An Exploration in Novelty
The story of the zipper is the triumph of an ingenious novelty over the practical world.
It is almost impossible to imagine modern life without this device; yet for the first thirty years or so, from its patent in the late nineteenth century, it represented no real advantage over traditional fasteners like the hook-and-eye or the old-fashioned button. The zipper was mechanically awkward, liable to rust, liable to fail (i.e., snag or burst open), and so expensive that it doubled the retail price of a skirt or a pair of pants. But from the beginning the zipper had an allure, a mystery, a kind of sex appeal that would be echoed in songs, poems, and popular novels.
Robert Friedel has written a fascinating history—full of strange twists, paradoxes, and interesting characters—of this signature gadget of the twentieth century. Inventor Whitcomb Judson (whose efforts lay mostly in patenting a doomed undertaking known as the Pneumatic Streetcar) gave the zipper life; businessman Colonel Lewis Walker had the capital and the faith to back it for forty years; and cultural icons such as Marlon Brando, Erica Jong, and the Rolling Stones helped to turn it into a symbol for sexuality and style.
Not just the story of a distinctive technology, Zipper is an entertaining, informative examination of how new things become part of our daily lives, shaping how we think and act.
- March 1996
- 5.5 × 8.3 in
/ 304 pages
- Territory Rights: Worldwide
Endorsements & Reviews
“A fascinating story....Zipper celebrates a wonderful bit of Americana, to be sure, but it's a serious work of history as well.” — Los Angeles Times
“How the ingenious zipper, a newfangled, unwanted novelty, became a ubiquitous part of daily life is the story told in this engaging chronicle peopled by a colorful cast of characters.” — Publishers Weekly
“An interesting and well-researched book. After reading it, you'll never again secure your trousers or evening dress in quite the same way.” — Baltimore Sun