#27: Add a little zip to your pants

The Question

Meghan McQuaid Says:

March 23rd, 2005 at 5:02 pm

Dear Shaun,

How does a zipper work?

-your sister

The Answer

It’s basically the combination of a series of hooks, pushed together and pulled apart by wedges. Each of the teeth of a zipper has a little indentation in it and a little “hook” (more like a bump) that matches the indentation. When the zipper is pulled up, it uses wedges to push the teeth into a configuration where the indentations are filled by the “hook”, and the closeness of the teeth to each other make it very difficult to separate the two. To unzip, the zipper again uses some wedges to pry the teeth apart.

It’s simple but elegant. I like zippers. Also interesting is the fact that they didn’t catch on until the French started raving about how fashionable they were on pants. In fact there was some sort of a “button vs. zipper” battle in the early 1900’s – which the zipper won.

(As a side note, I spent a good deal of time zipping and unzipping my fly during the course of answering this question. People were looking at me funny. Oh well.)

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