Pop Topping

Pop Topping coverPop-Topping
Pop-Top Terp, Patton, and Freeman

Submitter: I’m a librarian for a community college and recently weeded this book, which I found so ridiculous and enjoyable that I kept it for myself.  The covers are great; the photos inside are unbelievable!  These people were so crazy about pop-topping that they held conventions and even covered their dogs in what I can only describe as doggie chain-mail.

Holly: I received this tweet from Mary:

tweet from Mary

Mary, are you making doggie chain-mail in a library craft program?

Pop topping back cover


  1. The lady wearing the full-length dress? of pop-tops has this ‘why the heck am I wearing this?’ look on her face.

  2. My dad and I made a garland for the Christmas tree using beer tabs when I was about five or six. We always bought our pop in glass bottles so he had to work hard in order to drink enough beer for our garland.

    My mom was less than thrilled to hang it on her tree.

  3. here’s a 1970 time article about mr. terp: http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,942292,00.html

    it’s amazing he kept this going for 5 years!

    “Considering Chavez’s labors, the price of pop-tops is remarkably low. A 600-ring vest costs $60, a 1,000-ring stole goes for $100 and a 2,800-ring maxicoat sells for $350. The most recent creation, a picture hat with a raffia band, can be adjusted into shapes that range from a cowboy stetson to a Garbo cloche, and costs $50. At those prices, the pop-tops have become the sensation among Puerto Rico’s livelier set.”

    I’m not even going to mention the last paragraph.

  4. *Splutter*

    “Pop-Top Terp” should really say it all. The evening gown… I can’t imagine what that would even look like!

  5. That guy in the vest looks great and knows it!

    Sadly this book is useless now that pop tops have been redesigned to stay on the can.

  6. Wow, this is fabulous! I know I just revealed how much of a geek I am by admitting how wonderful I think this book is, but I couldn’t help it. I saw instructions for making a chain-mail vest online, which I thought was nifty, but I never would have guessed that there’s an entire book about making such things from pop can tabs.

  7. From Mark’s link:

    “The first topless chick to try a vest,” he says, “caught her right nipple in a ring. I think it looked groovy, but I can recognize the snags.”


  8. When I first glanced at the cover, I thought that woman on the bottom was Johnny Depp in one of his “Pirates of the Caribbean” movies.

  9. The best part about it is “Help keep mother earth clean” – as if the pop-top (here we go, I’ve learnt a new word today!) was the only part of a soda can that leaves trash – if I try to calculate the number of cans necessary to make that lady’s gown on the cover, and compare it with an equal number of drinks from recycled bottles… No way this is a way of saving Mother Nature!
    When I was little and soda cans still had this kind of pop-top, we used to wear them as rings. They had some pretty rough edges, though, I suppose that’s why they were replaced by these modern ring-thingies.

  10. This book is a classic of 70’s craft kitsch…. There’s a whole chapter devoted to pop-topping, highlighting this book, in Jane & Michael Stern’s “The Encyclopedia of Bad Taste”. Damn, if the first librarian doesn’t want it, I wouldn’t mind snagging it!

  11. I admit, I tried to see if eBay had any Pop-Top made items for sale. Not that I want one, just curious. (On a side note, I am tempted to buy a gas mask just so I can wear it and go around saying “Are you my mummy?” provided I can find one cheap enough.) Didn’t find any Pop-Top clothing for sale so I googled. The book is available on Amazon and Paperback Swap if anyone is interested.

    Also found this –


    Has a few more pictures.

    Okay, I know I’ve defended the 70s and I stand by what I’ve said mostly. Disco music is better than rap. Men from the 70s are sexier because they wore the waist of their pants at their waste. 70s singers are better than today’s because there was no autotune.

    But thank God that pop-topping no longer exists! PRAISE THE LORD!

  12. With the thing about “save mother earth,” they were probably thinking not about the amount of municipal solid waste produced by soda packaging, but the common-at-the-time habit of pulling off the pop-top and tossing it away wherever one happened to be, heedless of the presence or absence of a trash receptacle. The only alternative known to the benighted inhabitants of that far-ago time was to drop the pop-top into the open can, which all connoisseurs of urban legends knew was a surefire ticket to swallowing it and either choking or sustaining a fatal laceration to some part of your digestive tract. So after reading this book, you could get all your friends and relatives to save their pop-tops for you, thus not only preventing littering but also potentially saving their lives.

  13. Great, now I have to decide between a pop-top and macrame plant holder. Decisions, decisions.

  14. Some of you young whipper-snappers may never have heard of pop-tops, but I’m sure all of us remember the musical stylings of Mr. Jimmy Buffett and these lyrics from his classic song, “Margaritaville”:

    I blew out my flip-flop
    Stepped on a pop-top
    Cut my heel had to cruise on back home

    One of the reasons pop-tops are now designed to stay with the can is because, as Jimmy notes, that metal was sharp!

