Over the past three decades, the combination of inorganic-nanoparticles and organic-polymers has led to a wide variety of advanced materials, including polymer nanocomposites (PNCs). Recently, synthetic innovations for attaching polymers to nanoparticles to create hairy nanoparticles (HNPs) has expanded opportunities in this field. In addition to nanoparticle compatibilization for traditional particle-matrix blending, neat-HNPs afford one-component hybrids, both in composition and properties, which avoids issues of mixing that plague traditional PNCs. Continuous improvements in purity, scalability, and theoretical foundations of structure-performance relationships are critical to achieving design control of neat-HNPs necessary for future applications, ranging from optical, energy, and sensor devices to lubricants, green-bodies, and structures. © 2013 Materials Research Society.