Friday, December 13, 2013


My jacket has a zipper,
it's slick as it can be.
Closing it keeps me comfy
in the winter-time, you see.

But darn!  I can't work my zipper.
Oh, snap!

Herewith we have illustrated the zipper tale with a photo of a portion of my favorite winter jacket, down-filled, cozy and defiant of winter's windy blasts.  The jacket is replete with many zippers, each functioning to keep the occupant warm, or the owner's possessions safe.

The "Automatic, Continuous Clothing Closure" was conceived by Elias Howe of sewing machine inventing fame in 1851.  He didn't do anything much with his idea.  But along came Whitcomb Judson who improved on the idea and patented his "Clasp Locker" in 1893.  He marketed the product, but with small success.

Then along came Gideon Sundback who went to work for Judson's company and who in 1917 patented the closure in form much as we know it today.  It was first dubbed "Zipper," though, by the B.F. Goodrich Company which utilized it as closure for galoshes.  For a long time, the zipper's primary use was for footwear and tobacco pouches.  It was not until the late thirties that fashion designers finally caught on.1

Thus with this introduction, we are ready to return to the bit of doggerel with which the piece opened.  As a boy, of course, I buttoned my fly much in the same manner as I buttoned my shirt, teaching my little fingers the intricacies of grasping the placket and twisting the button carefully as I guided it through the buttonhole.  I am sure you can imagine the elation I experienced when I finally got trousers with a zipper!2  This started a life-long appreciation for this type closure, and I became quite adept not only at using them myself, but at assisting tiny tots (being a father and an elementary school teacher), and at unclogging and repairing the things.

Of course, therefore, I am stunned and saddened, nay, amazed and angry, to find that I can no longer work the zippers on my jackets.  And the fly is becoming a hassle as well.  Had you encountered the little me seventy-five years ago and noted that my fly was open, you could pretty much be assured that the boy was in too much of a hurry to complete the job properly.  Should you encounter a doddering old man shuffling along with his habiliments in a state of disarray, be considerate.  Life is not a bowl of cherries, and zipping is not always an easy glide.3

1 info gleaned from
2 Some people still pay extra to get the old-fashioned button flies.  Well, different strokes.
3The zipper difficulty I have is basically with my winter jackets.  The memory difficulty I have basically applies to everything.  Oh, dear.  This is Friday the Thirteenth.


Vee said...

Great reminder that the conveniences in our lives are the inventions of great minds (but that they can also be the annoyances that make us want to take up swearing.)

Grace said...

Love the doggerel, Hate zippers - Snaps are, well, snappy!

Sharkbytes said...

Wow- I knew they were invented late 1800's but not that they weren't in general use till the 1930s. Very interesting. So my parents would have remembered pre common zipper times. Sorry you are having trouble with them. Need ones with bigger tabs?

Sharkbytes said...

PS- bigger tabs will work on jackets. Maybe not flys. (Do you write flies when they are in pants?) Anyway... buttons can't be easy for old fingers either. Sweat pants? Is that why old people wear them?

Secondary Roads said...

In answer to Sharkbytes' question, Yes that is why we wear sweat pants.

Not all zippers are created equal.

vanilla said...

Vee, bittersweet. The good with the bad.

Grace, zippers can be aggravating. LL Bean very thoughtfully provided a row of snaps paralleling the zipper, so I can still close up!

Sharkey, my problem is getting the insertion pin boll (aglet thingie) through the slider (mover-up-and-downer) and into the retainer box (holder/aligner gizmo). Once that is done, I can zip up, although bigger tabs couldn’t hurt.

The plural for "fly" when applied to trousers is an illusive creature. I found no help in the dictionary, but thanks for sending me on that errand!

Chuck, I am glad you answered that question for Shark, since I don't wear sweatpants. I really don't have a problem with zippers that are fixed at the tail end. It is the ones that require insertion of the pin boll into the retainer box that defeat me.

Lin said...

I'm not sure the problem is you. They make zipper so cheaply now, they don't always work like they should. I've replaced more zippers on coats than I care to count...they are just made so crappy now!

vanilla said...

Lin, you are right about existence of poor quality product, but in this case, the jacket is a quarter century old, so good product. My problem is the insertion of the boll gizmo into its box and getting the upward journey of the slider under way. So, me.