Outside's long reads email newsletter features our strongest writing, most ambitious reporting, and award-winning storytelling about the outdoors. Sign up today.
The brand of zipper that is likely keeping your britches up at this very moment. Headquartered in Tokyo, 81-year-old YKK (short for Yoshida Kogyo Kabushikikaisha, which translates as Yoshida Company Limited) was founded by Tadao Yoshida, who started making custom zippers to take advantage of breaks and alignment flaws in other products of the time. To maintain Yoshida’s exacting standards, the company kept every stage of the zipper-making process in-house, from smelting its own brass to forging the teeth to spinning the thread. (In Japan, YKK even makes the packaging the zippers are shipped in.) The company now produces over one million miles of zippers each year; they’re used in everything from fanny packs to expedition tents. “No other zipper manufacturer comes close for consistent quality,” says Tara Latham, apparel design manager for Black Diamond.