As a kid, I remember having Velcro® shoes for gym class, because I just couldn’t get my little fingers to tie those tricky shoelaces quick enough. I always thought that Velcro® was pretty neat.
But what I didn’t know was, that Velcro® is a type of “hook-and-loop” fastener whose design was inspired by a burdock burr seed.
Burdock seeds (or burrs), are those prickly little things that are notorious for sticking to clothes and animal fur when hiking.
In 1941, a Swiss electrical engineer named George de Mestral, was inspired by how these burrs had managed to stick to his coat, and his dog, when walking in the woods. He called his invention “Velcro®”, which is a combination of the French words ‘velour’ (velvet), and ‘crochet’ (hook).
If you were to inspect the burdock burr, you would find that it contains hundreds of tiny “hooks.” De Mestral spent years investigating the burr’s properties and eventually translated those hooking and looping functions into fabrics and created what is known as “hook-and-loop.” However, the subsequent process of recreating this burr-like product to what it is today, took nearly a decade.
Velcro® consists of 2 parts: the lineal fabric strip with the tiny flexible hooks, and another fabric strip with tiny loops. When pressed together, the two adhere to one another, and can be separated when pulled apart deliberately. Initially Velcro® was made with cotton, which wasn’t practical. Currently Velcro® is constructed from nylon and polyester.
Since it’s invention, Velcro® has been used on many products, like my shoes – instead of shoelaces, jacket cuffs and closures, and even on Neil Armstrong’s space suit, when he went to the moon in 1969.
(Velcro BVBA, 2019)