  15. The last time I actually saw a pull tab of that ilk, it had surfaced in a stream that had eroded–and I literally took photos of it as if it were an archaeological discovery (which it was!). I don’t think it has been possible to find one of these old-fashioned pull tabs on a can in twenty or so years by now. (My wife is thirty, and she said as I showed her the tab I had found, “….. is that one of those soda can thingies?” The old style was done away with for a combination of safety reasons (ever step on one on a beach or in a stream? I did…) and environmental reasons.

    I think the soda tabs “librarymary40” may be collecting, unless this is a joke tweet inspired by this book, may be related to the urban legend about collecting tabs to benefit dialysis patients:
    Sadly, I’ve had to firmly beat the truth about this false legend into the heads of at least three associates–the one after he had collected about 50 pounds’ worth…….

  16. This looks so amazingly awesome, I immediately requested a copy from my library. I collect soda tabs, and have over 400 of them currently. I don’t drink soda. Anyway, I was very happy that Pinellas county had one copy left.

  17. OMG! I am a huge fan of Awful Library Books, and I was kind of disappointed yesterday morning since A. it was Monday, and B. no new awful library books! I almost had to run to my local library in search of finds of my own.

    This post was definitely worth the wait. Did they include pics of the doggie chainmail? I’ve been thinking about doing more knitting, but maybe I should make chainmail for my guinea pig next. I’m inspired!

  18. All I can think of is Tina Turner in Beyond Thunderdome. But she so rocked that outfit. But now if I see any of those pop-tops, I’ll be sure to collect them, just to show my son.

  19. Those people must have been so sad when ring pull-tops ceased.

    Would love to see someone try to go through Airport Security dressed like that…

  20. Polluting and cutting Jimmy’s foot aside, the main reason that the pull tabs were redesigned was that people who didn’t want to litter would drop them in the can through the hole and then proceed to drink the soda/beer/etc. After several choking deaths, the companies themselves decided they needed a better plan. I remember there was quite an outcry from the crafters.

  21. I remember this book from my local library in the late ’70s. As a craft-besotted teen, I thought it was fantastic! And determined to collect up enough pull-tabs to do something great with.

    And of course it was just about then that they stopped making cans with pull-tabs. Oh well. It probably saved me from something embarrassing.

  22. I own that book. I do not think its “awful” at all. Its out of print, and a truly wonderful slice out of that “hippie” time period. Wonderfully and incredibly INNOVATIVE and creative. Its eye candy for fashion, and art lovers.

  23. Oh, the book is NOT “useless” because one can always take ideas and change them to create with new techniques and materials. One should not copy anyways. You can see how one could take the ideas in the book with the old kind of tabs…and create something with the modern ones now using various fiber or wire joinery.

  24. http://www.flickr.com/photos/urbanwoodswalker/2893237170/

    I have a friend who made this dress in the last five years. Flickr is full of artisans working with aluminum pull tabs , and selling on etsy, Dawanda, etc. A company names Escama has many Brazillian artisans crocheting up pull tabs into gorgeous purses , belts and accessories that sell well globably.

    The derisive comments here are sad. I know many artists who buy tabs in bulk 1000 bag lots on ebay—buying 10- 30 bag lots at a time. There are about 27 different tab designs – styles & sizes also. Its really a fascinating subject that one man wrote about….I will have to find the link about that.

    Tab dresses, skirts, shawls, purses, water bottle holders, wallets, hats, capes, and shoes….as well as medieval costume armour are created with tabs in the 21st century.

    I was in high school when that book was written. The fashions were wild for a time. Just like that. No so unusual for the art crowd.

  25. Ahh, nostalgia! The days before coed naked airport security! Those innocent days when you could wear metal clothing and be greeted AT THE GATE by loved ones when you arrived!

  26. I found another pop-top! OMG, I was at a park for a charity walk and I found one right amongst the modern pull-tabs and bottle caps. Awesome, I even showed it to my friends. And I did reserve this book, we had one copy in my system. Sorry but the dresses and hats were a bit over the top, and doggy chain mail, erm, no. The accessories were actually pretty neat thoguh; the belt, the bracelet, even the lamp cover. I wouldn’t think someone odd to have that now, let alone the late 70s. Figure they were into kitsch.

  27. I’m from England and I stayed with PopTop Terp in July 1974 in a downtown NY loft. I actually was staying with a school-friend’s cousin named Fabienne, but he lived there, too. I remember at the time he was (somewhat) famous, and being 23 and relatively impressionable, I treated him with his due respect. He was fairly “far out” and quite fun in a high-energy way. We regularly indulged in weed during evening hours but I don’t remember him as odd or weird, just his fashion was a little out there.

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