My take on this when I was asked was immediately this: what placement on the body? Since, I’m one of the guys who definitely likes the idea of buttons instead of zippers, but in times of desperation, hate the buttons for their tedious effort.
So, the US army has come up with an interesting proposition to remove Velcro and replace it with buttons, thus bringing back the days of yore.
So, velcro or buttons? (Lets ignore the fact that toggles are also back in vogue.) Between these two, and keeping the functional aspect of zippers aside (zippers are for sealing large layers of fabric), the support and purpose factor is most critical. Which in turn depends on the placement.
Velcro is definitely trendier, and easier to rip open and close easily. The bending of clothing or shoes at the edge of a Velcro (definitely the cause of demise for many of my sneakers) is somewhat of a downside. Velcro on a shirt instead of buttons allows the ease of clamping it shut when you’re running late, or ripping it open for dramatic effect. Yet, slight misalignment is possible; granted if you’re like me then this is also possible with buttons, and then you walk out with people conspicuously staring but not willing to tell you why. On waistlines, I prefer buttons. With the amount I eat and consequently work out, a button holds the pants firmly in place.
Random things I dislike include the fact that buttons fall of with too much yanking and use. And of course when it falls is the only time you cannot find a perfect replacement. And with clothing getting fancier buttons with labeling and thickness and shapes and sizes and contrasting threadwork, a substitute can get difficult. With Velcro, I despise the ability of un-velcro-ed items to attach onto anything – flowers, curtains, draperies, girlfriend’s clothing, sofas, and anything that gives it a clinging attraction. Both consequences lead to embarrassing results.
Designer and Consumer Perspective
So, when should you choose which designs to fit what type of fabric joining support to? From a practical designers perspective, I would follow the matrix for targeting a busy, cosmopolitan and happy market segment looking for a combination of convenience without pardoning elements of style.
From a consumer’s perspective, the same can be kept in mind, along with elements of frequency of wear (Velcro tends to give way easily, buttons tend to loosen up if they’re threaded into fabric), and environment; corporate cannot give way to drawstrings, whilst arenas where body flexibility is necessary, buttons may work best. Of course, as I mentioned earlier, zippers are the way to go!
Facts, Figures, and History
Having filed patents myself (yes!), I just viewed the oldest ever zipper patent ! To think that its competitive landscape included sewing machines, and the need for permanent closure. Marketing dynamics and the need for targeting, segmenting and positioning was indeed still a challenge in the times of yore – i.e. zipper inventions – making me wonder if modern marketing is a myth. I personally feel that zippers, due to the permanency of their closings (stuck and torn phenomenons aside) lend to the practicality of fashion and accessories, much more so than velcro.
Buttons notwithstanding, its interesting to see how buttons are the ones that have diversified themselves, in a classic sense, thus trying to engage a broader market into their interest. From button sizes, to insertions on them for brand loyalty and credibility, to the various types that have evolved over the years (cloth buttons, covered buttons, hook and clasp buttons, Mandarin buttons, and the list is endless), buttons have definitely penetrated the market to what one would have thought would lead to saturation, but clearly not. For buttons have several more uses that clothing and artifacts. Think bottle openers, think containers, think compass, think bouquet… frivolity is slowly turning to frugality (or tactical strategy, depending on what the use is). The many uses of buttons transcend the two second fastening that we have taken for granted.
Here is a quick look up on who invented Velcro, alongside the basics of it, both of which yield an interesting story that changed the world of practical fashion for decades, and still continues to be an intrinsic element in the lives of astronauts, babies, the elderly, and fashion enthusiasts.