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 find out more about aglets, read on!
Where does the word "Aglet" come from?
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 that the name "aglet" has also been given to a class of Java programs, and in that context is derived from the words "agent" & "applet". For details, see: http://www.trl.ibm.com/aglets/spec10.htm
How are Aglets made?
In the past, most aglets were made of metal, and were created by either rolling or crimping a small piece of metal directly onto the shoelace.
aglets are made of plastic, and are formed directly onto the raw shoelace using a large, expensive "shoelace tipping" machine (as pictured at right).
Plastic Tape Aglet Process:
A typical clear plastic aglet starts as a thin plastic tape, twice the width of the required aglet, which is wound 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 plastic tape directly onto the shoelace as well as bonding the tape onto itself.
When cooled, the shoelace is cut through the middle of the coated section, leaving half on each side of the cut. This single operation creates two aglets: One on the end of the cutoff section of shoelace, another on the start of the uncut section of shoelace.
Molded Tip Aglet Process:
For polyester shoelaces, there is also another totally different process where the end is clamped and heated ultrasonically, producing a solid molded tip from the same material as the shoelace itself. Shoelaces with molded tip aglets are often used for high-stress applications such as ice hockey skates because they have no separate plastic coating that can become damaged and fall off.
Where can you buy Aglets?
In the days when aglets were made of metal, most shoe repairers were able to supply and fit replacement aglets using a crimping tool of some sort (as pictured at right). With most aglets nowadays made of plastic and formed directly onto the raw shoelace, they're not really a replaceable item.