Archived Story

Zippers have come a long way

Published 9:15pm Wednesday, February 1, 2012

When you put on your coat and zip it up do you think what you would do without the zipper? When you get that zipper caught and have to work at it to loosen it, do you use an expletive that is not publishable?
When we encounter the word laces we seem to automatically think of shoelaces. But who thought of the zipper and laces to keep our clothes on our bodies?
Laces are the strings that hold our shoes on our feet. But from early times laces were used to hold garments on our bodies. Strings of material were either sewn onto the fabric as ties or were looped through holes made in the cloth. Women’s dresses and men’s tunics were laced up with these ties.
Today we are long way from those early laces; through the years other things have taken their place
Think of the hook and eye. A hook-and-eye closure is a very simple and secure method of fastening garments together. It consists of a metal hook, commonly made of flattened wire bent to the required  hook shape, and an eye of the same material into which the hook fits. These are very small and can give an invisible appearance when sewn inside the garment.
The hook and eye closure has a long history and is still used today, primarily on brassieres. Hooks and eyes were made by hand from wire, until the city of Redditch, England, already famous for needle manufacture, was the first to machine-manufacture them.
The hook and eye played an important role in women’s corsetry. It was not until the first part of the 19th century that the industry was furthered in the United States.
One of the greatest improvements in the attachment was the “Delong hump,” patented in 1889 by the Richardson & Delong Hook and Eye Co. of Philadelphia, which was a raised elevation or “hump” in the wire hook that prevented the eye from slipping out of the hook.
Snap fasteners (most commonly known as “snaps”) date back as far as the 1800s when the sew-on snaps were used for costumes and lingerie. It wasn’t until the 1940s that the four-part gripper style snaps were introduced to the home sewing consumers. This style of snap fastener revolutionized the way sewing consumers used snaps. Up until then, the only large garment manufacturers were able to use precision automatic equipment to attach snaps onto clothing.
A snap is a pair of interlocking discs commonly used in place of buttons to fasten clothing. A circular lip under one disc fits into a groove on the top of the other, holding them fast until a certain amount of force is applied. Snap fasteners are often used in children’s clothing, as they are relatively easy for children to use.
Snap fasteners were first patented by German inventor Heribert Bauer in 1885 as the “Federknopf-Verschluss,” a novelty fastener for men’s trousers. Some attribute the invention to Bertel Sanders, of Denmark. These first versions featured an S-shaped spring in the top disc instead of a groove. However, it wasn’t until Jack Weil (1901-2008) modified the design and put snaps on his iconic Western shirts that the term “snap” became commonplace and that snaps became of feature of much Western Wear.
It was a long way up for the humble zipper, the mechanical wonder that has kept so much in our lives together. On its way up the zipper has passed through the hands of several dedicated inventors; none convinced the general public to accept the zipper as part of everyday costume. The magazine and fashion industry made the novel zipper the popular item it is today, but it happened nearly eighty years after the zipper’s first appearance.
Elias Howe, who invented the sewing machine received a patent in 1851 for an “Automatic, Continuous Clothing Closure.” Perhaps it was the success of the sewing machine, which caused Elias not to continue working on marketing his clothing closure. As a result, Howe missed his chance to become the recognized ‘Father of the Zip.’
Forty-four years later, Whitcomb Judson marketed a “Clasp Locker” a device similar to the 1851 Howe patent. Being first to market gave Whitcomb the credit of being the inventor of the zipper; however, his 1893 patent did not use the word zipper.
The next big boost for the zipper came when zippers could open on both ends, as on jackets. Today the zipper is everywhere, in clothing, luggage and leather goods and countless other objects.
In modern clothing and fashion design, a button is a small fastener, most commonly made of plastic, but also frequently of seashell, which secures two pieces of fabric together. Buttons serving as fasteners work by slipping through a fabric or thread loop, or by sliding through a buttonhole.
Buttons made from seashells found in Niles are in the Edwardsburg Museum.
Because buttons have been manufactured from almost every possible material, both natural and synthetic, and combinations of both, the history of the material composition of buttons reflects the timeline of materials technology.
Nowadays, hard plastic, seashell and wood are the most common materials used in button-making; the others tending to be used only in premium or antique apparel, or found in collections.
Information for this article was found on Wikipedia.

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