It might surprise you to know that French lawyers do not wear suits and ties.
If you’ve never seen a court case in France, it might surprise you to know that French lawyers do not wear suits and ties. Instead, they wear black robes with precisely 33 buttons down the front and a white kerchief at the neck. This traditional style of dress harkens back to the time when lawyers were actually clergymen, with the 33 buttons representing the age of Christ at his death. Because of this tradition, French lawyers have never been able to enjoy the advantages of the invention of Elias Howe, who in 1851 filed a patent (without exploiting it commercially) for a simplistic precursor of what would eventually become a fashion essential, the zipper.
He found buckling the numerous buttons on his shoes to be overly tedious…
However, Whitcomb L. Judson is actually the one who deserves the majority of the credit. He found buckling the numerous buttons on his shoes to be overly tedious, and eventually filed a patent (in 1893) for a more advanced “clasp-locker”. Convinced of the revolutionary nature of his invention, he founded his own company, the Universal Fastener Co., which manufactured the hook-and-eye style fasteners.
Unfortunately for Judson, his clasp-lockers had issues with practicality and reliability and never really caught on in the clothing industry.
Unfortunately for Judson, his clasp-lockers had issues with practicality and reliability and never really caught on in the clothing industry. At least, not until a young Swedish man had a go at improving the design. Either by chance or destiny, this young man was an employee at Judson’s company and ended up developing and patenting his invention in 1917. His new mechanism used small, interlocking teeth that could be locked and unlocked by way of an integrated slider.
“Ziiiiip”, its unique and unmistakable sound would quickly lead the Americans to give it an equally unique name.
“Ziiiiip”, its unique and unmistakable sound would quickly lead the Americans to give it an equally unique name: zipper. The name gives birth to numerous variations of the word “zip”, which denotes speed. Interestingly enough, the exact opposite occurred when the zipper made its way into France.
In the same year that the zipper received its patent, it is introduced to the French by way of the First World War. French soldiers noticed the remarkable invention on the boots of American troops as they fought together against the German invaders. The French are conquered in the end, not by the Germans, but by the zipper, and give it the name “Éclair®” or “lightening” in honor of its speed.
The zipper was a massive success, and even after the introduction of Velcro® as a competitor, the little zipper currently represents a market of nearly ten billion dollars.