The amazing story behind the annoying inspiration for VELCRO

Velcro 1 (DC)Penn State UniversityA microscopic image of the ‘hook and loop’ fastener.

It’s not every day you’re walking your dog when you suddenly get the idea for a remarkable invention.

But that’s precisely what happened in 1948 when Swiss engineer George de Mestral was on a hunting trip in the Alps. During this trip, de Mestral and his dog were subjected to the annoyances of having burr, a small seed with hooks, get trapped on their clothes and fur.

Studying this seemingly irritating pod, de Mestral observed that each of the burrs were covered with what looked like small hooks or teeth. These hooks latched onto anything with microscopic loops. Nothing was safe from the jaws of the burr’s teeth.

Velcro 2 (DC)Public DomainGeorge de Mestral’s patent.

De Mestral then received the inspiration for the “velour” and “crochet” fabric fastener. After filing a patent for his contraption, the VELCRO brand was established. Since then, it has accrued over 400 patents and is used in a wide array of different applications: everything from the AstroTurf in football stadiums, to attaching the protective cushions in military helmets.

Velcro 3 (DC)NASASTS-90 mission commander Richard A. Searfoss sorts out food packets on Space Shuttle Columbia’s middeck, and attaches them to middeck lockers with VELCRO.

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