Shoelace Tips (“Aglets”)
Many people search for shoelace “tips” or “ends” to learn the name of the plastic or metal bits at the ends of the laces. They're called “aglets”, and you can learn more about them here – including how to make them.
What is an “aglet”?
An “aglet” (sometimes spelt “aiglet”) is the name given to the plastic or metal tip on the end of a shoelace. Despite their simplicity, aglets perform several functions:
- They stop the ends of the shoelaces from unravelling;
- They make it easier to hold the ends of the shoelaces when lacing;
- They make it easier to thread the shoelaces through the eyelets or lugs;
- They may also provide a colorful or decorative finish to the laces.
Because the word “aglet” is not well known, it makes a popular question on trivia quizzes and crossword puzzles. If you were one of those people searching for the name for the tip of a shoelace, you have your answer. If you'd like to learn more about aglets, read on!
Where does “aglet” originate?
The word “aglet” (or “aiglet”) originates from Old French “aguillette” (or “aiguillette”), which is the diminutive of “aguille” (or “aiguille”), meaning “needle”. This in turn comes from the original Latin word for needle: “acus”. Hence, an “aglet” is like a short “needle” at the end of a shoelace.
NOTE: The name “aglet” has also been given to a class of Java programs, and in that context originates from combining the words “agent” & “applet”.
Aglet Manufacturing Processes
Metal aglet process
In the past, most aglets were made of metal, and were created by either rolling or crimping a small strip of metal directly onto the shoelace. The photo at right shows an antique aglet tool that would likely have been used by a shoe repairer.
In recent years, metal aglets have seen a resurgence, bringing some “bling” back to shoelaces. These are usually attached in the factory by either gluing or crimping.
Plastic tape aglet process
Nowadays, most aglets are made of plastic, and are formed directly onto the raw shoelace using a large, expensive “shoelace tipping” machine (as pictured at right).
A typical plastic aglet begins with acetate tape, twice the width of the required aglet, which is wrapped around a section of the uncut shoelace. Carefully controlled heat – and often a solvent such as acetone – is applied at the same time, which just melts the tape directly onto the shoelace as well as bonding the tape onto itself.
When cooled, the wrapped section of shoelace is cut through the middle, leaving half of the wrap on each side of the cut. This single operation creates two aglets: One attached to the end of the cutoff section of shoelace, the other attached to the start of the next uncut section of shoelace.
Molded tip aglet process
For polyester shoelaces, there is also another totally different process where the end is clamped and blasted with ultrasonic frequency. This vibrates the fibers until they “melt” together, producing a solid molded tip from the actual shoelace material itself.
Shoelaces with ultrasonically molded aglets are often used for ice hockey skates because they have no separate plastic or metal piece that can become damaged and fall off onto the ice.
D.I.Y. aglet process
For those like myself on a budget, or for whom a one-off repair or replacement of an aglet doesn't justify the purchase of some expensive tools or equipment, see my Aglet Repair section, which includes several different D.I.Y. tutorials for creating home-made aglets.
I just wanted to know if you ever saw the children's Disney cartoon show Phineas and Ferb. There's an episode called “Tip of the Day” (see excerpt) which centers on the lack of public knowledge of the word “aglet” and there's even a song about the aglet. I figured you might get a kick out of it.
– Jeff, New Jersey, USA, Jul-2009
Another important use for aglets is that parrots enjoy removing them. I imagine other birds also do, though I've no personal experience with them. Parrots also enjoy trying to remove your shoelaces (many enjoy undoing knots).
You've probably not stopped to wonder how a feather gets pushed, against its grain, through a pore in a birds skin. They grow coated with a waxy coating remarkably like an aglet. Birds are used to removing feather sheaths from their own feathers (and each other's head feathers). To them, an aglet is just a stubborn feather sheath that obviously needs to come off.
– Bruce M., Jun-2008
I was wasting time at work one day, and I came across some page that linked to yours. It was something concerning Aglets. Anyhow, I start looking at your site and at a glance, I'm like, who in their right mind takes the time to create a site dedicated to shoelaces? And then I thought, who are the douchebags that take the time to read this page? 30 minutes after this thought, I realized I had an answer to m[y] second question. Apparently, I'm one of those douchebags. Your site is actually really interesting, and I'm sure I'll visit it again. Well played, Shoelace-Man, well played.
– Ron, Jun-2007
If you'd like to send feedback about Aglets, please Contact Ian.