Silly Bandz, or, Why Your Children Are Suddenly Taken With Colorful Office Supplies

I mean, you can see how cool this looks for yourself.

GateHouse — The competition is pretty ferocious, but the most uniquely ridiculous of the forehead-smackingly silly fads to sweep in and out of my junior and high schools were these rubber watches that came as part of a Burger King value meal, something with a hork of meat and a fry pail for $4.59 or whatever.

Technically speaking, these were less “watches” than small tires worn about the wrist; they were forged from rubber, required about two square feet of arm space, broke when you touched them, attempted to fix them or looked at them in a way they found aggravating and came in four exceedingly homely colors (“Collect them all!” shouts a heartbreaking 1989-vintage ad on YouTube). Needless to say, the eighth-graders of Taft Junior High collected them with the over-perspirating desperation of Apple first-adopters for reasons that I’m sure remain baffling to this day to the teachers and administrators, who probably spent some percentage of valuable education time wondering whether it was necessary to legislate a crappy-looking China-produced $2.49 piece timepiece from a company whose most successful prior business venture came from adorning a theoretical filet of “fish” with a flash-dried slice of what no one could disprove was cheese.

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The Burger King watch fiasco was the most inexplicable, but hardly the only, fad of inscrutable origin to crash my school years, which occurred in the Midwest during the exceedingly fashion-unfortunate era of 1988-1993, meaning we got — and if there any Region veterans out there, please add to this incomplete list — the renaissance of pegged jeans, the unstoppable rise of acid-washed jeans, Zubaz pants, Hammer pants, Hammer/Zubaz Striped Bears-Logo-Print Pants You Could Also Use To Store Your Tractor, Hypercolor T-shirts, garments produced by the classy and authentic Italian style merchant Cavaricci, Trapper Keepers that were covered, every last inch of them, by Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, bracelets-you-slapped-on-your-wrist-and-they-became-bracelets-and-also-left-a-welt and, this is true, yo-yos. I remember, very clearly, the feeling of genuine discomfort known only to those who have sat in a pre-algebra class with what has been declared a subpar yo-yo.

I bring all this up because a few weeks ago, my kindergarten-age son came home announcing his immediate intention to venture to Walgreens — accompanied by one of the car-driving adults in the family if necessary — to obtain a package of rubber bands shaped like vehicles.

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For you losers, these would be Silly Bandz, the current compulsion in grades K-8 (at least, I guess) that’s briefly drawing the youths away from teen vampires and compelling adults to ask the well-worn parenting question, “So, wait, in order for you to be cool we have to go to CVS?”

Silly Bandz are collected, traded, swapped and hoarded; they’re, as near as I can tell, sort of like Pokemon cards, except with less of the discarnate fear that you’re throwing sackfuls of cash into a roaring wood stove. Because Silly Bandz, despite being silly and pluralized with the Z, much like Zubaz pants, come at the hard-to-mope-about price of something like $1.99 for a million. (Seriously, the kids are collecting rubber bands. With any luck this will launch a nationwide Office Supplies Craze and I can get rid of all these replacement staples I’ve been hoarding.)

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Related, sort of

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Anyway, after, of course, driving to Walgreens for the stupid rubber bands, naturally, two things occurred to me:

  1. It’s his first pointless peer-pressure school fad! Which actually made me more reflective about the marching of time if anything, and
  2. The markup on creatively molded rubber bands must set some sort of non-petroleum based Sheer Profit Record, I have to imagine producing such a complex, difficult object must cost somewhere in the neighborhood of 1/8 of a chicken in the Chinese sweatshop from which they originate. I’m not here to besmirch the quality of Silly Bandz, but my son’s first pack was emblazoned with a sticker trumpeting that they were of the GLOR IN THE DARK variety, which confused him tremendously. “Dad, how do you spell ‘glow?'” he asked me, a touch of incredulity in his voice, my young budding copy editor/person who will hopefully not have to put up with too many more of these in the next few years, especially the Cavaricci.
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About Jeff Vrabel

My writing has appeared in GQ, Men’s Health, Success, the Washington Post, the official BruceSpringsteen.net, Indianapolis Monthly, Billboard, Modern Bride and more. View all posts by Jeff Vrabel

69 responses to “Silly Bandz, or, Why Your Children Are Suddenly Taken With Colorful Office Supplies

  • Shannon

    This post is hilarious. I was an unwilling participant of the 80s. I actually did try pretty hard to fit in, but looking back, I think I’m proud to have failed!

