Monday 9 April 2012


I have lived in and around buttons for my whole life.
I just thank the maker that I was born after the zipper was invented. There have been times when fumbling with five or six buttons on a fly would have taken too long and ended in my disgracing my self. God knows that I have enough trouble aligning buttons to appropriate buttonhole when doing up my shirt. You know that something isn’t right, but it is one of those things that take a while or a good friend to point out. Most of my pants have a button at the top of the zipper that kind of eases the strain and protects said zipper from undoing itself. I actually have pants with two buttons, one (the hidden button) that must act as an anchor and the regular button that isn’t ashamed to show itself. The hidden one is pretty much useless, I have yet to find one that actually stays buttoned up.
Buttons have been around for around five thousand years, give or take a few centuries. Interestingly enough, buttons were used for ornamentation for the bulk of that time period and only became used to hold clothing together since the 13th century in Germany. I wonder why the Germans came up with buttoning clothing. I wonder why the Germans needed a word like doppelganger. I suppose that when you drink all of that beer and eat all of that fine sausage you would need a good strong method to hold your stomach in and your pants up.
I think the first buttons were made of seashells, but now they are made from almost all materials, but especially plastic. There are people that collect buttons and I must say that I have spent more than a few hours when I was small looking through my mom’s large collection of buttons. She did a lot of sewing and had two boys that for some reason would have buttons drop off their clothing on a regular basis, so for her it was prudent to keep an assorted supply of buttons. Until tonight, I didn’t quite realize how much I like buttons. The colours, shapes and design all combine to let you get lost in the rainbow jar of buttons.

The modern zipper was invented in 1913, but it wasn’t until “The Battle of the Fly” in 1937 that the zipper beat the pants off of buttons according to the French fashion designers. So, I just missed being a button kid by a couple of decades and have lived my life by the zipper. I think that we are in the midst of another change over. Velcro or the “hook and loop” fastener is definitely making inroads on the zipper and of course the button. There is at least one company that manufactures furniture that is held together with Velcro. I have seen these desks and tables and they seem to be as strong as your regular kind of table.

Lately however “Buttons” have been making a comeback of sorts. They are on all sorts of electronic devices. Not the four or two holed variety, but a square, rectangle or circle on your computer, phone or tablet that you click or touch to open an application. There are buttons on all of our stereos, TV’s DVD players and of course the six or seven remote controllers that go with all of those electronic devices. I am typing this blog on a keyboard that is made up of buttons, and you more than likely pressed a button or two to read it.

Buttons may not hold up like they used to and with the new advancements in nano technology, our fabrics might just hold themselves together, but I guess buttons or their image will be with us for some time to come.

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