It was Gideon Sundback who having spent the better part of twenty years perfecting the device patented the “Hookless fastener, No. 2” in 1917. However, it was Elias Howe, the inventor of the sewing machine, who came up with the original design looking for a device to securely fasten shoes and boots, without the need for time consuming hook and eye, or button fasteners.
The popular ‘zipper’ name came from the B. F. Goodrich Company, when they decided to use Gideon’s fastener on a new type of rubber boots or galoshes and renamed the device the zipper, the name that lasted. Boots and tobacco pouches with a zippered closure were the two chief uses of the zipper during its early years. It took twenty more years to convince the fashion industry to seriously promote the novel closure on garments.
It wasnt until the 1930’s that the Zipper became widespread in clothing. It was first popularised by marketers as a device in childrens clothing, to help them dress themselves. However, it was not considered for ladies attire, as it would make undressing too easy, and thus lower the moral standards of the nation.
Some designers loved that idea, and ran with it. It was Elsa Schiapelli who first incorporated zip fasteners into her designs. She made a feature of them, revelling in their racy connotations.
Most fashion designers only began to see the myriad of possibilities after after the zipper beat the button in the amusing “Battle of the Fly” in 1937 ; Esquire magazine concluded the “new” zippered fly would end “the possibility of unintentional and embarrassing disarray,” tapping into that somewhat imagined “gaposis” crisis of the ’20s. Conservative tailors who disdained zipper flies as vulgar but who couldn’t argue with its ultimate popularity created a fold of cloth to conceal the zipper, which is, of course, the standard in flies today.
By 1939 approximately three hundred million zippers were being sold. The success of the zipper was ensured. Thus it continues to be the fastener of choice that we all now take for granted.
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