    My kids are obsessed with the Silly Bandz. They are the cheapest form of positive behavioral reward I’ve seen yet. Threatening to throw them all in the trash is also a good discipline technique. 🙂

    Like

  • mindymilburn

    “accompanied by one of the car-driving adults in the family if necessary” LMAO!!! I really like your son!

    I saw a twenty something girl wearing one of those bracelets and when I inquired as to what they were she informed me that they were all the rage, what she failed to mention was they are all the rage with children. I am not quite sure I understand it but like you pointed out (loved the trip down memory lane by the way) they wouldn’t understand our trends either.

    At least its cheap silly bandz and not something outrageously over priced 🙂

    Like

  • Tyler Tarver

    I teach 9th-12th, and just let me clarify that the oil has runneth over into at least one Arkansas High School.

    The most interesting ones I hath seen have been a velociraptor, Jesus, anteater, and a jellyfish/pincone hybird.

    I vote bring back slapbracelets and would fight for them wielding my plastic extendable lightsaber.

    Stop reading comment now.

    If you ventured this far my highly articulate 2-dimensional blog owner, then I can not be held responsible (like Lindsey Lohan) for my related “post about fads link” that is to follow.

    http://tylertarver.wordpress.com/2010/03/18/fads-through-the-ages/

    You posted a great post, and at least diamond rings aren’t the “new thing”. Psh, women.

    Like

  • Meredith (Bubafettt)

    I saw this weirdness at my local cloth store while purchasing a few yards of fabric for a dress pattern. I can’t speak to the fadz of the late 80s (I was appx 6), but I do recall something about some “kids being new to block”. I could never find them. The few things I remember from my early schooling years were: resurgence of bell-bottoms, resurgence of yo-yos (my school banned them once they became used as weapons in many pointless battles of “manhood”) and finally POGS. I remember people going insane over Slammers (they also glored or glowed in the dark, depending on how much $ the parents offered to the Pog gods) and bringing these oddly embellished cardboard discs, pressed plastic & glass slammers to school in yard-long tubes so show off in some ritual to further enforce the ever-present cliques. Than, after determining which were “rare” (mostly because they wanted people to want their “pogs”-pun intended), they would THROW THEM?!?! You would stack the cardboard and throw the Slammers (some even metal) at this stack. The end result is still not fully understood, because the explosion of cardboard sent everyone crazy. It’s interesting that many of these fadz result in what appears to the the intended destruction of the fad equipment, and the kids must complete that final objective because the fad says so. I found my pogs a while ago and plan on showing them to my kids, and perhaps somehow reintroduce this pog craze to get my parents money back, because they’ve never forgiven me.

    Final thought, what ever happened to collecting baseball cards?

    Like

    • Jeff Vrabel

      I think they started producing seven million copies of each baseball card, thus rendering each one less valuable than the last. Although I have a mint condition Ryne Sandberg stuck in a box in the attic. Right next to my Kids Being New To The Block tapes

      Like

  • shenanitims

    “For you losers, these would be Silly Bandz, the current compulsion in grades K-8”

    Sadly, we have a twenty-six year-old at my workplace who has some. And wears them. To work.

    Even more aggravating, he’s trying to make upper management. I can only guess how that interview would go:

    “So, what are your ideas for increasing sales?”

    “Well, as a recently matured young man, I know that the largest market right now is young adults. They have the most disposable income. So I’m going to cater to them. [Lifts arm up, showing off silly band (he unfortunately only has one)] Check it out, I have the helicopter! These same kids will RESPECT me now. I’m on the inz.”

    Like

  • Raul

    I remember all those crazy cool things!! I remember when swatches were the watches of choice. Oh, and everyone used to have those huge plastic watches on their walls. I also remember those frienship bracelets that everyone had, crazy how the same fads sort of come back around. I just remembered those Kaepas I think they were called…you know…those shoes that came with pieces of plastic in different colors to put on the side of the shoes…crazy stuff!!! Oh man, and hypercolor shirts!! Remember they would change color in the sun or light!! Ha!!

    http://www.wutevs.wordpress.com

    Like

  • Todd Pack

    I was a kid in the ’70s, and I begged my parents a Pet Rock, so I can’t claim the moral high ground and tell my 10-year-old she can’t wear rubber bands on her wrist.

    http://www.toddpack.com

    Like

  • Kimberly

    I also grew up in the Midwest during the time period you mentioned and have recently been pondering some of the same fashion trends that you brought up. You did miss a couple though that I have to point out…Legwarmers, and 5 foot tall hair.

