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One of Life's Greatest Challenges Solved: One-Handed Zippers

By Wesley Fenlon

Our century-long nightmare of using two hands to zip is finally over.

You know the awkward zipper juggle. You're walking down the street, carrying something in one hand while trying to zip up your jacket with the other. It's cold. Fitting the zipper together is tricky, but manageable. But when it comes time to zip up--how do you do it? With one hand, there's no way to hold the zipper straight and pull on the zipper at the same time. Everything falls apart. As infomercials have taught us, there has to be a better way.

Of course, there is--it just took a long time for someone to invent it. The Magzip, from inventor Scott Peters, may be this year's why-did-it-take-so-long-to-come-up-with-this invention. The MagZip, as its name implies, uses magnets to lock the two halves of the zipper together.

"His first stab at improving the fastener consisted of little more than re-assembled zipper parts with magnets glued to them," writes Smithsonian Mag. "At the base of the zipper, the slider and the opposite row of teeth came together and…that was about it. But it was a start. Next, he would piece together zippers from jackets with machine-cut plastic or metal parts and glued magnets to those. The alignment was better with subsequent versions, though still not quite right. The two sides of the zipper still didn’t separate easily, which was yet another problem for another day. It went on like this for months."

The breakthrough came when Peters teamed up with a designer friend; together they prototyped another 25 iterations, figuring out how to use magnets with enough force to snap the two halves of the zipper together and hold them in place for one-handed zipping. By reworking the grooves that hold the zipper halves together, they were able to create a zipper that provided enough leverage to support easy zipping.

Granted, most of the time we don't really need easy zipping. This whole thing might sound like an extravagant, unnecessary convenience. But Peters actually invented the magnetic zipper to help people like his uncle, who suffered from myotonic dystrophy. The disease made his muscles extremely weak, to the point that zipping up a jacket was a challenge. Peters' invention can make life easier for many people with real challenges, in addition to helping those of us who are in too much of a hurry to stop, put something down, and use both hands to zip up a hoodie.

Thankfully, the MagZip isn't just a cool prototype--it's a real honest-to-god zipper now, making its debut in an Under Armour jacket line in fall 2014. Unfortunately, that's a bit of a wait, but Under Armour has put together an amusingly over-the-top video showing the zipper in action. Truly, we live in amazing times.