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WWI Zipper (T)


The First World War is hard to conjure up until the commemorations on French Armistice Day and British Remembrance Day roll around on November 11th. Then I read bits of history and stories about casualties lost to the trenches from air strikes, mobile bunker tanks, and the unspeakable and unimaginable mustard gas. On Remembrance Day I remember that I am one of the lucky ones, born in a peace-time country already on the recovery path from WWII. In Japan, so many of us grew up shielded from the atrocities of war, both as perpetrator and victim.


And so it’s always an education to read about WWI. I discover so many things that we benefited from – many of them, efforts beyond the war. Hard times foster inventions, and WWI inspired many. Trenchcoats. Stainless steel. And zippers.


How anyone could have lived in a time without zippers seems as mind-boggling to me as living in a time without smartphones must be to digital natives. Originally patented by lockstitch sewing machine inventor, Elias Howe, in 1850, a drawstring-style zipper-like device became a hook-and-eye shoe fastener in 1893. But it wasn’t until Gideon Sundback made the separable fastener that had its interlocking teeth guided by a Y-shaped slider in 1917 that the zipper took the form we know and can’t live without today.


Soldiers and sailors were the first to use zippers as money belts followed by aviators who had them sewn into their flying suits. Zippers were then used on rubber boots and the rest as they say, is history. Today we use zippers in everything from bags to shoes to jackets to jeans and trousers – anything we need to close speedily and securely! In the minute of silence at 11am on Remembrance Sunday on the 14th of November, check out all the other things that were invented around the time of WWI curated by Christopher Klein here.


Wishing everyone a peaceful Remembrance weekend.

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