A zipper is a device that temporarily joins two edges of fabric. It is used in clothing, luggage and other bags, sporting goods, camping gear, and other daily use items.

The edges are fixed with tens to hundreds of specially shaped metal or plastic teeth. The teeth, also referred to as elements, can be individual or a continuous coil. The slider moves along the rows of teeth and meshes them together and separates them depending on the direction of the slider’s movement.

Zippers are used to increase and decrease the size of an opening, join two ends of fabric such as in a jacket, and possibly used for decoration. These various things are achieved by sewing one end of the zipper together, sewing both ends together, or allowing both ends of the zipper to come completely apart.

Although zippers are relatively cheap, if they fail a garment can become unusable unless repaired. After a lot of wear and tear the zipper can jam or break off.

Elias Howe, inventor of the sewing machine, received a patent in 1851 for an “Automatic, Continuous Clothing Closure”. However, due to his success of his sewing machine he failed to market the zipper and therefore never received much recognition for it.

Whitcomb Judson created the “Clasp Locker” and it was met with success in 1893. Gideon Sundback, an electrical engineer, created the modern zipper in 1913. Sundback’s design increased the number of fastening elements from four per inch to ten or eleven, introduced two facing rows of teeth, and increased the opening for the teeth guided by the slider. Within his first year of operating Sundback’s machinery was producing a few hundred feet of fastener per day.
The B. F. Goodrich Company came up with the name “zipper” and it stuck. In its early years the zipper was used for closing boots and tobacco pouches. It took until about 20 years later that the fashion industry really embraced the zipper on garments.

In the 1930’s children’s clothes began using zippers to allow them to dress themselves. The zipper beat out the button in 1937 to be the closure of choice on pant fronts. The most recent innovation in the zipper’s design was the option that zipper could open from both ends.