There are three basic types of clothes hangers. The first is the wire hanger, which has a simple loop of wire in a flattened triangle shape that continues into a hook at the top. The second is the wooden hanger, which consists of a flat piece of wood cut into a boomerang-like shape with the edges sanded down to prevent damage to the clothing, and 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. The third kind and most used in today's world 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.
Some hangers have clips along the bottom for suspending skirts. Dedicated skirt and trousers hangers may not use the triangular shape at all, instead using just a rod with clips. Specialized pant hanger racks may accommodate many pairs of trousers. Foldable clothes hangers (http://www.dym.nl) that are designed to be inserted through the collar area for ease of use and the reduction of stretching are an old, yet potentially useful variation on traditional clothes hangers. They have been patented over 200 times in the U.S. alone, as in U.S. Patent 0586456, awarded in 1897 to George E. Rideout.
In 1906 Meyer May, a men's clothier of Grand Rapids, Michigan, became the first retailer to display his wares on his wishbone-inspired hangers. Some of these original hangers can be seen at the Frank Lloyd Wright designed Meyer May House in Grand Rapids.
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.
Unfolded wire clothes hangers, because of their use in performing illegal (mainly self induced) abortions (by inserting one in the uterus), are often used in pro-choice rallies. Whoopi Goldberg used one as a symbol in a pro-choice rally in Washington, D.C. in 2004.
Collecticus magazine (UK) reported (in October 2007) that clothes hangers have now become collectable (especially those with a famous company or event advertised across the front). For example, a 1950 Butlins hanger sold for £10.10 in October 2006 within Collecticus.