Zips vs Buttons


A Scandinavian friend of mine, as he was enthusiastically scouring the Regent and Oxford Street racks on one of his visits, told me something which, while a common enough assertion, has remained with me ever since; “I really don’t like…what are these called? Zips?”

We had been looking at knitwear in COS, Zara and H&M and, though a stickler for detail, I had been comparatively indifferent to the style of fastenings on the jumpers and cardigans that we had been turfing through, preferring to ruminate on the appropriateness of colour, pattern and style of knit. As soon as my companion had mentioned his preference, I could think of nothing else. Zips were, rather suddenly, curiously unappealing.

Jumper after jumper, I examined the zips and it dawned on me how incongruous it was to have a crudely knitted, cosy pile of a jumper split by an industrial and severe metallic strip. Practical, I conceded, but of the finest aesthetic? Not at all. The alternative to it is of course the humble button. I saw several jumpers of similar fashion to the zipped variety that employed buttons instead; comparing them, it was clear that the buttoned versions, though less practical than the zipped, had a more endearing, childlike charm.

The poor old zip, though severe in the aesthetic sense, is definitely a winner in the efficiency stakes; not only is it quicker to fasten a zipped cardigan, buttons have a habit of ‘undoing’ themselves and also let in more cold air due to the gaps in the fastening. However, there is something about that harsh line, even when ‘hidden’ by material, that now dissuades me from purchasing any kind of zipped knitwear.

As inefficient as the button is, and however much I find it irritating when they loosen, come undone, fall off and catch on snags and hangers, a decent set adds something to a garment whereas a zip inevitably detracts – hence the efforts of manufacturers to hide it under material. A beautiful horn button on a navy blue cotton cardigan is a thing of beauty; a zip in it’s place is, at best, an inconvenience.

However, perhaps I am not as strongly supported in these claims as I might imagine. Perhaps the majority of readers not only see the practical superiority of a good zip but also consider the aesthetic of the button to be utterly passé.