Design: Hip Zip

At first the zip fastener seemed like a machina ex deo: a lightweight, lightning-fast way of closing the fabric gap with none of the muss of laces or the fuss of snaps, the bulge of buttons or the bother of hooks and eyes. To be sure, there were snags—a bit of silk here, a pinch of flesh there—but such were the risks of a game that pitted mortal ingenuity against an army of tiny, tenacious metal teeth. Only the teeth always won.

Casualties were heavy on both sides (not to mention abdomens, rib cages and lower backs). For, like superhighways,...

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