    I was in private school, so my hatred of legwarmers was hidden by our required blue and white uniforms, but there were no school regulations limiting the amount of hairspray in our hair. Thus, I was deemed an outcast, simply because my hair never rose more than a quarter of an inch above my scalp and was not as super-flammable as the hairdo’s of my classmates.

    Thank you for an amusing and well written trip down memory lane. I will certainly be reading more of your posts in the future.

    Like

  • hutchhunters

    I was on vacation when I first encountered them and my husband (who is twenty-four) informed me that ALL the kids were crazy about them. Then my 17 year old cousin introduced me, and my thought was, “Really? That’s what’s cool?”

    And then, for the first time in my life I felt like one of those really “uncool adults” who “just don’t get it.”

    But then again, when I was in highschool we wore those stupid silicone bracelets (along with hair ties) around our wrists that didnt have any shape. And supposedly if a boy broke one you had to have sex with him. Thankfully there’s nothing like that associated with these silly bandz…

    Like

  • Mirellarose

    They were all the rage about 5 years ago too… glad to see they have been resurected as their first appearance was short lived. My parent’s never let me get any. I was about 9 or ten years old… (was that all? it must have been longer ago then) and I despirately wanted the jungle animals and the sea creature ones… (I absolutely love dolphins) and non of my friends were willing to give me one unless I gave them at least one… oh well, they weren’t that good friends and we ended up not lasting the test of time… 😛 not sad to look back on it.

    Like

  • leylash

    HAHAHAHAAHAHA! This was a great read!
    I was lucky enough to be given 2 silly bandz from each of my 3 brothers (gd forbid they parted with more than 2!) to be worn during my finals for good luck. for a great 2 weeks i proudly wore these 6 bands (hey who knows, maybe they’d work) then gave them back. For the record, they’re great conversation starters on the train. interesting things can come out of a guy who looks at your wrist and says, “what, are you in the second grade too?”
    and 2 bucks?! really?!? they’re $5 bucks next to my house 😮

    Like

  • shutterboo

    Oh how I loved my slap bracelet. Hot pink with zebra print. Slapped it until it would slap no more. RIP.

    Like

  • slytherclawchica

    It has infected high schoolers too. My students spend about ten minutes swapping at the beginning of each rehearsal.

    Like

  • thecodger

    I saw on the news that some schools have banned these Silly Bandz…something about them being a disruption in the classroom. I say it’s the teachers’ duty to disrupt that disruption with education for the children!

    The Codger
    http://thecodger.wordpress.com/

    Like

  • Bridgit

    I love this post. My 5-year-old son started coming home with these a few weeks ago. I didn’t quite understand the fascination with colored rubber bands in various shapes, but then again looking back at some of the fads from my school days, I’m sure my parents felt the same way.

    The interesting part was that my son said he was getting the silly bands from his bus driver. A few days after he told me that, a letter from school came home stating that silly bands were no longer allowed in school because they were causing too many distractions.

    Like

  • westcoastdreamer

    Unfortunately, this stupid phase isn’t just for grades K-8. My 17-year-old sister has some. Her high school friends all collect silly bandz in the shape of giraffes and monkeys and who knows what other jungle animals. Even my 20-year-old co-worker has submitted to this.

    I’m seriously worried about the future of civilization as we know it…

    Like

  • lapazmundial

    I just graduated from college and about a week before finals, these Silly Bandz started appearing around campus, sadly they were occasionally on the wrist of one of my friends. I will say though, the college crowd seemed to be fans of the letter ones, something about wearing your initial.

    lapazmundial.wordpress.com

    Like

  • Bradshaw

    I’m confused. Why are you referring to Cavaricci’s as a “fad.”?

    Like

    • Jeff Vrabel

      Oh, sorry. I meant Ocean Pacific was a fad, and Cavaricci is the stuff you should probably wear to your next job interview. Shouldn’t you be eating bacon and buying your Jackyl tickets?

      Like

  • gecko

    I’m from across the pond, and I have to say I haven’t seen them about here in England yet, but I’ve got to say, they look hideous. Although I’m sure all the teens over here will snap them up, just like they did with those ‘shag bands’ thing (I didn’t partake). We’re stupid like that.

    Like

  • wordgossip

    I just spent the last three days with a seven year old who was literally up to his elbows in Silly Bandz. I cannot tell you how hard it was to shell out $6.46 for a 12 pack of these animal shapped rubber bands.

    Like

  • Thomas Stazyk

    Brilliant! Don’t know how I missed the Burger King watch promotion–that ad made me want to bite my ears off.

