One of my hubbys oft used sayings to me is “Zippit”…..but he isn’t referring to the zippers on my bags! It is his ever so nice way (NOT!) of telling me to shut up when I yak too much! (ME? YAK too much?? NEVER!) BUT….today I don’t want to talk about my hubby….anyone else’s hubby or indeed my gum flapping abillities!….Lets talk ZIPPERS instead!

Since I live out in the country, it just isn’t practical for me to rush off to the shop everytime I need a zipper….sooo…I buy them in bulk:

I know it doesn’t look like it, but there are 400+ zippers in those two baskets! Most of them are over 41cm (16″) long. I buy them long simply so I always have the right zipper on hand….I just cut them down to the size I need! Later in the series, I will show you just how to do that properly! 🙂

Today though….I ask….How many of you know how old the zipper is?

Granted I didn’t realise the humble zipper has been around as long as it has until I started to do a little research myself! LOL The Zipper’s history dates back more than 150 years ago to 1851!

Actually first thought of by none other than Elias Howe, the inventer of the sewing machine! (Didn’t you know Elias Howe invented the sewing machine? LOL, that’s OK, neither did I! LOLL)

His design was called “Automatic Clothing Continuous Closure” and while it had a similar funtion to today’s zipper, it was actually quite different. It consisted of individual clasps that were joined manually before using a string to pull it shut! How awkward! LOLLL

It wasn’t until more than 40 years later that another inventor brought a similiar device to the public. Whitcomb Judson, who was a Chicago mechanical engineer, patented his device called a “Clasp Locker” in 1893 and so he was credited for being the “Inventor of the zipper”!

Whitcomb Judson


Funnily I ‘had’ pictured the inventor of the zipper to be some savvy housewife making herself a new BAG! Guess I was wrong! LOL! Anyway….Whitcomb formed a Company called “Universal Fastener Company” with Colonel Lewis Walker, another businessman and they went on to mass produce the “Clasp Locker”. I have to admit I am glad we don’t call it that now….imagine hubby telling me to ‘clasp your locker shut!’ It just doesn’t seem to have the same impact, does it? LOLLL

Those early designs were complicated and did not receive much public attention however this did not deterr Whitcomb who went on to further develop similar products by hiring many designers, one of which was a Swedish immigrant and electrical engineer by the name of Gideon Sundback who was hired to improve the design.

Gideon Sundback


The first of Gideon’s designs was introduced in 1913 and had interlocking oval loops that used a slider in a scoop to lock it together instead of the hooks of earlier designs. His design was patented originally as a “Hookless Fastener”  BUT further improvements saw the development of the “Separable Fastener” patented in 1917.

Sundback zipper 1917 patent


The US Army was Sundback’s first customer during world war 1, seeing them installed in clothing and battlegear and because people didn’t know how to use them, they came with instructions! Haha….can you imagine that?

The name “Zipper” came about from B.F.Goodrich, who ordered 150,000 of these for his new product – rubber boots. He noticed the boots could be fastened with a single motion of the hand, creating a zzziping sound! What a clever man to put two and two together and come up with a name like that! LOLLL

Mind you, it took many years before the fashion industry came to realise the potential of the zipper. They started to promote it with a sales campaign featuring childrens clothing with zippers in the 1930’s. The campaign promoted the zipper as an aid for self reliance in young children by making it possible for them to dress themselves….

1932 children talon ad


By the late 1930’s the fashion industry started to embrace the zipper and it could be found in many mens apparel such as shoes, trousers, overalls and hunting jackets!



Elsa Schiaperelli, an Italian Fashion Designer, was among the first clothing designers to use zippers in women’s fashion and zippers were used extensively in her 1935 spring collection!



Originally in the 1960s the market was dominated by the Talon Zipper (USA) and Optilon (Germany). However by the 1980’s the industry was soon to be dominated by the Japanese manufacturer YKK who held 45% of the world market share, followed by Optilon (8%) and Talon Zipper (7%). The apparel industry also saw Tex Corp as a significant supplier. The Cremalleras Rubi, a european company, sold over 30 million zippers in 2012 and gee…I had never even heard of them! LOLL

Of course, today the zipper is found in all sort of places such as bags (Of course!) clothing, luggage, leather goods, and various other objects BUT definitely NOT attached to my gums, although, believe it or not, there ARE surgical zippers available today, first tested in 2000, these are laid over the incision and then zips the wound shut!

