Anorak News | Google honours Swedish zipper man

Google honours Swedish zipper man

by | 24th, April 2012

DID you know a Swede came up with the idea of keeping trousers closed with the help of a pliable fastening device that uses interlocking metal teeth? Yes, the modern zipper was invented by Gideon Sundbäck, a Swedish-born electrical engineer who migrated to the US in 1905 at the age of 25.

Today would have been Sundbäck’s 124th birthday, an occasion that Google is marking with a special “Google doodle”. On its homepage the letters of the search engine’s name have been designed to look like they’re stitched and a zip divides the screen. “Pulling” on the zip with your mouse reveals a page with search results for Sundbäck’s name.

Sundbäck did not actually come up with the idea of a trouser fastener. It had been circulating for two decades, with several inventors experimenting with different designs in the late 1800s. Sundbäck, however, developed and improved on these designs, finally seeking a patent for his smaller and lighter model just days after his 33rd birthday. He called it a “separable fastener”.

It was the B.F. Goodrich Company that renamed the device “zipper”, when they decided to use Gideon’s fastener on a new type of rubber boots. The zipper was also widely used on tobacco pouches but the fashion industry was reluctant to adopt it.

In his book about the history of the zipper, Robert Friedel noted that the zip industry eventually invented a concept called “gaposis”, a supposed condition resulting from ill-fitting clothing that leave body parts exposed to the elements and to strangers’ eyes.  The zipper was promoted as the solution.

In the 1930s, a sales campaign for children’s clothing featuring zippers claimed that the device could help children become more self-reliant as it made it easy for them to dress themselves. Later, in the “Battle of the Fly”, designers raving about the superiority of zippers over button flies helped make Sundbäck’s invention fashionable.

This was all to the Swede’s benefit. He was worth $13million when he died in Pennsylvania in 1954.

View Sundbäck’s original patent for the “Separable Fastener” here.

And here’s a video of Freddy Rumsen (Joel Murray) in Mad Men playing Mozart with his zipper.


Posted: 24th, April 2012 | In: Reviews Comment | TrackBack | Permalink