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ITW Nexus Original Side Release Buckle celebrates its 25th Year

June 30, 2004

Media Contact

Jim Tierney

ITW Nexus Original Side Release Buckle celebrates its 25th Year

Every time you click your side release buckle together, you have Dick Tracy to thank. No, not the Dick Tracy of comic strip fame, but Dick Tracy of ITW Nexus, the inventor of the plastic side release buckle. On April 24th, Tracy’s Side Release Buckle patent turned 25 years old.

To celebrate the Side Release Buckle’s 25th Anniversary, ITW Nexus is conducting an “Oldest Backpack with ITW Nexus Buckles” Contest. The contest is simple–find your old packs with ITW Nexus hardware and submit photo entries to ITW Nexus. The oldest packs will be selected and shown at the OR Summer Show. For further details on the Side Release Buckle contest, visit

Tracy understood the old adage that “necessity is the mother of all inventions” in his development of the Side Release Buckle. While designing another plastic closure for a customer, Tracy was told the closure kept slipping. To understand the true scope of the problem, Tracy loaded up an old backpack with weights and took to the woods with the customer.

“We came to this river and had to cross it by walking on a log. About half way across the river, I realize that if I fell into the water with all this weight on my back and with the metal non quick release buckle on the waist strap, that I was a dead man,” Tracy added. The next day, on the plane home, Tracy focused his energy on making the initial concept sketch of the Side Release, and as Tracy says, “the rest is history.”

“The major premise behind the SR Buckle is that people are strong enough to squeeze the buckle arms together. This ejects the male and frees the user,” Tracy concluded.

It is that simplicity that has enabled the Side Release Buckle to cross over from the backpack market into many other industries. Today, the Side Release Buckle is commonly found in the luggage, juvenile (stroller, seats, swings), bike (helmets, children’s seats) shopping cart seats, and life jacket industries.

“The Side Release Buckle is something that today, we just take for granted. But, it was a tremendous invention. The major ideas of the male/female components, combined with the arms, are still found in all Side Release Buckles since Tracy’s original buckle,” Steve Keller, Global Product Development Manager for ITW Nexus stated.

Keller cited that ITW Nexus has developed over a dozen Side Release Buckles since 1979, and while each is different cosmetically, each uses some form of Tracy’s invention. In its latest Side Release Buckle, the Airloc, ITW Nexus has removed plastic material from the female, which not only produces a lighter part, but lets the fabric from the application show through the buckle. Functionally, they have added a whistle into the male portion of the buckle.

Nexus is a division of Illinois Tool Works. In addition to its Side Release buckles, ITW Nexus globally produces a variety of plastic closures (Ellipse Cord Locks, Ladderlocs, Sternum Straps hardware, Tri-Glides, Snaphook and DRings) in each of its three global manufacturing facilities: Des Plaines, IL; Barcelona, Spain; and Shanghai, China.