Symbols related to the royal family and state had already been banned, and the Norwegian people wanted a clever way of displaying their rejection of the Nazi ideology. In the autumn of 1940 students at Oslo University started wearing paperclips on their lapels as a non-violent symbol of resistance, unity, and national pride. In addition to wearing a single paperclip, paperclip bracelets and other types of jewelry were fashioned as well, symbolically binding Norwegians together in the face of such adversity.
Why the paperclip? Besides the idea of binding things together, it’s thought the paperclip was chosen as a symbol of resistance in part because many people incorrectly believed that the inventor of the paperclip was a Norwegian man, John Vaaler in 1901. Though the modern paperclip was actually invented two years prior in 1898 by William Middlebrook who patented a machine that would make wire paper clips for the Gem Company, in England.
Nevertheless, the idea that the paperclip was invented by a Norwegian man was prevalent and the fact that paperclips bound things together and were cheap, readily available, and not out of place made it seemingly the perfect symbol for non-violent, subtle resistance in Norway.
In time, the Germans caught on to the fact that the paperclip was being used as a symbol of resistance and wearing a paperclip promptly became a criminal offense.