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The History of Zippers in menswear

Discussion in 'The Fedora Lounge Guides' started by Dinerman, Jun 13, 2013.

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  1. Dinerman

    Dinerman Super Moderator Bartender

    Pre-History
    In 1891, Whitcomb L. Judson invented the direct ancestor to the zipper, a new fastener for shoes and boots. He called it the "clasp locket or locket for shoes." In 1893, Colonel Lewis Walker saw this new fastener at the Chicago World's fair, and saw its potential. He backed the invention, and in 1894 formed the Universal Fastener Company. The Fastener Manufacturing Machine Company later came into being to improve the design of the fastener, and to devise a way to mass produce it. This company was later re-organized as the Automatic Hook and Eye Company. In 1905, Automatic Hook and Eye released the C-Curity placket fastener, primarily for use in shoes and women's clothes. It proved a failure on the market, owing to its tendency to pop open during use.

    In 1906, Automatic Hook and Eye hired Gideon Sundback, formerly with Westinghouse Electric, to improve the design of the fastener. In 1908, the company introduced the Plako fastener, which also proved commercially nonviable. In 1912, Sundback produced the first "modern" zipper design, which was patented and went into production in 1913. The company was re-organized as the Hookless Fastener Company. In 1928, the name of the product (but not the company) was changed to "Talon". In 1937, the corporate name was changed to Talon Inc.

    1893
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    1904
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    1908
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    1914. Recognizable as a modern zipper. Teeth are still made to roughly the same design.
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    Last edited: Jun 13, 2013
  2. Dinerman

    Dinerman Super Moderator Bartender

    Early Usage
    The original zipper design had a fixed, non separable end. It first showed up on money belts, luggage and footwear like the Zipper overshoe, from which the Zipper gets its name. In clothing, it proved popular in children's clothes, with the idea being that it was easier for children to manage a slid fastener than buttons or hook and eye fasteners. In menswear, it was seen early-on in combination garments: coveralls, flight suits, and one piece suits for boating.

    1922
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    Zippers Come To Footwear

    The original 1893 patent shows the ancestor of the zipper on a shoe, and one of their first practical applications was on footwear. The B.F. Goodrich rubber company employed the slide fastener on their "Zipper" line of overshoes in 1923, and later on their "Zip" line of athletic shoes.
    Despite the "zipper" name being a trademark for a brand of overshoes, and the fastener itself being referred to alternately as a "Hookless Fastener", "Talon Fastener", or "Slide Fastener", the zipper name stuck with people for the fastener itself. By the mid 1920s, other products began to refer to the fastener as a "zip" or a "zipper".

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    Zippers Come To Underwear

    Manufacturers of union suits were always experimenting with new methods of fastening their product. The Hatchway, for instance, employed no buttons, favoring an elaborate series of overlapping layers. Employing zippers in the design only made sense, but never caught on. For such an inexpensive article of clothing, the zipper fastener, especially in the early days, drove the price into a different bracket.

    Blue Streak Union Suits, 1926
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    Zippers Come to Shirts

    Zippers replaced buttons on some brands of work shirts by the 1920s. The pullover styling and attached collar of work shirts in this period lent themselves well to this conversion. Half-zip work shirts are still made today. Despite repeated attempts over the decades to bring the zipper to dress shirts, it never successfully made the leap.

    Spaide-lox zip front shirts, 1928
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    Last edited: Jun 13, 2013
  3. Dinerman

    Dinerman Super Moderator Bartender

    Zippers Come To Jackets
    The fully separable zipper was invented in 1927 by Gideon Sundback. It’s covered by patents 1813433 and 1813432. Whether it took a bit of time to perfect the design, or to re-work equipment to manufacture the new component, or for jacket companies to get on board, the new design was not really seen on jackets until 1930. Ads from 1930 hail it as a new feature, and are impossible to locate from the late 1920s, so it is likely (though not certain) that the separable bottom didn't make it to mainstream manufacturers until that point.

    Half-zip design from 1929, before the adoption of the separable bottom zipper.
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    Early full zipper fronted model, dating from 1930.
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    Zippers Come To Pants
    By the 1920s, zippers had started to show up on pants, but mostly were reserved for children's clothes.
    Many sources credit Edward VIII (then the Prince of Wales, later the Duke of Windsor) use of a zipper c.1935 in his trouser for popularizing zippers in men's pants and jackets. The zipper had already been in use in jackets for more than a decade at that point, and was used in sportswear. Its rise in popularity in 1937 for pants probably had much more to do with a massive media campaign by Talon. The invention of the "locking" zipper, with a prong securing the slider to the teeth cemented the idea of the zipper as a "secure" alternative to the button fly.

    Early adoption of the zipper on pants, 1925
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    1932
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    1939, by which point zippers on the flies of men's pants started to enter mainstream fashion.
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    Last edited: Jun 13, 2013
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