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For hundreds of years, buttons were the main fasteners for clothing and shoes. Boots were often fastened by a row of tiny buttons. Pants were fastened with buttons, which attached to a shirt, jacket, or suspenders to keep the pants up. Even stockings required buttons or ties to stay up. The zipper made getting dressed much simpler.


Fun Facts

  • In 1851, Elias Howe applied for a patent for an “Automatic, Continuous Clothing Closure.” He didn’t get very far with his invention because he was too busy working on another invention – the sewing machine.
  • Whitcomb Judson introduced his “Clasp Locker” at the 1983 World Fair in Chicago. He started a business, The Universal Fastener Company, to market the product, but he wasn’t very successful.
  • In 1913, Gideon Sundback, an employee at Jodson’s company, invented a “Separable Fastener,” which resembled modern zippers. He designed the product for fastening shoes.
  • F. Goodrich – the company known for its tires – created a rubber shoe that included Sundback’s fasteners. Goodrich renamed the fasteners “zippers” and the name stuck.
  • Originally, zippers were used to fasten boots and tobacco pouches. It wasn’t until the 1930s that zippers were used on clothing.



  1. Patent: an official document giving credit to an inventor for his or her invention and limiting others’ use of it
  2. Tobacco pouch: a small purse that held loose tobacco


Questions and Answers

Question: Are zippers used just for clothes today?

Answer: Look around your house for zippers. You’ll find them on backpacks, purses, sleeping bags, pencil bags, clothing, and even plastic bags.


Learn More

Watch a video about Whitcomb Judson and learn how zippers are made today.



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Declan, Tobin. " Who Invented the Zipper? ." Easy Science for Kids, Jul 2020. Web. 09 Jul 2020. < >.

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