Sunday, February 6, 2011

The History of the Zipper

Worried about zippers in your Steampunk wardrobe? Never fear. They've been around in some form or another since the end of the 19th century.

Elias Howe patented an “automatic continuous clothing closure” on Nov. 25, 1851 (patent #8450), but he was so caught up with his other inventions (hello sewing machine!) that it wasn’t ever fully developed.

Whitcomb Judson patented the “clasp locker,” a shoe fastener on August 29th, 1893.

zipper4 - judson

He tried to market it with his company Universal Fastener Company, with business partner Colonel Lewis Walker, at the Chicago World’s Fair in 1893, but met with little interest. It was expensive to make, and didn’t perform that well – it developed a reputation for tearing fabric and popping open.


zipper2 - clasp locker

Gideon Sundback, an employee of the Universal Fastener Company, patented the “hookless fastener” in 1913, and the improved “separable fastener” on March 20, 1917, the zipper which we are familiar with today.

zipper5 - sundback2

zipper5 - sundback1

The name “zipper” was coined by the B.F. Goodrich Co. in 1925, when they began using them in their galoshes. They tried to trademark the word zipper, but were only allowed to trademark “Zipper Boots.” “Zipper” was determined to be a common noun, and too much in common usage.

They first became used in clothing in the 1930s, first in children’s clothing, and then in pants.

Since 1934, Yoshida Kogyo Kabushikikaisha (Yoshida Industries Limited) has been the leading producer of zippers, and also the machines that make zippers. They're estimated to make over 90% of the world's zippers today! That’s why so many zippers have the initials “YKK” on them.

zipper - modern

So zip away! As the years progressed, even though clothing styles in a Steampunk world may have not changed much, the ease of clothing yourself would have, I'm sure, let the zipper find its way into many a wardrobe.

1 comment:

N'Spector Phillips said...

I dare say this is a wonderful article about zippers and quite liberating as well! Zippers are sometimes frowned upon in Steampunk apparel but this affirms there validity in the era. There seems to be a lot of discrimination and exclusion in the Steampunk genre which I find very amusing since it is rooted in science fiction and speculative by nature. Jules Verne was always bringing new technologies into his stories many of which were not fully developed or not invented at all by the time they were published. So why limit the creative flow? When we are talking about fiction and inventing for fun(ction) it is infinite!