A brief History of the snap Fastener

The Humble press fastener or “popper” has revolutionised sewing since its invention.

But where did it begin and why is it so popular?
Sew on snaps or poppers

Most clothing requires some type of fastening, the most common being a button. Metal press or “snap” fasteners however are the other most popular type of garment closure which were first patented in Germany in 1885 by Heribert Bauer. These types of fastenings are comprised of either 2 metal parts for the sewn on variety, or 4 metal parts for the riveted or “no –sew” variety. These type of fastenings have a characteristic “click” or snap, hence the term snap fasteners!

Prym HQ in Stolberg

The Prym family in Germany have manufactured brass goods since the 16th Century, and have become synonymous with press fastener production since buying the original German patent in 1903. The earlier original snaps, known as ball and socket fasteners were neither rustproof, or very reliable. However, Prym improved the manufacturing process of the double S twist fastener and developed standards that are still maintained today on the modern rust-free version. Their factory in Stolberg Germany, produces millions of fasteners every day, 24 hours a day. They supply a large percentage of the world’s fashion industry with high quality fasteners. A sub division of the Prym Fashion company called Prym consumer, buys those fasteners suitable for the home dressmaker. Since many of the products require industrial machinery to apply, the range for us at home is considerably smaller than the overall range manufactured in Germany.

The distinctive double S twist which ensures the fastener isn’t too tight or too loose, can easily be seen in this giant popper on display at Prym HQ, along with a pressing machine that was used in the early manufacturing process

large display fastener at prym hq
early pressing machine at prym HQ

One of the most successful marketing campaigns used by Prym and other global manufacturers of snap fasteners was to attach the snaps to decorative cards. These have become collectables, and often depicted scenes of the great outdoors, family images and many had the original Prym logo of a deer with a needle through it’s antlers. During the 50’s their slogan was

The most reliable waist fastener of the present and the future

Today most sewing kits will include a couple of sew on poppers, proving their enduring usefulness.

Vintage no sew packaging 3
prym history image
Prym vintage snap packaging

The advantage of sewn on snap fasteners over buttons is that they offer a discreet, hidden closure, creating a clean look to the front of delicate blouses etc. Last winter many high street brands produced coats with oversized snap fasteners that were invisible from the outside. In response to this trend, Prym has produced a new range of coloured snaps available in regular and extra large sizes. These new coloured fasteners enable the closure to be matched to the colour of the garment, making them almost invisible. They have also released new pretty fasteners with floral, lace like patterns too

new coloured sew on snaps blue
Prym coloured snaps
A brief History of the snap Fastener

Non sew fasteners are generally associated with practical work wear, outerwear and accessories. The Prym manufacturing facility at Stolberg produces not only the fasteners but also the tools and equipment to manufacture these products. They employ a team of specialist engineers to create their own machinery, and the manufacturing processes are closely guarded secrets. Apparently industrial espionage is rife in the fastener business, and since Prym are market leaders in both quality control and innovation, there are no Photos available from within the factory itself!

There are many, many types of non sew fasteners, from heavy duty storm flap fasteners on tents to the iconic pearlized snaps on western shirts.

They fall roughly into 2 types, those with a ring closure, used where durability is an issue, and those with a prong closure which are more suitable for light or mid weight fabrics in particular jersey. Every year Prym manufacture millions of seasonally coloured jersey snaps for children’s garment manufacturers across the world!

ring closure no sew fastener
Colour snaps
prong no sew fasteners

Probably, the most iconic association of non sew metal fasteners is on jeans. The metal jean button( known as a tack button) and rivet, offer designers an opportunity to stamp their own brand or logo, making them recognisable as genuine  products. In fact, it’s this stamp that is used to identify counterfeits.

The jeans rivet was believed to have been invented by Levi Strauss in aprox 1873. Rivets add strength to the corners of areas of strain like pockets, and just like the jean button, it offers an opportunity for branding via stamping

jean buttons and rivets
Next time you snap your hand bag, or waterproof jacket closed, think of all the processes involved in making that fastener!

All the various fasteners start as rolls of sheet metal. This passes through a pressing machine. The component fastener parts come out of the pressing machine on one side, and waste metal comes out on another side. All waste metal is returned to the steel plant next to the factory to be recycled into new sheets. Component parts are taken to another area of the plant to be assembled. Once assembled they are stored by weight until an order comes in. All orders then proceed through the surface finishing process, based on the finish  required.(there are several!) Quality control happens at this stage, and is completed by a human being. If an order passes the checks, it is then taken to be packed. Should an order fail quality control process the entire order will be returned for recycling, and the order will be re-processed. So next time you snap closed a coat or bag, think of all the work behind that fastener!!


What do you think? I’d love to know, do leave your thoughts in the comments.


Happy snapping CL:)

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