Buttons are forever a classic necessity. Zippers are having a memorable moment under the spotlight. Hooks, toggles, tied-off closures—all of these fasteners have had on-again-off-again relationships with the fashion world. They’re the little details that not only serve as functional pieces for our everyday wares, but as makers or breakers of our overall style aesthetic. There’s one, in particular, that always seems to be an afterthought. It’s the one that simply doesn’t get the respect that it deserves (the red-headed stepchild of fasteners, if you will). We’re talking about the hook and loop fastener, which you probably know as VELCRO—the most well known brand in the game. It’s time for the hook and loop fastener to assume it rightful position atop the throne of fashion’s fastening devices.
Have you ever wondered how the hook and loop fastener works? It’s basically a series of fabric magnets, which is ideal because magnets are cool on their own. Invented in 1948, the hook and loop fastener—usually made of nylon, uses itty-bitty hooks that “mate” with even tinier loops to hold together temporarily, but can be pulled apart easily. That is some kind of workout. Do zippers work this hard for you? Can buttons mate? No, you’re damn right they can’t. The hook and loop fastener is the perfect temporary fabric closure device.
Like anything worth loving, it can be polarizing. Some take issue with the sound that it makes when you pull it apart. For others, that sound is the sweet music of ingenuity. The hook and loop fastener's functionality is undisputed; it’s been used for decades as a staple for athletic and military gear. For whatever reason, people can’t seem to take it seriously as a viable fashion fastener, even though it’s not just sportswear and army uniforms that exemplify its superiority. Elite designers set precedents that you probably aren’t even aware of.
Always under-the-radar, the hook and loop fastener has already made some key runway appearances on pieces already cemented in the Hall of Fashion. Rick Owens is a huge fan of the fastener on his jackets and bottoms—some of his most popular and most recognized pieces—as he’s demonstrated over the past three or four years. Dries van Noten’s Spring 2013 collection redefined the use of the hook and loop fastener by including big tabs of it on tszuj’d up fencing gear, making shirts, moto jackets, and layering vests moments when you want to fashionably jump onto one of those giant VELCRO hook and loop walls. That’s one hell of a street style opportunity to say the least.
Agi & Sam’s recent Fall/Winter 2015 presentation showcased re-configurable outfits, piecing hook and loop fastener panels together like Frankenstein’s monster. Of course, we’d be remiss if we neglected to mention one of the most talked-about pieces of one of the most talked-about collections of the year. Kanye West’s debut adidas collection featured a military vest with exposed hook and loop fastener details—a vest that draws obvious inspiration from one of Helmut Lang’s most-lauded pieces first introduced in 1998. Teva has always held the hook and loop fastener in high regard. They’ve been doing it for years, introducing the hook and loop fastener to current top fashion brands like Woolrich, Opening Ceremony, and Nasty Gal.
Finally, we couldn’t forget the coup de grace to end all fasteners. An iconic piece that will forever live among the immortals in fashion history, Marithe Francois Girbaud’s Shuttle Jeans are the GOAT. The best exemplars don’t make it a detail or an accent: the hook and loop fastener is the centerpiece, the point of convergence. It makes the piece what it is. Clearly the hook and loop fastener has seen success in past collections, and should be utilized in more ready-to-wear fashion in the future.
And let’s be honest: Other fasteners really aren’t that great. Buttonholes often get loose, or the thread comes unsewn. Buttons can easily be ripped off and lost for good. Zippers? Don’t get us started on the issues with zippers. How many times can a zipper get stuck? If you’ve ever had the pleasure of accidentally getting yourself caught in a zipper, it’s enough to expunge them from your whole damn wardrobe forever. Toggles and clasps aren’t sturdy enough. Ties never hold up and are strictly and aesthetic play. But the sweet, sweet hook and loop fastener holds up through the tests of time. Its strips can come in practically any color, thus adding adaptability and versatility to its resume.
After such a compelling argument, you might feel sorry for the hook and loop fastener and its underdog status. In reality, it is strong enough to be the outlier. The hook and loop is inherently destined to be the fastener of the brave. It is the fastener of the unafraid, the practical, and the thought leaders. As time goes on, we know that more of our favorite brands will realize the functional fashionability of the hook and loop fastener. Until then, we pray that Girbaud will revitalize the Shuttle jeans and allow us all to prosper.