Why Do Most Zippers Have the Letters “YKK” on Them?

Most of us zip up our pants without a second thought. But take a closer look at your favorite pair of jeans and you’ll likely find three letters on the zipper.

But why exactly do most zippers have “YKK” on them?

The answer is incredibly simple but it also reflects the motto of, “If it ain’t’ broke, don’t fix it.”

Photo Credit: Pexels

So is there a giant conspiracy in the zipper industry? And who is this mysterious “YKK”?

Well, the simple answer is that the three letters stand for Yoshida Kogyo Kabushikikaisha. Translated from Japanese, it means “Yoshida Company Limited.”

But the company’s impact on the zipper industry is anything but limited.

Photo Credit: Unsplash

In fact, this single zipper manufacturer accounts for about half of the zippers on Earth (about seven million created per year).

While other companies exist, none can touch YKK, which got into the zipper game in 1934.

Slate’s Seth Stevenson summed it up best:

“YKK makes incredibly dependable zippers, ships them on time without fail, offers a wide range of colors, materials, and styles, and never gets badly undercut on price.”

Photo Credit: Pexels

However, YKK did not actually invent the zipper.

That honor belongs to Whitcomb L. Judson, who came up with the concept back in the 1890s.

But it wasn’t called a “zipper” at that time. Instead… meet the “clasp locker”

Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

From Wikipedia:

His metal zipper fastener device was called a “clasp-locker” in his day, not a zipper — which name came into existence many years after his death. The “clasp locker” was a complicated hook-and-eye fastener with an arrangement of hooks and eyes run by a “guide” for closing and opening a clothing item.

The first application was as a shoe fastener and there is mention in the patents for possible applications for corsets, gloves, mail bags, and “generally wherever it is desired to detachably connect a pair adjacent flexible parts.”

The Japanese manufacturer emerged when founder Tadao Yoshida had grown tired with the production methods of the time.

The Los Angeles Times explained how YKK handles every aspect of the production process:

“YKK smelts its own brass, concocts its own polyester, spins and twists its own thread, weaves and color-dyes cloth for its zipper tapes, forges and molds its scooped zipper teeth.”

So the next time you zip up your pants, take a look and see if you find YKK.

Chances are those old pair of jeans will feature those three letters.

And that won’t stop anytime soon.

Do you prefer wearing pants with zippers or buttons?