Tuesday, August 14, 2012

All Zipped Up

I was zipping up something the other day when the zipper stuck. I would have to say that this rarely happens any more, but since the location of the zipper was such that it had to be zipped up more or less completely for me to be considered part of polite society, I worked with it until it came unstuck and all was right with the world again. I won't mention the location of the aforesaid zipper, but I know that Biscuit City readers (and especially the gentlemen) are familiar with the location of this most important closure.

This quickly resolved bump in the road got me to thinking about zippers in my usual random fashion and I began wondering about the origin and history of zippers. I delved into Wikipedia for some answers and you can do the same (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zipper ), but I wanted to pu the description of a zipper here just to show how complicated these things can get:

The bulk of a zipper consists of two strips of fabric tape, each affixed to one of the two pieces to be joined, carrying from tens to hundreds of specially shaped metal or plastic teeth. These teeth can be either individual or shaped from a continuous coil, and are also referred to as elements.[1] The slider, operated by hand, moves along the rows of teeth. Inside the slider is a Y-shaped channel that meshes together or separates the opposing rows of teeth, depending on the direction of the slider's movement. "Zipper" is onomatopoeia, because it was named for the sound it makes when you use it, a high-pitched "zip!"

And just becausd I can't leave well enough alone, I want to note that "onomatapoeia" should be "onomatapoetic" and the use of "you" in the last sentence is weak. I think "named for the sound it makes when used: is better. (Someone stop me! I'm having an editing attack!) 

For one, I am glad that good old Gideon Sundback (doesn't his name sound like he could have played for a baseball team of the time? "Batting ninth and pitching, Gideon Sundback!") perfected the zipper around 1917 based on previous less effective fasteners.

I'm sorry to quibble with my good friends from WIkipedia (again!) but the memories I have as a lad of zippers are that they were anything but "perfected." I have been traumatized by a succession of jackets whose zippers stuck part way, leaving the wearer to do the Stuck Zipper Dance and wriggle out of the garment, only to repeat the process in reverse later on. Zippers really didn't improve until they were made of plastic, about the time Velcro came on the scene. I think zippers were intimidated by the unique qualities of Velcro and decided to clean up their act. And so, by and large, it has been jam-free sailing for users of zippers, which is most of us. So, today, if you are wearing a zipper, zip up! (Or zip down! I don't care) and enjoy jam-free(with a few occasional exceptions) openings and closings!

Later on in Biscuit CIty: Button, Button, Who's Got the Button?


  1. Considering all those teeth that have to mesh, it's a moderate miracle the zipper works well even half the time. Kind of like life. In the end, we're all pretty amazed and thankful to get unstuck.

  2. Know I am lagging behind, but just saw a picture of a 'zipper dress' by some designer, made up of maybe 15 pieces all zipped together in different ways to provide several different looks ( none of which are for me)....interesting concept. Maybe google it for a picture?