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The History of the Amazing Zipper

Readmikenow enjoys learning the history of many things. The beginning of companies, holidays, events, movies, people and more interest him.

Modern Zippers

Modern Zippers

Some researchers believe that zippers could be the first machines most people learn to master when they are children. They will remain part of a person's daily life as long as they live. Some may not think that a zipper is a machine, but it meets the criteria. It involves carefully fitted pieces of metal or plastic moving a closely coordinated item that requires force to use it properly. It also has an amazing history.

Whitcomb l. Judson

Whitcomb l. Judson

Zipper Patent

On November 7, 1891, a patent was applied for a slide fastener. Whitcomb l. Judson was listed as the inventor. At this time, Judson lived in Chicago. He gave the title of the object of his patent as the “Clasp Locker or Unlocker for Shoes.” It was U.S. Patent No. 504,038. Judson's illustration shows a high-top shoe with a row of hook-like clasps. Across from it are a row of attachments. In the middle is a slide that most people will recognize. It feeds the rows facing one another in one end causing them to be fastened together. The fastenings are referred to as clasps. When opened, they are designed to spring out from the shoe, when fastened together, the fastenings are set down.

Zipper Patent

Zipper Patent

Judson's invention was not initially popular. It was slow to catch on. The late 1800s was a time when wearing a corset was common. Its promise of swift disrobing was not embraced by many who thought of it as a novelty item. The invention started to be slowly used with handbags, money belts, tobacco pouches, slipcovers, pencil cases, sleeping bags, and more. Judson's invention started to be referred to as a “zipper” in 1923 by the B.F. Goodrich company. The invention was used as part of the company's sports shoes and galoshes.

Harry Earle

Judson's first partner for his zipper enterprise was Harry Earle of Minneapolis. Early was an inspired promoter of Judson's fastener idea. Earle worked hard to obtain capital, so he could put Judson's idea into production. He went to Europe with the goal of selling the rights to the zipper invention. He had no success. Earle was eventually able to obtain capital and started working from New Jersey to promote the zipper. Judson made his final contribution to the zipper in 1904. He significantly simplified his invention. Judson made the fastener into a series of hooks and eyes going to the edge of a tape cloth. This made it possible for a zipper to be sewn into many different types of fabric items. Judson was now able to introduce his invention as a fastener.

1930s Advertisement for children's clothing

1930s Advertisement for children's clothing

Success

The work clothing that people used such as overalls were not influenced by societal tradition such as suits. The manufacturers of work clothing were more open to using the zipper in their products without regard to the cost. Special efforts were made by zipper manufacturers to have their products used with children’s clothes. A promotional campaign was launched that told parents they were holding their children back if they didn't provide zippered clothing for their kids. This had a very positive response from department stores in the early 1930s. A common advertisement involved the zipper and a young boy. In the advertisement, the young boy stated that he could beat all the other boys undressing when it comes time to go swimming.

Advertisement for men's clothing with zippers

Advertisement for men's clothing with zippers

Men's Clothing

Repeated attempts were made to try to get zippers to become a popular part of adult clothes. This eventually occurred in 1937 with men's clothes. This is when the Duke of Windsor wanted to have trousers with a zipper in them. This one incident eliminated the resistance of tailors around the world. The zipper was soon no longer something unknown to most men. The zipper device was now being used in everything from hunting jackets to trousers as well as overshoes and more. The public began to see the zipper as inconspicuous, dependable as most of all, convenient. By the time 1938 rolled around, over 20 percent of men's clothing had zippers. Soon, only the most stubborn people didn't wear clothing with zippers.

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Fashion Designer Elsa Schiaparelli

Fashion Designer Elsa Schiaparelli

Women's Clothing

In 1935, zippers were seen in high fashion. A collection of gowns by designer Elsa Schiaparelli had noticeable zippers with contrasting colors. Zippers started to become common in women's fashion in 1937. This is when the smaller zipper in clothing developed a reputation for being very secure. Zippers were also being regularly displayed in fashion magazines. This was a time when fashion was focused on trim, sleek lines.

Increased Popularity

By the time 1939 came around over three hundred million zippers were being manufactured annually. This is double the number of zippers that were manufactured in the two previous years. When 1950 arrived, annual sales of zippers amounted to over a billion dollars.

Original Zipper Material

The first manufacturers of zippers produced a metal product. It was good to use thick materials and strong metal. These metal zippers were usually made of brass, aluminum, and nickel. As the zippers gained popularity, they were eventually made of plastic. These zippers were pliable, soft, and easy to maintain. Zippers now come in various materials such as colored metallic, coils, and more.

Plastic zippers

Plastic zippers

Before the zipper was invented the only option for securing clothes and other items was buttons. They were often difficult to use. A little over a century ago the zipper was considered something futuristic. Today, it is accepted as a common element in many different products. The zipper is now a $13 billion-a-year industry and has every indication of experiencing continued growth. Society has embraced zippers as it has shown the world it is much more secure and easy to use than a button.

Sources

Invention and Technology

Bloomberg

The Inventors

Sapiens

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2021 Readmikenow

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