Zippers are one of the most commonly used fastening devices. We see it everywhere ranging from items of clothing such as trousers, dresses, skirts, and jackets. Luggage, whether fashion bag or traveling bag. Outdoor equipment, such as tents and raincoats, etc. Ignored by many, zippers are actually a very important item in the sewing and fashion industry.
Introduction to Zippers
The concept of zipper invention started as early as 1851 by Elias Howe, and then perfected by Whitcomb L. Judson during the later part of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th century. But it wasn’t until 1913 that Gideon Sundback perfected the design of the modern zipper, which by then was called a ‘clasp locker’. Only in 1923, the term ‘zipper’ was finally coined and continued to gain international popularity. Zippers are preferred over buttons due to their practicality, durability, and simplicity. And now in the modern era, both zippers and buttons stand side by side as the most commonly used fastening material.
The zipper has undergone major development ever since, coming in many styles, types, and functionalities. And each variety will have different parts that construct it. These may create confusion when looking to buy one since there are so many kinds available on the market, each with its own functionality. Therefore, this guide’s purpose is to help the buyer to choose the right kind of zipper for the right kind of garments or types of equipment on which it will be attached to.
Parts of a Zipper
The parts that construct a zipper vary depending on its design and purpose. But a standard zipper will consist of five basic parts: the top stop, slider, elements/teeth, tape and bottom stop. Other parts can be found, depending on the style and special design of the zippers. These parts include inset pins, box pins and retaining box.
While parts of a zipper vary greatly, three parts will always be found on a zipper, the slider, elements and tape. Below we’ll discuss further of the said three parts.
The tape is the part that attaches the zipper together, both to the elements/teeth and to the garment, bag or any item that the zipper is attached to.
Elements, also known as teeth, are the teeth-looking shaped parts attached to the tape of the zipper. The teeth will be separated or joined when passed through the slider as desired. Teeth can be made of metal or plastics.
The slider is the part you slide across the elements to open or close the zipper, hence the name. The elements will be separated or joined depending on the position of the slider.
A zipper slider has two parts, the slider itself and the pull tab. Zippers commonly have one slider, but sometimes a double slider can be found, depending on the purpose and design.
Classifications of Zipper Tape
Zipper tapes are distinguished by the material of which it was made. The most common material used is polyester. Others are synthetic fiber, vinyl, and cotton.
Classifications of Zipper Elements/Teeth
There are 3 basic classifications of zipper’s teeth, based on the material of which it is constructed as below:
It is the most commonly found zipper teeth material and the first material used when the zipper was invented in the early 20th century. When choosing a zipper made from metal, one should consider the material used in construction and finish, as rust will cause the zipper to malfunction.
Metal elements can again be divided into several types based on the manufacturing process and the construction material.
The classifications based on the manufacturing process are:
- Metal wire teeth. Made from brass, white brass, aluminum, or nickel. Can be flat or profiled.
- Die-cast teeth. Made from zinc metal, die-casted directly onto the tape of the zipper.
And the classifications based on material used are:
- Aluminum teeth. Elements are built from aluminum material.
- Brass teeth. Elements are built from a mixture of copper and zinc.
- Antique Brass. Elements are built from chemically treated brass, giving it rustic colorings and worn-out appearance.
- Black Oxidized. Elements are built from chemically treated brass, giving it black matte colorings.
2.Molded Plastic Elements/Teeth
The teeth are made from molded high-performance resin, which is individually injected and fused directly onto the tape of the zipper. Plastic teeth are extremely durable and flexible, making it ideal for heavier garments and outdoor applications.
Plastic teeth can again be divided into five varieties:
- LFC teeth. Also called L-type teeth. Built with a special coil by meander/Ruhrmann. It is placed around the edge of the tape.
- CFC teeth. Made with a spiral coil.
- Woven-in coil teeth. The coil is woven directly onto the zipper tape with unique looms.
- Plastic molded teeth. The teeth are constructed from polyacetal, directly molded onto the tape.
- Plastic extruded teeth. The string of the plastic teeth is extruded before stitched onto the tape.
