Fastenings are a critical part of modern life. How could we get on without our zippers and velcro. Beyond that, what about buttons? You know they didn’t always exist. There was someone(s), lost now to history, who invented the idea of putting a small object through a slit to hold two sides together. How about safety pins? I happen to know that the Romans already had them because there is a Roman pin on display in the Hittite Museum in Ankara Turkey that looks just like ours except it’s very large and apparently intended as a belt buckle.
I was motivated to write about zippers today because of the failure of a critical clothing zipper. As so often happens, a tooth broke, or came out, and now the zipper opens up when it shouldn’t and the metal closer comes off its track. Aaaarrrrgh – what to do!
As the reader undoubtedly knows, there is no way to replace the tooth on a typical zipper. Maybe there are industrial versions with replaceable giant teeth but I have never seen one.
The next best approach is to remove the entire zipper and sew in a new one. What a job! This requires a long session with a knife or thread ripper being careful not to cut the cloth of the garment. Then a new zipper must be inserted, folded over and sewn underneath tricky seams. Maybe it can be done and maybe not.
So what is the most likely outcome of a broken zipper in this easy-discard, throwaway, disposable society. Of course, throw away the jacket, the pants, the bag etc. and go buy a new one. Just because one tiny tooth broke. What a waste!
What would be a better design for a zipper that would get past this absurd situation?
One obvious solution would be to make it possible to replace a tooth. But sometimes the substrate (the cloth) that the tooth fastens on to has been ripped also. I don’t see how to make this approach work. Do you?
Instead I would like to offer a design change that would allow the entire broken half of a zipper to be easily replaced without any sewing.
I propose that the toothy length of a zipper should not be sewn into the garment. Instead, the teeth should be sitting on a thin strip of cloth that has its own special fastening that connects it to another strip of cloth and that second strip is sewn into the garment. Thus repairing a zipper would be a matter of unfastening the string of teeth from the main zipper body and replacing it with a fresh one.
This new fastener strip would not be used more than once every few years so it would be fastened and not touched often. It would therefore not need to be very easy to open and close. I propose that it consist of two rows of small plastic or metal loops. The loops would be spaced just enough so that the other, matching set of loops would slide inbetween the loops of the first set. Then a long wire, stiff steel or plastic, could be slid down thru all the loops, binding the two sides together. A little oil on the wire at the time of fastening could make the binding operation go easily but when it dissipated, might make it more difficult for the wire to work itself free inadvertently.
This innovation, while not reducing loss fully to zero, would go a long way to extending the life of a garment for many more months or years or decades. Maybe for ten decades, thus meeting our interim goal. As always, this is a first idea. I await your improvements.