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Zip it up

What is a zipper?

Simply put, it is a fastening device. Zippers were previously known as clasping lockers – most commonly used for clothing, bags, luggage, sport goods, camping gear etc. Initially, it was made to be a “hookless fastener” and was later redesigned for reliability.

There are main groups of zippers which are based on different types of materials. Allow us to explain some of them:

Coil zippers are probably one of the most well-known zips. Coil zippers, often referred to as Nylon zippers, are very flexible and each tooth is connected to the next. Coil zippers are used for a variety of applications, such as camping gear, fashion and bags.

Metal zippers: The first ever zipper produced was a metal one produced in 1917 by Gideon Sundback and Whitcomb L. Judson. They are generally made of steel, zinc, brass, nickel or aluminium, and usually come with a golden brass, antique brass, antique silver, gunmetal or silver finish.

Invisible zippers are flexible and strong. Usually hidden in a seam with only the tab showing, they do not require the provision of a fly, since they are made in such a way that only a fine line seam is seen from the outside. They are also known as concealed zippers. These zippers are mainly used in dresses, skirts, blouses and cushions.

Plastic-moulded zippers are durable and strong, and are mostly used for outdoor, sports, marine and heavyweight garments. They are exactly like metal zippers, but the teeth are made of injected plastic elements, like high performance resin. The interlocking teeth are perfectly aligned in order for the slider to run in either direction.

Zippers can be open ended or close ended. Close ended ones are, for example, used on jackets and open ended ones on cushions.

It is essential to take good care of zippers, to ensure that they stay in good shape. Some tips on how to take care of you zip for durability:

–           Avoid pulling with force.

–           Zip up before washing.

–           Wash in gentle cycle.

–           Do not tumble dry.

–           Do not iron directly on the zipper, but place a light cloth or handkerchief over the garment before ironing.

–           To help unstick your garments or any gear zipper, add lubricant or graphite pencil or any other wax product. Just ensure that the wax product does not stain the fabric.

From U.S. Patent 1,219,881, the following mechanism of the zipper, developed by Gideon Sundback in 1917, is explained:

The locking members are all alike, and therefore interchangeable, and in general form consist of contractible jaw portions which are clamped upon the tape and projecting locking portions of elongated cup shape, so that the outside of one member nests within the recess of an adjoining member when in locked relation. Consequently, it will be seen that the members on one stringer alternate with those on the other, so that when the sliding operating device is moved back and forth, the locking members will be engaged and disengaged according to the direction of movement. A further feature of the invention resides in the shape and configuration of the locking members … [they are] provided with exterior and interior rounded surfaces, and are somewhat elongated transversely. Thereby, a snug fit is obtained and at the same time ample provision is given for movement of one on the other without coming out when the fastener is flexed transversely. At the same time this construction gives facility for relative longitudinal movement, without disengagement.

Zippers have evolved so much over time, and are undeniably one of the most used items worldwide. Interesting enough, YKK produces enough zippers yearly to wrap around the world 50 times. That is roughly 1.9 million km of zippers! If you would like to know more about the clasp locker – now known as the zip – have a look at Zipper: An Exploration in Novelty. “This book tells the fascinating story of how a useless technological novelty worked its way into daily life and took its place as one of the defining artifacts of the 20th century.” – Quote: Amazon



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