I LOVE fun facts about things…especially every day things that we don’t really pay much attention to. Here’s some zipper history for you! Enjoy!
If you look at any jacket or pants zipper, there’s a good chance it has the tiny letters “YKK” on it. Those initials are stamped on 7 billion zippers every year. YKK stands for Yoshida Kogyo Kabushikigaish, a Japanese manufacturing company.
The business was founded in 1934 by Tadao Yoshida, who quickly transformed his small zipper company into a international zipper behemoth. Zippers were only invented 100 years ago, by a Swedish-American named Gideon Sundback, His patent for the “separable fastener” was issued in 1917 (see patent diagram below), while he was working for the Universal Fastener Company. Sundback also created a manufacturing machine for his zipping device.
The name “zipper” wasn’t coined until 1923 by B.F. Goodrich, whose company used the Sundback fastener on their boots. The Universal Fastener Company switched its name to Talon, and began mass producing zippers. By 1930 they were selling 20 million a year, and by the end of WWII over 500 million a year.
But back to the story of YKK. Yoshida, seeing the exploding popularity of zippers, decided to open his own zipper company. He basically copied the product and machines used by Talon, but added a few of his own touches. Slowly, Yoshida brought every part of the zipper creation process in house. Including smelting the brass, weaving the cloth, molding the zipper teeth, and even making the boxes the zippers are shipped in. Yoshida believed in the philosophy of “The Cycle of Goodness,” which holds “no one prospers unless he renders benefit to others.” This ideal drove Yoshida to produce the highest quality product he could at the lowest cost.
Which is exactly why YKK zippers became–and are still today–the most dependable zippers on the market. And dependability is the name of the game in the world of zippers. Fashion designers can’t have a zipper causing their high end garment to fail. For the typical fashion garment that costs around $50 to manufacture, and that will sell for over three times that price, designers are happy to pay 32¢ for a YKK zipper they know won’t break. Multiply 7 billion times 32¢ and you’ll see why YKK is likely to be printed on your zippers for the foreseeable future.