Today’s Wonder of the Day was inspired by Bryanna. Bryanna Wonders, “What is the plastic tip of a shoe lace called?” Thanks for WONDERing with us, Bryanna!

Do you remember the last time you had to lace up a new pair of tennis shoes? It can take a while to master the process. Weaving laces through all those tiny holes in your shoes can be difficult. But just think how much harder it would be without those hard plastic tips on the laces!

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. They’re also common on cords and drawstrings. They serve several purposes. For example, they stop the fibers of shoelaces and cords from fraying or unraveling. Aglets also make it easier to thread laces through the tiny eyelets in shoes. They even help you 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. 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.

Where did the word “aglet” come from? It 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. Then, they 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, don’t need plastic aglets. Instead, they’re 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.

Have you ever lost an aglet from your shoelaces? There are many ways to fix this using tape, super glue, or heat shrink tubes. Ask an adult to help you, and you’ll have a new aglet in no time.

Standards: CCRA.L.3, CCRA.L.6, CCRA.R.1, CCRA.R.2, CCRA.R.4, CCRA.R.10, CCRA.SL.1

Wonder What's Next?

Do you have a new spring in your step? Join us tomorrow in Wonderopolis as we explore the science behind the vernal equinox!