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There's only one hot-button issue in the Chinese town of Qiaotou: buttons. Located in the coastal province of Zhejiang, Qiaotou contains hundreds of factories devoted to making approximately 60 percent of the world's buttons.
Manufacturing buttons is a seemingly recession-proof endeavor, and the town has thrived ever since transforming itself from a farming community to a button manufacturing hub. Success can be seen in myriad ways, including a mall with more than 550 shops dedicated to the little clothing connectors.
According to legend, the button business in Qiaotou began after three brothers spotted some discarded buttons lying in a gutter. They picked them up and knew there was money to be made in the little circles.
On the button:
- The oldest known button fragment dates to 3,000 BC and was found in present-day Pakistan.
- Button sizing relies on a unit of measurement known as a "ligne"; 40 ligne are equal to 1 inch (2.54 cm).
- Buttons with buttonholes for attaching to clothing were first used in 13th-century Germany.