If Your Zipper Says YKK, This Is What It Means

Roughly half of all zippers in the world are stamped with these letters. Find out what YKK zippers are and what the YKK means.

Although there are a few clever ways to fix a zipper, it’s very frustrating when a broken one undermines an otherwise usable piece of clothing or accessory. Companies that sell items with zippers understand this, too. So, many of them rely on the same manufacturer and adorn their products with YKK zippers.

YKK is a Japanese company with an enviable reputation. They produce roughly half of all the zippers made each year, which equates to about seven billion of them. The YKK stands for “Yoshida Kogyo Kabushikikaisha,” Japanese for “Yoshida Company Limited.” While this is simply a foreign acronym to us, other companies have names with secret meanings.

Why do zippers have YKK on them?

Not only do these initials appear on zippers across brands, but they also appear on all different types of gear. You’re just as likely to find a YKK zipper on a Hermes bag as you are on a scuba-diving suit, bagpipe, or backpack. By the way, did you know those diamond patches on your backpacks have a purpose?

Why are YKK zippers so prevalent? To put it simply, designers trust the brand to make dependable zippers. “There have been quality problems in the past when we’ve used cheaper zippers,” designer Trina Turk told Slate. “Now we just stick with YKK. When the customer is buying $200 pants, they better have a good zipper. Because the customer will blame the maker of the whole garment, even if the zipper was the part that failed.”

History of YKK zippers

And yet, YKK didn’t invent the zipper. That accolade goes to American Whitcomb L. Judson, who created the “chain lock fastener” in the 1890s. His company still exists today as Talon, Inc. And it still produces zippers that Brooks Brothers, Uniqlo, and other popular brands—including some with secret messages in their company logos—use.

YKK zippers stepped onto the scene when the company’s founder, Tadao Yoshida, decided he wasn’t satisfied with existing zipper production methods. At the company’s factory, every aspect of the manufacturing process takes place in-house, from smelting the metal to packaging the finished product. And with that level of control and dependability, it’s no wonder why YKK zippers have taken over.