TRAINING JUST GOT MORE FUN, with VELCRO!
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Velcro is the brainchild of Georges de Mestral, a Swiss engineer who, in 1941 went for a walk in the woods and wondered if the burrs that clung to his trousers — and dog — could be turned into something useful. After nearly eight years of research (apparently it’s not so easy to make a synthetic burr), de Mestral successfully reproduced the natural attachment with two strips of fabric, one with thousands of tiny hooks and another with thousands of tiny loops. He named his invention Velcro, a combination of the words “velvet” and “crochet,” and formally patented it in 1955. Though the first Velcro was made out of cotton, de Mestral soon discovered that nylon worked best because it didn’t wear with use. Early news reports (such as one that appeared in TIME in 1958) described the product as a zipperless zipper — which, while accurate, sounds a little strange to us now. It seems there just weren’t that many removable, re-useable all-surface fasteners back then.
Velcro got a huge image boost from NASA in the early 1960s when Apollo astronauts used it to secure pens, food packets and equipment they didn’t want floating away. Hospitals affixed Velcro to everything from blood pressure gauges (it’s on the band that nurses strap to your arm) to patient gowns. It showed up in cars (underneath floor mats) home decor (as fasteners for slipcovers and drapes), even on airplanes (seat cushions used as flotation devices). Originally available only in black, the tape’s aesthetic appeal expanded when the company began offering it in multiple colors. A 1959 fashion show at New York City’s Waldorf-Astoria Hotel displayed everything from Velcro diapers to Velcro golf jackets to stylish society matrons; a New York Times report declared it “the end of buttons, toggles, hooks, zippers, snaps and even safety pins.” But even with colors the stuff was too ugly, and for a long time it was relegated to athletic equipment.