There are special kinds of teeth that cannot be grouped into standard metal or plastic teeth because of their unique features and functions. Commonly found special elements/teeth are as follows:
- Invisible teeth. Technically a CFC teeth, the teeth are constructed in a way that it is almost invisible from the outside, showing only the tapes which are merged with the garment itself. Commonly found in skirts and dresses.
- Two-way teeth. These teeth can be opened from both sides, usually coming in the larger size of CFC, molded plastic, or metal. Commonly found on outerwear and luggage.
- Open end teeth. The teeth can be separated completely when the slider is fully opened. Commonly found in jackets, sweaters, and other outerwear. A box and pin attachment replace the bottom stop, allowing the separation.
- Coil teeth. Made from monofilament which is coiled continuously. Usually made from extruded nylon strip, these teeth are also commonly called nylon teeth. These material allows greater flexibility and are also available in large selection of sizes. Commonly found on tents and canvas bags.
Classifications of Zipper Slider
A zipper slider is composed of two parts, the slider itself and the pull tab. The classifications of a zipper slider are mainly based on the design of the pull tab itself, as listed below.
- Non-lock zipper slider
The pull tab doesn’t have lock functionality.
- Automatic zipper slider
The pull tab can be folded, and will be locked automatically when folded.
- Semi-automatic zipper slider
The pull tab will lock when it is folded and lowered into place.
- Jeans zipper slider
Technically similar to a semi-automatic slider, it comes in larger size and bite design for denim material.
- Pin lock zipper slider
Can be locked by putting the pin into the box attachment.
- Reversible zipper slider
The pull tab uses railing system and can be opened from both sides of the zipper.
- Plastic/Metal/Coil zipper slider
Made for a plastic/metal/coil zipper, it can have a locking or non-locking pull tab.
- Key lock zipper slider
The slider can be locked in place by a built-in key and lock system.
- Double pull zipper slider
Pull tabs can be found on both sides of the zipper.
Classifications of Zippers Based on Functionality
After we’ve discussed the classifications found for each part of the zipper, we will discuss the classifications of the zipper itself. Depending on its function, zippers can be divided into several categories listed below:
- Close-end zipper
The teeth on this zipper cannot be separated completely, characterized by a single bottom stop that merges both sides of the teeth. Commonly found on trousers and jeans, boots, bags, etc.
- Open-end (separating) zipper
The elements/teeth can be separated completely, commonly using a box-and-pin attachment that replaces the bottom stop. Commonly used on jackets, sweaters, and other outerwear.
- Two-way separating zipper
The elements/teeth can also be separated completely. Using two sliders, it can be opened from the bottom of the zipper. Commonly found in rainwear, sleeping bag, and sports equipment.
- Two-Way head-to-head zipper
This zipper has two sliders that will meet in the center when the zipper is closed. Cannot be separated completely. This kind of zipper will open by pulling the slider towards both ends of the teeth. Commonly used in luggage, backpacks, and bags.
- Two-way back to back zipper
In opposite with the head-to-head type, the sliders are on opposite end of the teeth when the zipper is closed. The teeth will open when the sliders are pulled toward each other, and cannot be separated completely. Commonly found on overalls.
Zippers are used every single day. Not only on jackets and trousers, zippers are nowadays very commonly found on tool bags, laptop cases, handbags, tents, luggage, and many more types of equipment. So many types of zippers are available that no matter what the need, it is very likely there’s already a zipper in the market for it. There is special zipper made for baby, avoiding skin irritation, invisible zipper made for high end dresses, etc.
Although very important, it is often neglected by people outside fashion and sewing industry, causing confusion when the need to buy one arises. With its long history, today’s zippers come in many different styles, constructed using many different parts for each style. The parts itself are divided into other types depending on many factors such as material used, manufacturing process, functions, features, etc. With this vastness of variety available, confusion may arise when the need to buy one appears, such as when a zipper malfunction happens. It’s very hard to choose which zipper that fits your exact needs.
This guide has discussed in details the types and classifications of each part of the zipper, as well as classifications of the zipper based on its intended purpose. With the proper understanding of the different types of zips, we hope the buyers can make better decision when choosing products that fits their specific needs from sbs zipper.