This site uses cookies. By continuing to browse the site you are agreeing to our use of cookies. Find out more

Coats stories

Inventor of the zip

Gideon Sundback, the engineer who revolutionised an industry

Gideon Sundback, inventor of zips and his patent from March 1917

Gideon Sundback, inventor of the zip, and his 1917 US patent

April 24 marks the birth of Gideon Sundback, the Swedish-American engineer credited with creating the fastening device that became known as the 'zip', or 'zipper' in the US.

Born in Sweden in 1880, Sundback emigrated to the US in the early 1900s where he became the head designer for the Universal Fastener Company in New Jersey and began work on a ‘hookless fastening device’.

The idea of a fastening device based on interlocking teeth had been popular among engineers for many years but it was Sundback who hit on the idea of adding an indent and bump to each tooth so that they locked together with no room to move up, down or come apart. 

His patent for a 'universal fastener’ was filed in 1914 and eventually approved by the US patent office in 1917. The ‘zip’, or ‘zipper’, was born and the clothing industry revolutionised forever!

Coats Opti – a long history in zips

Coats Opti has been closely involved in the manufacture of zips since they were invented:

  • Coats Opti’s predecessor companies began producing zips from 1919, and Lightning produced the first UK zip fastener in the same year
  • In the US, Coats & Clark began manufacturing zippers in the 1930’s through the Crown Fastener Company 

Coats Opti today – constantly innovating

Today Coats Opti is constantly updating manufacturing processes and developing new, innovative zip products and end uses. These include:

  • Spiral zips', which use the unique ‘S-technology’ manufacturing process to create a range of superior, smaller, stronger zips
  • ‘Lucence’ range, with its luminescent glow in the dark properties
  • ‘Total Plastic’ range – moulded entirely from plastic and corrosion free
  • ‘Gym’ range - with clip-down sliders and pullers to avoid irritation during exercises

For details on our ‘Spiral zips’ and other leading products visit

Opti Spiral Zip


Did you know?

The term ‘zip’ or ‘zipper’ wasn’t popularised until later in the 1920s. Its origination is credited to B.F. Goodrich whose company at the time sold rubber boots that used the new fasteners. Goodrich is said to have named them 'so because he liked the 'zipping' sound they made when opened and closed.


Corporate Responsibility case studies

Integrating our approach to Corporate Responsibility across our business operations

Read all case studies

Global directory

Select contact

Our heritage

Read about our growth over the last 250 years

Explore our timeline