George De Mestral
Engineer and Inventor.
Inventor of Velcro
George De Mestral got the idea for Velcro® from cockleburs caught in his clothes and his dog’s fur.
During a walk in the woods in 1948, Swiss engineer and outdoorsman de Mestral caught hundreds of burrs in his clothes and his dog’s fur. He wondered how they attached themselves so tenaciously.
De Mestral observed the burrs under a microscope. He saw that each one was covered with hooks that looked like a monster’s mouthful of spiked fangs. These hooks grabbed onto anything that had a loop--clothing fiber, animal fur, or human hair. The common burr was a natural “hook and loop fastener.” De Mestral realized he could create a fabric fastener that acted like the burrs, and so the idea of Velcro® was born.
The Work of George de Mestral
It took de Mestral nearly a decade of trial and error to create a fastener that would cling as well as the burrs. In early trials, the loops were too big for the hooks, or the hooks were too big for the loops. Together with a skilled French weaver, de Mestral eventually learned how to make nearly indestructible burr-like nylon hooks. And the men developed a fabric that the “burr” side would stick to.
Velcro’s® name is derived from the French velours (velvet) and crochet (hook). This magnified view shows the hook and loop strips of nylon that make up Velcro®.
Today Velcro® is everywhere. It’s used in sneakers, backpacks, jackets, wallets, watchbands, and children’s toys. It even turns up in places you wouldn’t expect it. Velcro helped hold a human heart together during the first artificial-heart surgery. NASA uses Velcro® to keep equipment from floating about in U.S. space shuttles, and on the insides of space helmets so that astronauts have a rough surface to scratch their itchy noses and chins.