For many of us, walking through the school doors to start a new day is the first memory of lockers we have in our lives. From then on, we have had many interactions with lockers throughout our lives. Though we may not pay too much attention to them, lockers have become firmly established in our society. As society and technology have changed, so too have lockers evolved. From the earliest wooden lockers of the past through to metal and now HDPE plastic lockers and laminate lockers, lockers come in a wide range of different sizes and colours and suit a diverse range of functions.

Lockers give us a sense of security, a private space while we step into a relatively large, public expanse. Knowing that all our secrets, valuables, and belongings are locked securely behind a door gives us the peace of mind to continue our daily routines. All of this became possible with the development of lockers, and lockers have been around for millennia.

Let’s check out the history of lockers and their evolution has unfolded.

A Brief History of Lockers

Humans have always wanted to find effective ways to keep their valuables safe. The earliest ways to protect private valuables were to simply hide them- in difficult-to-reach spots, by burying treasures deep underground, keeping them guarded by armed soldiers or submerging them into water. Then along came the invention of the locker. Lockers helped people put their belongings in safer places and made it easier to retrieve them when needed.

What Use Would Lockers Be Without Locks?

Archeologists found the oldest lock in the Khorasan Palace in Nineveh, Egypt. The Pin tumbler lock is dated to be 4,000 years old. Egyptians are renowned for keeping their valuables safe with pyramids and chambers, and also with locks. The discovery of locks put the evolution of lockers into motion.

What Do We Know About the Oldest Lockers?

Locker’s history dates back to somewhere between 500 BC and 300 AD and is associated with the Romans and Greeks. The Greeks are well known for giving humanity the Olympics. Interestingly, the locker evolution is more closely related to the Olympics than you might have realised. When athletes needed gymnasiums to unclothe themselves to prepare for the games and wash afterwards, their belongings would be stored in a cubby or shelf and were taken care of by attendants. If an attendant were caught stealing, they would be sentenced to death. The padlocks found in their ancient civilisation suggest that Greeks might have used them with wooden cupboards to set up the gymnasium lockers.

The first lockers most likely consisted of narrow, stacked cupboards with padlocks. Lockers like this are believed to have been used at Harleston Green Golf Club in South Carolina in about 1786. Storage lockers from the Victorian Era were found in the wreckage of the British Warship HMS Terror dating back to 1848. These storage lockers are the oldest intact lockers from history that have been discovered. The evolution of lockers brought us to metal and plastic lockers, the latest being the smart RFID-tagged and smart lockers with several advanced digital capabilities.

Types Of Lockers That Evolved Over Time

A small, narrow compartment to keep belongings in has evolved over the years to secure everything from menial personal items to precious artworks and jewellery. From banks to schools, we see lockers everywhere. As humanity’s needs have evolved, so have lockers, using new materials and technologies to provide innovative new solutions.

Excessive maintenance of the wooden lockers led to the development of laminated and plastic lockers, which require much lesser maintenance. Demand for lockers has skyrocketed through the years. Analysts claim the locker industry’s worth is expected to exceed over 1.5 trillion dollars before 2024, up from 1.2 trillion dollars in 2019. The growth of recreational centres, health centres, banks and nearly every other establishment is helping to fuel this demand for lockers.

Customised lockers have been developed for banks that are anti-theft and highly secure. Thanks to the latest technology, lockers can now also be anti-microbial, anti-fungal, and guaranteed not to rot or warp.

Here’s a list of how innovation has created different types of lockers to meet a wide range of human needs:

  • Vertical Bike Lockers: With a small footprint, these lockers meet the needs of cycling enthusiasts to save space storing their bikes in sheds or garages at home. Vertical Bike Lockers can also be installed in apartment blocks, offices, near public transport and general public places to store bikes safely away from home.

  • Stackable Locker: Modular lockers can be stacked above another to give just the right amount of storage space. These kinds of lockers can be reconfigured to fit into different spaces as the needs change over time. 

  • Mobile Charging Lockers: Easily visible in public spaces, schools and offices, mobile powering lockers allow multiple people to charge their phones simultaneously. These lockers can offer individual slots for longer safe-keeping or common space for charging.

After the pandemic, with remote working and online schools becoming more common, there were concerns that the lockers market may decline. But with co-working spaces and “workcations” becoming the norm, lockers are again meeting a new need. Let’s not forget that medical establishments, hotels, gyms and health clubs continue to provide a soaring demand for lockers.

Technology is helping make lockers more user-friendly, and built-in electronic locking systems can help eliminate the keys we usually end up losing. Innovation in locking systems and locker materials help make the lockers more durable and secure for us.