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It may be difficult to imagine a world without Velcro®,
but the fastening mechanism did not exist before George de
Mestral created it in 1955.
Born in Switzerland on June 19, 1907, de Mestral earned an
electrical engineering degree from the Ecole Polytechnique
Federale de Lausanne. The idea for Velcro® came to him
when he was doing one of the things he loved most: hiking.
He and his dog passed through a patch of brush and were quickly
covered with burrs which clung firmly to fur and clothing.
When he returned home, de Mestral pulled one of the burrs
off his trousers and took it to his microscope. He saw that
the burr had tiny hooks all over it that were able to hold
tightly to the fabric loops in his clothing or strands of
hair in animal fur. This was nature’s way of ensuring
that the seeds inside the burr would be spread far and wide
for increased chance of successful planting.
This design intrigued de Mestral, who thought, why not create
a fastening system employing these same ideas? He decided
to experiment with his idea of using two sides, one with lots
of small hooks and the other with lots of tiny loops. At first
his loops and hooks were not sized correctly and did not cling
as ferociously as he wanted them to. He began working with
a weaver in France who helped him design tough hooks and soft
loops that produced the desired effect. They also found that
nylon, not cotton, was the best material for the hooks. The
design was perfected in 1955.
That year, de Mestral patented his locking tape calling it
Velcro®, a combination of the words “velour”
and “crochet” (French for “velvet”
and “hooks”). He established Velcro Industries
and was soon selling more than sixty million yards per year.
Later de Mestral sold his rights to Velcro®. He died on
February 8, 1990. Velcro® has since become a practical,
effective, and ubiquitous material, used in an endless list
of products and applications including clothing, shoes, sports
equipment, luggage, wallets, toys, and home furnishings. It
has even been used in heart surgery and by NASA to keep objects
“tied down” during space shuttle missions. Today
it is made from a variety of materials as well, including
steel and plastic.