Invention of the Zipper: Who Invented the Zipper?

Who invented the zipper? How was the zipper invented? It was not very easy to come to the present state of the zipper, which is a modest accessory despite being produced billions of times every day and having a considerable amount of demand throughout many sectors. The zipper has undergone many design changes since it was first invented. We owe the widespread popularity of the modern zipper to the mind and incredible patience of the inventors who invented and developed it.

History of the Zipper

When we go back to the first product resembling to the zipper, we encounter Elias Howe, who was a master of the sewing machine. Howe designed something similar in 1851 on a jumper and registered the first patent under the name “Automatic Continuous Clothing Closure”. This first model of the zipper consisted of hooks extending along a wire and interlocking with each other. Although this product resembled today’s zippers, there were many other ways to accomplish the task. As a result, Howe did not pursue this new product and perhaps missed the opportunity to become the inventor of the zipper. Perhaps he thought, “I invented the sewing machine, let someone else invent the zipper”. Who knows?


Elias Howe


First zipper prototype

who invented the zipper?

Whitcomb L. Judson

Just 40 years after Howe, another inventor, Whitcomb L. Judson, patented a product called “Clasp Locker or Unlocker for Shoes“. This product was actually the predecessor of today’s zipper slider. When the slider slid, the shoelaces of the shoe were interlocked and locked in the same way. This slider was not on the shoe but could be removed and stored after use. Unfortunately, this product did not stick because its very specific design made production difficult and time-consuming.

Whitcomb got his second patent two years later. With this new product, hooks were made from big hooks. Called “C-curity“, this product had a series of short, metal extensions (rather than today’s zipper teeth) sewn on by hand. With this new design, an important stage in the history of the zipper was born because there was now a product that worked as a whole, rather than just single hooks. But guess what happened? Yes, this product did not stick either! It did not stick, because the product separated after it was zipped.

Who Invented the Zipper? The Inventor of the Zipper


Inventor of the Zipper: Gideon Sundback

And then we get to Gideon Sundback, who is the man we recognize as the inventor of the zipper.

Gideon Sundback, the inventor of the zipper, was an engineer born in Sweden who emigrated to America. He developed a product called the “Plako Fastener” by taking designs made before him. This product housed oval hooks extending out of the lanyard to which they were attached and was more reliable than the “C-curity” design with regards to separating. But since its stiffness did not allow for flexibility, it also had a problem with separating.

Transition to Final Design and Production

Sundback, in 1913, redesigned this design and developed a new model. In this new model, instead of hooks as zipper teeth, he used the oval scoop system sitting on top of each other. These scoop-like teeth were clamped together in a simple motion as a result of the slider passing by. This final model is the modern zipper we still use today. Although successful, this model took time to find its place in the industrial market.

Initially, zippers were only used in boots and tobacco pouches. During World War I, the zipper’s reputation increased. Military designers began to use zippers in flight covers and belt packs.

In essence, the first zipper produced was the metal zipper. Metal zippers were easily able to be used in heavy objects and thick materials. Metal zippers, made of aluminum, nickel or brass, have begun to enter every aspect of life, especially with regards to jeans. The increasingly important zippers are made from more flexible and lightweight materials such as plastic and nylon. The zipper has become indispensable for humanity in many areas of life, especially with regards to clothing.