Can you imagine our lives without zippers? This little fastening device is everywhere; on our trousers, jackets, boots, luggage, tents, you name it, and we take it for granted. I bet you don’t even think about it when you get dressed in the morning. And yet, it is one of the great inventions that have made our lives so much easier. To illustrate how much this simple device helps us, picture yourself in one of those never-ending queues in the ladies when you’re in a hurry. Now add a few drinks to that situation. Think of the desperation you’d feel having to undo all the fly buttons of your pants if you didn’t have a zipper! See what I mean?
The super handy device was created by the same inventor of the sewing machine, Elias Howe, who patented is as the “Automatic Continuous Clothing Closure” in 1851.
But it was only forty years later that another inventor, Whitcomb Judson, marketed the smart closure system, naming it “Clasp Locker”. The Chicago inventor became known as “father of the zipper” even though this name had not been used yet. He launched with a businessman, Coronel Lewis Walker, the Universal Fastener Company, and presented the clasp locker - with little commercial success - at the 1893 Chicago World Fair.
Later, they hired a Swedish electrical engineer to work for the Universal Fastener Company, Gideon Sundback, who became Head Designer at the factory. He improved Judson’s device, and by 1913, what we know today as the zipper was ready. Four years later, the patent for the “Separable Fastener” was issued. Sundback also created the machine to produce the fastener, which was mainly used on boots and tobacco pouches. The B. F. Goodrich Company started making a new type of rubber boots that came with the “Separable Fastener”, and they named the fastener: Zipper!
The famous zipper took more than twenty years to become part of fashion. In the ’30s, a campaign promoted the modern fastening device as a way to help children get dressed by themselves. By 1937, the zipper had beaten the button in the “Battle of the Fly”, being called by Esquire Magazine the “Newest Tailoring Idea for Men.”
So next time you close carelessly your pants, jacket or bag, remember to thank the creativity and hard work of the zipper inventors!