Do you remember the last time you had to lace up some new tennis shoes? It can take a while to master the process of weaving those new laces through all those tiny holes in your shoes. But just think about how much harder it would be if your shoelaces didn’t have those special hard plastic tips on them.
Did you know there’s a name for those things? And we don’t mean “special plastic shoelace tip thingamabobs,” either! They’re called aglets!
Aglets are small plastic or metal tips placed on the ends of shoelaces, cords and drawstrings. They serve several purposes. In addition to preventing the fibers of shoelaces and cords from fraying or unraveling, aglets make it easier to thread laces through the tiny eyelets in shoes. Aglets also help you to hold and grip shoelaces to tie your shoes.
Today, most aglets on shoelaces are hard plastic. However, aglets are believed to have been around since the time of the ancient Romans. Since they didn’t have plastic back then, the first aglets were probably made of metal, glass or stone.
No one knows for sure who invented aglets, but we’re sure glad they did. The first aglets may have been used instead of buttons at the end of ribbons to help keep clothes fastened. Wealthy people in ancient Rome may have used expensive precious metals, such as brass or silver, to make their aglets.
Do you think aglet is a funny word? It kind of is, isn’t it? Aglet used to be spelled “aiglet,” which came from the old French word aiguillette.
Both of these words are forms of the French aiguille for “needle.” When you think of how aglets help you thread shoelaces through the eyelets in your shoes, this makes perfect sense!
Today, most clear plastic aglets on the end of shoelaces are put there by special machines. The machines wrap plastic tape around the end of new shoelaces and use heat or chemicals to melt the plastic onto the shoelace and bond the plastic to itself.
Some shoelaces made out of special materials, like polyester, can be crimped and heated so that an aglet is formed at the end out of the same material as the shoelace. The advantage of such aglets is that they’re not a separate piece that can become damaged and fall off.