National Zipper Day commemorates April 29, 1913, when the patent for the modern zipper was issued. The day celebrates something that we often do not think about and may automatically take for granted.
- The first attempt at creating the zipper came from the inventor of the sewing machine. In 1851, Elias Howe received a patent for the “Automatic, Continuous Clothing Closure.” However, Howe never marketed his invention and missed the recognition he may have received.
- Forty-two years later, Whitcomb Judson began selling the “Clasp Locker.” Very similar to Elias Howe’s patent, this device served as a more complicated hook-and-eye shoe fastener.
- Judson started the Universal Fastener Company where he manufactured his new device and debuted it at the Chicago World’s Fair in 1893. There he met with very little success. Because Judson put his invention before the public for sale, he earned credit as its creator.
- In 1906, the Universal Fastener Company also hired Gideon Sundback, a Swedish-American electrical engineer. He was highly skilled and known for his devotion to the company.
- On April 29, 1913, he was granted a patent for the modern zipper, known then as the “Separable Fastener.”
- He submitted modifications to his invention in 1917. Today we wear designs quite similar to the ones Sundback created in his patent. While he may have called them a separable fastener, we know them as zippers.
- By 1923, B.F. Goodrich popularized the word zipper as it applied to use in the boots and pouches it made. The company even copyrighted the name for a time.
- 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.
- 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.”
- There are 4.5 billion zippers of all kinds consumed in the U.S. per year. That’s 14 zippers for every American per year. (as of 2014)
- YKK has the industry all zipped up: The company accounts for 46 percent of the global zipper market.
- Every year, YKK produces enough zippers to wrap around the world 50 times. That’s 1.2 million miles of zippers!
- Counterfeit zippers are big business: YKK says it gets a call a day from U.S. Customs about potential fakes.
- That tiny hole in the tab on the end of your zipper pull has more than just an aesthetic function. If you’ve ever had a stuck zipper, you’re probably well aware of the frustration of trying to grip that tiny piece of metal, only to have it slip out of your fingers time and time again. That’s where the hole in your zipper comes in.
- If you need a bit more force with which to pull your zipper, you can thread a string or thin piece of fabric through the hole. Give that string a tug and, thanks to physics, voila! Your zipper becomes unstuck—and you haven’t sacrificed the skin on your fingertips to do it.