Zipper History – Who Invented Zipper?

Zipper History – Who Invented Zipper?

Zipper (also known as zip or zip fastener) is a mechanical device used to connect two edges of the fabric. It has a variety of uses in clothes, luggage, camping gear and sporting goods. Modern zippers are made to have of two rows of protruding teeth which are made to interconnect and lock when they pass through the slider which is also a part of the zipper. They can have different principal uses. They can increase or decrease the size of an already existing opening to allow or restrict the passage of objects like in case of a fly of trousers or of a dress or skirt. They can also be used to connect and separate two edges of the same garment, for instance front of a jacket. Detachable parts of garments can be attached with zippers and zippers can also be used as decoration (without practical use, just a detail on the clothes).

Zippers have long since ceased to serve only the purpose of closing and have definitely made their way into the Front Row. The metal teeth ennoble dresses, skirts and tops as design elements, replace chains & Co. It fits skilfully into any styling, be it as an invisible zipper or as a striking design element.  There are even no limits to the play of colours. Whether metallic shiny in copper, silver or gold, transparent in nylon, dyed or with the trompe l’oeil effect like Richmond, technically everything is possible with this closure. Who invented the zipper and how it developed over the years to an ingenious everyday object you can learn here.

Like many inventions, zipper is also the result of series of ideas by many inventors. It all started with Elias Howe who invented the sewing machine. He received a patent in 1851 for an “Automatic, Continuous Clothing Closure”. General idea was to two sew reinforcements to two edges of cloth and connect them with small metal clasps. Clasps would be connected to each other with a strip of wool and separated from each other. When the strip is pulled it would drag strips along, separate them from each other and close opening between the clothes. Pushing of clasps together would open the opening again. Because of success of sewing machine, Elias Howe didn’t market his invention too much. In 1890Max Wolff from Moscow invented a typo of zipper whose teeth were made from in a shape of spiral but because of inadequate technology of the time that type of zipper didn’t appeared on the market until 1950s. In 1893, Whitcomb Judson invented and marketed a “Clasp Locker”, a sort of hook-and-eye shoe fastener. He joined forces with Colonel Lewis Walker and launched the Universal Fastener Company to manufacture the new device.

The same year, “Clasp Locker” was shown at Chicago World’s Fair and also had very little commercial success because of high price and unreliability. After the Universal Fastener Company was reorganized as the “Fastener Manufacturing and Machine Company” it hired an electrical engineer Gideon Sundback in 1906 who quickly took position of a head designer who in 1913 had designed the modern zipper. He increased the number of teeth per length, made both sides to have teeth in the same shape. He also invented the manufacturing machine that made the new device that was called “Separable Fastener”. B. F. Goodrich Company name device “zipper” in 1923. First use for zippers was for closing boots and tobacco pouches. It took a while for fashion to take zippers in consideration as substitution for buttons and first in children’s clothing because children could dress themselves with zippers.


Today there are many different types of zippers. There are coil zippers (made with coils in spiral form or with coils in ladder form), invisible zippers (with teeth hidden behind a tape), metallic zippers (with teeth that are individual pieces of metal), plastic-molded zippers (identical to metallic zippers, with teeth that are plastic), open-ended zippers (which ends are not connected with each other, slider is on one end of one side and are closed when the end of the other side off the zipper is placed in the slider and slider pulled) and closed-ended zippers (which have one or the both sides closed).

Naming the Zipper

The popular “zipper” name came from the B. F. Goodrich Company, which decided to use Sundback’s fastener on a new type of rubber boots or galoshes. Boots and tobacco pouches with a zippered closure were the two chief uses of the zipper during its early years. It took 20 more years to convince the fashion industry to seriously promote the novel closure on garments.

In the 1930s, a sales campaign began for children’s clothing featuring zippers. The campaign advocated zippers as a way to promote self-reliance in young children as the devices made it possible for them to dress in self-help clothing.

Popularizing the Zipper

In 1934, the Prince of Wales gave zippers a boost when he started wearing pants with a zip fly. It wasn’t until 1937, when the zipper beat the button in what’s now referred to as the “Battle of the Fly,” that the fashion industry really began to embrace zippers in clothing. Around this time, French fashion designers began to rave over the use of zippers in men’s pants, further bolstering the device’s fashion cred. During the 1930s, zippers were even advertised as a way to promote children’s self-reliance (since the zippers allowed them to dress themselves more easily)! The zipper’s place in fashion was solidified even further when zippers that could open at both ends hit the market, allowing them to be used on jackets and coats. But it wasn’t until 1954 that Levi’s first introduced a special zippered version of its 501Z overalls, and it wasn’t until the 1970s that zippers showed up on Levi’s jeans. Today, of course, zippers are everywhere – on shoes, suitcases, clothing, and more!

The Battle of the Fly

A landmark moment happened in 1937 when the zipper beat the button in the “Battle of the Fly.” French fashion designers raved over the use of zippers in men’s trousers and Esquire magazine declared the zipper the “Newest Tailoring Idea for Men.” Among the zippered fly’s many virtues was that it would exclude “The possibility of unintentional and embarrassing disarray.

The next big boost for the zipper came when devices that open on both ends arrived, such as on jackets. Today the zipper is everywhere and is used in clothing, luggage, leather goods and countless other objects. Thousands of zipper miles are produced daily to meet the needs of consumers, thanks to the early efforts of the many famous zipper inventors.

What Does YKK Mean?

You may have seen the letters YKK stamped on the pull tab of your zipper and wondered what it means. YKK stands for Yoshida Kogyo Kabushikikaisha (which translates as Yoshida Company Ltd.). The Japanese company was founded in 1934 by Tadao Yoshida. Today, the company manufactures over 1.5 billion zippers per year to meet modern demand! Most zippers today are made by the big three – YKK, KCC Zipper, and Tex Corp – or by one of the many Chinese zipper companies in the industry. Most zippers are manufactured in the Qiaotou region of China.

The Definition of Luxury Zipper
Luxury zippers, as the name suggests, is a type of zipper specially designed to pair with luxurious garments or bags. We can expect a high level of design with luxury zippers. With designer handbags, we often see the zipper pull is shaped like the brand’s logo, as well as other special designs.

Besides design, luxury zippers are also special when we consider the manufacturing process. Most luxury zippers are manufactured with special processes including hand-made manufacturing, and are produced with extra care to ensure extra smoothness, beautiful finish, and long-lasting durability.

Most luxury zippers, but not all, are made of metal mainly for design purposes.

In short, we can conclude that luxury zippers are specially designed and manufactured zippers to pair with luxurious products.

Luxury Zippers Vs Other Zippers: The Differences
Based on what we have discussed above, here are the key differences between luxury zippers and normal zippers:

  • Luxury zipper commonly undergo special manufacturing processes to ensure its quality both in design and durability.
  • Luxury zippers are specially designed to fit luxurious products.
  • Luxury zippers are made of high-quality materials with metals being the most common choice.
  • Obviously, luxury zippers are more expensive than other types.

Luxury Zippers Applications
Luxury zippers will always be the best choice for high-end and even specific mid-end garments and bags with fashion as their emphasis. The main purpose of luxury zippers is to add nuance and fashion statement to the product.

curated by ozzie small

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