“If any Zippo lighter ever fails to work, we’ll fix it free”.
--Zippo Manufacturing Co. Bradford, PA.

It’s hard to believe I have come to the end of this A-Z blog for Kamakura. It has been an enjoyable journey for me and hopefully an informative monthly newsletter for Kamakura’s discerning Vintage Ivy clients.

When I used to smoke my lighter of choice was always a Zippo, it never failed to perform and made that satisfying click when opened, this became the soundtrack to many Film Noir movies. Some years ago, I was lucky enough to inherit an interesting collection of Zippos from an American friend who collected them over a number of years whilst captaining ships in the US Navy.

Each one was engraved with an image of the ship that he served in. There are certain objects that rise above the norm and become icons instantly recognisable for their simplicity of design, striking appearance, and ease of operation: George G Blaisdell’s lifetime - guaranteed lighter - the Zippo - does just that. The original price of a Zippo, introduced in 1933 was $1.95

Now there are Zippo collectors clubs all over the world. One of the highly sought after lighters was manufacured only between 1950 and 1951 covered with leather and with a gold-leaf Zippo logo on the bottom. With it’s burnished steel case, fliptop cover and rolling flint, it is an essential prop for any Ivy or Modernist non-smoker to own as well as being the lighter of choice for those who still smoke.

Almost all the American vintage windbreaker jackets from the 1960s that I’ve owned have had Talon zips. Talon Zipper was a company founded in 1893 originally as the universal fastening company in Chicago. There followed various moves but they eventually ended up in Meadville, Pennsylvania. It was there that the zip as we know it was invented, until then, they were producing hookless fasteners for boots and shoes.

Other early zipper outfits included the Automatic Hook and Eye Company, and the hookless Fastener Company. Talon being the first zipper manufacturing company flourished through the 1960s when it is estimated that seven out of every ten zips were Talon zippers. Eventually it lost out to a Japanese company YKK which was able to produce zippers more cheaply. Talon still exists and is now based in California but changed its corporate name in 2007 to Talon International Inc., and shifted production to Asia. The now familiar letters YKK on most zippers translates to the Japanese company name - Yoshida Kogyo Kabushikikaisha who produce more than half the worlds best zips.

We mostly take zippers for granted for they are included on so many of the clothes and accessories we wear. Often used as a decorative feature and on luxury items made from precious metals as well as being a functional means of holding two pieces of fabric together.

Written and illustrated by Graham Marsh
Illustrations: Copyright Graham Marsh

About Graham Marsh

Graham Marsh is an art director, illustrator and writer. He has written and art directed many ground-breaking visual books including The Cover Art of Blue Note Records, volumes 1 and 2, East Coasting and California Cool. He has co-authored and art directed Denim: From Cowboys to Catwalks and a series of books with Tony Nourm and on movie posters. More recent books are The Ivy Look, Hollywood and the Ivy Look, Jazz Festival, The Beat Scene, French New Wave: A Revolution in Design and a 50th Anniversary volume on Woodstock plus a book on the early years of Ronnie Scott’s Jazz Club. He is author and illustrator of a children’s book called Max and the Lost Note. Marsh’s illustrations have appeared in magazines, newspapers and on many CD and album covers. He has contributed to numerous publications including Country Life and Financial Times.