful variation on traditional clothes hangers.