What is Velcro&Reg;?

Michael Pollick
Michael Pollick

Strictly speaking, Velcro® is a registered trademark describing a specific brand of "hook and loop fasteners." The product name has proven so popular, however, that it has become the generic term for any two piece fastener with nylon hooks on one side and a mat of loops on the other. Velcro® has become very popular in the clothing, shoe, and automotive industries (among others) for its ability to provide a firm grip under tension but come apart easily when necessary.

The idea of Velcro came from looking at cockle burr seed casings under a microscope.
The idea of Velcro came from looking at cockle burr seed casings under a microscope.

The story of Velcro® begins with a hike in the Swiss woods in 1948. Inventor George de Mestral noticed that he and his dog were coated with cockleburr seed casings. Under a microscope, de Mestral discovered that the seed casings contained numerous tips with hook-shaped ends. It was these natural hooks which clung so stubbornly to the loose weave of his pants and the dog's fur. George de Mestral believed that a fastening device made from a similar hook and loop design could rival the metal zipper in popularity and versatility.

The Velcro® company was formed in Switzerland during the early 1950s.
The Velcro® company was formed in Switzerland during the early 1950s.

After several attempts to create a suitable prototype, de Mestral and a French fabric designer finally discovered a way to use nylon fibers under an infrared lamp to create the necessary hooks. Matted nylon fibers would also form the field of loops needed to complete the adhesive process. The name VELCRO was formed from the French words VELour(velvet) and CROchet(hook). De Mestral officially formed the Velcro® company in Switzerland in the early 1950s and received patents from virtually every industrialized country in the world.

Velcro is popular in the clothing industry.
Velcro is popular in the clothing industry.

Velcro® works on the principle that enough hooks on one side of a fastener would become tangled in enough loops on the other side to form a very strong bond. Applying pressure to a section of velcro can only make it stronger as more loops and hooks connect. Yet if only a few hooks and loops are pulled apart with force, the rest of the Velcro® will follow with a distinctive ripping sound. Velcro® sections held under tension, such as a pulley system, can prove to be incredibly strong. This is why shoe manufacturers often place slots through which Velcro® closers are pulled. The added tension of a pulley keeps the bond strong.

Velcro® is also popular in the clothing industry. Waistbands in costumes, skirts and pants can be easily adjusted with Velcro® fasteners. Costumes with Velcro® fasteners can be torn away from the body quickly between scenes. Other industries use Velcro® strips to store tools or attach fiberglass parts to frames. Large patches of Velcro® can easily support hundreds of pounds. Wallets and backpacks, on the other hand, may only need a small swatch in order to keep flaps and sections secure. Practically everyone can find at least one product in their homes or cars which use some form of Velcro® brand hook and loop fasteners.

Velcro's inventor believed the product could become as common as the zipper.
Velcro's inventor believed the product could become as common as the zipper.
Michael Pollick
Michael Pollick

A regular wiseGEEK contributor, Michael enjoys doing research in order to satisfy his wide-ranging curiosity about a variety of arcane topics. Before becoming a professional writer, Michael worked as an English tutor, poet, voice-over artist, and DJ.

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Discussion Comments


Velcro is one of those more basic but simply life changing inventions that we can thank the government for. Being designed by NASA and used by the military for a variety of applications, Velcro has been the solution to many problems that buttons simply would not work for.

Sometimes I find that people complain about the money that is spent in these major research projects undertaken by government sponsored scientists but the when those doubts come to mind I just think about Velcro. The simple hook and loop solution that has, "attached" the world together.


The most aggravating thing that I find about Velcro is the sound that it makes when pulling it apart. There are plenty of applications that I would love to use Velcro in but it simply is not an option because of the sound barrier.

As a photographer I am especially conscious of the loud ripping sound that Velcro can make. If I am trying to photograph and event that relies on the audience being quite then trying to reach for a different lens, battery or memory card can be daunting as I don't want to distract attention from the performers and put it on me.

Going slowly can somewhat make the experience quieter but in the end I have to just go fast as to not attract that much attention and make that much noise.


Velcro is available at a variety of craft and fabric shops so if you are trying to replace Velcro somewhere then it can be done. I have personally found very few applications in which I couldn't replace the Velcro that was being used to fix the problem.


@anon8329, Velcro certainly wears out but my experience with it is that the degradation of the holding qualities take a long time to degrade. Perhaps you experience is different but every thing that is Velcro secured in some way has held on very long when I use it. I wonder if there are different conditions in which the Velcro can stay more secure.

Perhaps pulling it apart more carefully can help extend the useful lifetime of the function the Velcro is performing. Something else to consider when using Velcro is how replaceable is the location in which it is being used. Can you simply rip up the current installation and put down some new strips?


don't the loops wear out after a while? don't they break?

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