For most people it’s impossible to imagine life without a zipper. Really. How would you close your pants? Buttons? What about your purse? What about your laptop bag? Zippers are everywhere. Yet, believe it or not, it wasn’t until just before the second World War that they got popular. Some of us still have relatives who grew up in the age before zippers. That’s weird, right?
The modern zipper was invented around 1913 as a replacement for awful hook-and-eye fasteners (if you don’t know what those are, that tells you how much better zippers are.) What’s amazing is that the zipper didn’t take the world by storm right away. The first known widespread use of the zipper wasn’t in pants, it was in… rubber boots.
Rubber boots were a pretty high-tech item back in the 1920s. I mean, think about a world where your feet are always wet. A pair of galoshes must have seemed like the coolest thing ever. They were hard to get on and off though, and by the 1930s someone thought to put a zipper on rubber boots. It was then that the zipper, once known by the catchy name of “hookless fastener” got its name. Goodrich’s “zipper boots” were so named for the sound they made while closing, and while zippers themselves are known for not sticking, the name stuck quite nicely. It was another decade or so before zippers started appearing in clothing, and they first showed up on children’s clothes because kids had trouble buttoning or lacing their pants. (Lacing their pants!) It wasn’t long before the zipper was everywhere.
The height of the zipper’s popularity was 40 years later when multiple, largely useless, zippers started appearing on clothing. Today the zipper has slipped back into doing honest yeoman’s work, keeping your clothes fastened. It’s just hard to imagine that the humble zipper has been around barely 100 years and we can’t live without it.