What Are the Different Types of Zippers?

Mary Elizabeth

Fasteners are used to create permanent and semi-permanent bonds between materials, as well as joints that can be opened and closed, and purely decorative additions. They are an important and widely used type of fastener that were developed by Gideon Sundback in 1913 from an earlier invention for a fastener that used hooks and eyes. The invention was first referred to by the name zipper in 1923 by the B.F. Goodrich Company, who initially used them on rain boots. They came into use for children's clothing and trouser flies, replacing buttons, in the 1930's. Today, they are used in clothing, outerwear, luggage, backpacks, automobiles, tents, and sleeping bags.

Sturdier zippers are made for luggage.
Sturdier zippers are made for luggage.

Zippers use two sets of interlocking teeth called chain zippers, or coils called coil zippers, each connected to a strip of fabric tape. The teeth or coils are formed of metal, plastic, or synthetic material. A slider with a tab, which may be purely functional or serve a decorative function as well, is used to open and close the opening. Besides the details of the mechanism, there are several other ways of categorizing zippers.

A two-way zipper may be used on clothing and luggage.
A two-way zipper may be used on clothing and luggage.

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Conventional zippers, whether chain or coil, are those in which the apparatus shows. Such zippers have the two strips of fabric connected at one end and stops at either end to prevent the slider from running off the end. The bottom stop keeps a little of the fastener always zipped, and when the slider is pulled, the rest of fastener follows along, gliding into place. When using a conventional type, a flap may be used to cover the mechanism, as is commonly found on jeans.

Invisible zippers, like conventional zippers, have the two strips of fabric connected at one end, but the zipper tape itself covers the mechanism. They, too, have top and bottom stops, visible only on the reverse side.

Separating zippers are designed with a unique type of bottom stop so that the fabric tapes come apart, allowing, for example, the two sides of the front of a winter jacket to be separated for ease of use. The user inserts the bottom stop at the bottom of one fabric tape into the slider, which is on the other tape, thereby joining the two sides of the base together. The user then pulls the slider up to close the fastener. Most fasteners have a differentiated front and back, but two-sided zippers were developed for items that are reversible, and are designed to be equally workable from either side.

Zippers often come with a sewing guideline marked in the fabric, and sewing and craft directions characteristically give clear instructions about any parameters to consider in choosing an appropriate fastener for the project. They come in a wide variety of tape colors and in various lengths and thicknesses so that they may be appropriately matched to the need. There are also special heavy-duty fasteners for the most demanding use.

A shopping cart full of children's clothing, including some with zippers.
A shopping cart full of children's clothing, including some with zippers.

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Discussion Comments


@Melonlity -- I think that nylon zippers actually hold up better than anything else when it comes to larger teeth. That is because they don't wear out as quickly as plastic zippers and they don't have the corrosion problems of metal zippers.

I know some have a preference for metal zippers, but nylon has always worked well for me. Those are, by far, the best heavy duty zippers out there and I have even had great luck with them in smaller applications such as on suit flies.


@Soulfox -- I do agree, but you are right about metal zippers getting harder to find. I have had a lot of luck with nylon zippers, so look for those.

I think the size of the teeth have a lot to do with whether a zipper works well, too. If you have large teeth, then the zipper will hold up under more uses. If that is true, then perhaps plastic zippers with larger teeth will hold up better.


I don't care one whit if you are talking about invisible zippers, conventional zippers or whatever else. All I know is that I have never had any good luck with plastic zippers. Those things just seem to wear out over time. Metal zippers are the way to go, but those are becoming harder to find.

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