Zip, Zip, Zip.
They all share in common the magic of a little thing known as a zipper.
As I struggled this morning to cram three pillows and the extra clothes I’ve purchased for our new “working people” roles here in Auckland, New Zealand, I found myself marvelling at the wonders of the zipper.
It’s (probably) obvious (to most people) how a zipper works, but I am immensely grateful for the zipper’s ability to hold my life together as we travel around the world.
And so, in sincere appreciation for this little device, I thought I’d share with you some of the history, finer points, and uses of zippers.
Did you know:
In British English, a zipper is known simply as a zip (or occasionally a zip fastener)
The same guy who invented the sewing machine (with MASSIVE success) first patented the idea of a zipper in the 1850’s. (He didn’t market it, presumably because he was busy with the sewing machine.)
Zippers were first thought of as a way for closing up your boots easier than laces.
A guy named Gideon Sundback, who was born in Sweden and trained as an electrical engineer married the daughter of (and worked for) the owner of the Universal Fastener Company. When Sundback wife’s died in 1911, he became completely devoted to his work and designed the modern zipper by December 1913.
The popular “zipper” name came from the B. F. Goodrich Company when they used it to describe the fastening device in marketing for a kind of rubber boots they were selling.
The two chief uses of the zipper in its early years were for boots and tobacco pouches.
In the 1920’s, Clergy in many parts of the UK and USA were originally opposed to zippers. They thought that because zippers allowed people to take off their clothes too quickly, the widespread use of zippers would promote illicit sexual activity (which came first? The activity or the zipper?)
It wasn’t until the 1930’s that zippers were heavily used in clothing, and the marketing campaigns of the time shared that zippers were a good way to promote self-reliance and independence for children. Zippers would make it easier/quicker for children to dress themselves.
Types of zippers
- Coil zippers are made of polyester coil and are thus also known as polyester zippers. Nylon was formerly used and though only polyester is used now, the type is still known as a nylon zipper.
- “Invisible zippers” have teeth that are behind the tape. The tape’s color matches the garment’s, as does the slider, so that, except the slider, the zipper is “invisible”. This kind of a zipper is common in skirts and dresses.
- Metallic zippers are the classic zipper type, found mostly in jeans today. Metal zippers are made in brass, aluminium, and nickel.
- Plastic-molded zippers are identical to metallic zippers, except that the teeth are plastic instead of metal. Metal zippers can be painted to match the surrounding fabric; plastic zippers can be made in any color of plastic.
- Closed-ended zippers are closed at both ends; they are often used in baggage.
Next time you haphazardly slide up a zipper and get something stuck in it (hopefully not in the “Something About Mary” way), I hope that reading this post will help you appreciate the 150 years of history which make that zipper possible for you.