VELCRO brand hook-and-loop fasteners consist of two layers--a hook side and a loop side--that attach to each other when pressed together. The product has been used to secure everything from disposable diapers and clothing to military equipment and pieces of space shuttles.
One side of VELCRO's two-sided fastener system supports stiff hooks of fibers while the other side holds soft fiber loops, according to the VELCRO USA Inc. website. When the two sides are pressed together, the hooks snag onto the loops, creating a tight bond. While the fasteners securely hold together two pieces of an item, they easily pull apart while making the identifiable ripping sound.
VELCRO fasteners grew out of a Swiss inventor's frustration with the cockleburs that stuck to his pants and his dog's fur. After walking his dog one day in 1941, George de Mestral put one of the cockleburs under a microscope and studied the hook-like spines that allowed it to grab onto fur, hair and fiber, according to the VELCRO USA Inc. website.
Mestral decided to create a bonding product using the cocklebur hook-and-loop approach. Working with a weaver in Lyon, France, Mestral created hook-and-loop fasteners from cotton fabric, according to the CableOrganizer.com website. Cotton wore out too quickly so the weaver tried various synthetic fibers, finally settling on nylon for its durability and flexibility.
After a decade of product development, Mestral created a manufacturing process for the hook-and-loop fasteners and patented the system in 1955. He sold the product under the name of Velcro, a combination of "velour" and "crochet" that signified the soft loops and hooks of the fastening system.
The word VELCRO refers to the company and the brand, not the hook-and-loop fastener product itself. Several companies manufacture hook-and-loop fastening products, but they cannot be sold as VELCRO, which is a trademark owned by VELCRO Industries N.V.
While VELCRO's hook-and-loop fastening system has become widely used to secure children's shoes, keep pockets closed and tighten straps, mainstream markets resisted its use mainly because of its appearance, according to the CableOrganizer.com website.
But once the aerospace industry started using the fasteners on space suits in the 1960s, the product's popularity soared. Among the first industries to switch from zippers and snaps to the hook-and-loop fasteners were ski-wear, boating and scuba gear manufacturers, according to the CableOrganizers.com website.
The VELCRO Industries companies make a wide variety of hook-and-loop fastener products including those for clothing, sewing and crafts, lawn and garden projects and organizing. The company also sells products for use in holiday décor, medical devices, trade show displays and outdoor recreation. New products introduced in 2010 include plant ties with their own cutters and children's portable, customizable play sets, according to the VELCRO USA Inc. website.
VELCRO products come in a variety of strengths and designs for use on different surfaces.