I must admit I can’t even begin to imagine life without the humble zipper, can you?

Next post we’ll take a look at the anatomy of a zipper!

Until then I’ll zippit! 🙂

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  1. We call them zips in the UK and I thought everyone did til all of my international testers kept highlighting my ‘spelling mistake’ and recommending I correct them to ‘zipper’!!

  2. What an interesting post. So geeky! I learned so much. You made me laugh out loud for sure. In spanish is “cremallera” although here in Puerto Rico we say many words in english (even people who hardly speak english)and zipper is one of them. Here they also sell a cheaper brand called “Jet”,(not sure where it comes from) and the Coats and Clarks.

  3. Great post, Christine. I was born in Akron, Ohio which was the home of B.F. Goodrich. Because of this Akron claims the connection to the name “zipper”. In the 1920’s the local university, The University of Akron, had a contest to name their teams and “The Zippers” won. It was later shortened to “The Zips” and it remains that today. Guess what the mascot is? A kangaroo named Zippy—for the pouch I guess. That must be my connection to Australia!

  4. LOLLL Oh well….at least you could blow them a raspberry and point out it wasn’t really a spelling mistake at all! It’s fun discovering how the same things are called something different in other countries… Chooks is one of them…..the first Time I mentioned to one of my international friends that I was having ‘chook’ for dinner…they replied with “whaaaatttt?”…like it was something I imported from another planet!….LOLLLL

  5. Oh yes….Coats and Clarks zippers….I have come across them before too BUT had forgotten about them until you mentioned them! LOL Haven’t heard of “Jet” before though…BUT….I think I will stick with the term ‘zipper’, “Cremallera” is too much of a tongue twister for me! LOLL

  6. Oh that’s funny Marilyn! You hear of these famous people BUT don’t really think about someone you know maybe coming from their neck of the woods also! LOL We have a famous “Skippy” Kangaroo here in Aus…..from an Australian television series created by John McCallum, produced from 1966–1968, telling the adventures of a young boy and his intelligent pet kangaroo….not that it has anything to do with zippers BUT it was the first thing I thought of when you mentioned Zippy! LOLLL

  7. Very interesting post!!
    Thanks, i learned something today.
    I buy what we call ” endless zipper” buy the length you want ( 5 meters ) and then cut off the length you need…pull in the zip thing and viola always the right size on hand!! Which reminds me i need to order more zippers !! 🙂
    BTW…what the heck is chook ???

  8. Christine…you left us in suspense!!! I would like to know what chook is, too!!! 🙂 I love learning new words to things we might share in common.
    Fascinating post–I learn a lot from these. I’ve come to appreciate zippers again now that I’m sewing more bags! 🙂

  9. LOLLLLLLLLL a “Chook” is poultry…..a chicken! LOLLLLL
    Oh and yes….we have those endless zippers here too BUT only available in black and white around here and only come with 2 sliders per metre and they don’t sell extras anymore either so not much good to me! LOLLLL

  10. LOLLLLL….Chook = Poultry…..chicken! LOLLLL Maybe I should do a post about some of the things we have different names for! Could be interesting! LOLLL
    Yes… is easy to forget just how much we rely on the humble zippers these days…..when you take notice, they are everywhere! LOLL PLUS not as hard to sew as a lot of people think, I might add! Quite easy in fact, once you know how….which is like most things I guess! LOLL

  11. Great post Christine – who would have thought the history of zips would be so convoluted and interesting! Thanks for all your research and sharing what you found!
    Thanks for linking to a Round Tuit!
    Hope you have a fabulous week!
    Jill @ Creating my way to Success >

  12. Thanks Jill…I actually enjoyed finding out more about the humble zipper…..I had never really thought about it before though….just took it for granted like most of us, I guess! LOLLLL

  13. I grew up between the West Indies and North America so both seemed perfectly natural to me and it never occurred to me that some people might think one spelling was wrong — until I started joining bag-making groups and zips/zippers became more than a daily word.

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