    Like

  • ofsoundandfury8

    Oh gawd. I’m embarrassed for my own generation… I swear, I just left highschool and I’m already sick of these stupid bands. Yes highschoo. I guess this is not just a fad for k-8. I have seen adults (well, 18 yr olds) get into fights over bands that look like unicorn throw up. Cute on an 8 year old, not so much on an 18 year old.

    Like

  • alinaryn

    They havent even hit the west coast like this. I am in San Diego and wait every day for my daughter to walk through the door, ready to explain the phenomenon to me…only so I can hit back with…I already know all about it!! But nope, nothing, day after day, and not a word. My parents live in NY, so I am having my father buy out every Walgreens and CVS as he goes along, so when he visits in a week, we will be 10 steps ahead.

    Like

  • Vivian Dixon Sober

    “I do it. You do it. Even e.ve.ry.bo.dy at school do it.” Notice I didn’t say does it. Kids just do not want to be different. You make me laugh, ha, ha.

    Seriously, adults do the same thing in a different way. According to Ralph Waldo Emerson and The Book of Vivian, you must be a non-conformist to be you, and people are afraid to be themselves. Our society does not inculcate individualism. Isn’t that sad?

    Like

  • BeneathTheSpinLight

    I think the Burger King advertisement ruined my life. It was pretty tragic.
    Awesome post. 🙂

    Like

  • itsjustcassie

    I just graduated high school….I have the ever-present dinosaurs, while my best friend has a coveted giraffe. So pissed.

    Like

  • Slamdunk

    Those dumb bands sure are hot now. We have assisted our kids in joinging the color bracelet cult–I just don’t get it.

    Like

  • nicoleguzman

    Oooh i don’t doubt kids from K-8 wear it, but thought i’d let you know that even my own friends and classmates in highschool wear these ridiculous bracelets. Personally, I don’t think they’re worth wasting my money on.

    Like

  • Songbird

    How funny!! I suppose every generation has their own fad. The BK commercial is hilarious!!!

    Like

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  • Funny

    i don’t get how u guys can laugh at this! the fads back in the 70s were much sillier!!!!!! i mean, pet rox? i really want these bands, but i have 2 wait for my mom 2 take me 2 walgreens!!!!!! anyway, i can’t wait to get my handds on these!!!!!11

    Like

  • Soporte tecnico

    The rubber band has another good aspect that when two person becomes friends and as assign of friendship, they gift these bands to each others

    Like

  • cutie pie

    silly bandz are super cool i want a ton besides my friends wont stop talking about them so if i want to stay in the A click i better get some l.o.l.

    Like

  • rumples

    HaHa! And I’ve been wearing hairbands on my wrists for years …. hey, did I unknowingly START this trend? Come to think of it, I did try to sell rubber bands to my neighbors and friends when I was 8 years old.

    Love your style!

    Like

  • Schun

    Wow! this is cool, I love silly bandz as well. And most of children in my zone love it too.

    Like

  • Christopher

    http://funnybandz.biz/ is a school project that has funny bandz / silly bandz as main subject.

    Great article though.

    Like

  • Jake

    This post is hilarious. I was an unwilling participant of the 80s. I actually did try pretty hard to fit in, but looking back, I think I’m proud to have failed!

    My kids are obsessed with the Silly Bandz. They are the cheapest form of positive behavioral reward I’ve seen yet. Threatening to throw them all in the trash is also a good discipline technique. 🙂

    Like

  • Jennifer K.

    They havent even hit the west coast like this. I am in San Diego and wait every day for my daughter to walk through the door, ready to explain the phenomenon to me…only so I can hit back with…I already know all about it!! But nope, nothing, day after day, and not a word. My parents live in NY, so I am having my father buy out every Walgreens and CVS as he goes along, so when he visits in a week, we will be 10 steps ahead.

    Like

  • Jenson

    I just spent the last three days with a seven year old who was literally up to his elbows in Silly Bandz. I cannot tell you how hard it was to shell out $6.46 for a 12 pack of these animal shapped rubber bands.

    Like

  • Jezabel

    They were all the rage about 5 years ago too… glad to see they have been resurected as their first appearance was short lived. My parent’s never let me get any. I was about 9 or ten years old… (was that all? it must have been longer ago then) and I despirately wanted the jungle animals and the sea creature ones… (I absolutely love dolphins) and non of my friends were willing to give me one unless I gave them at least one… oh well, they weren’t that good friends and we ended up not lasting the test of time… 😛 not sad to look back on it.

    Like

  • allen

    hehe 🙂 silly bandz! awesome stuff. They are so pretty. I had a friend who had hundreds of those things and would litterally hurt us if we touched them. I need to send this article to her.

    Like

  • Mortgage

    Lol…. When I was a kid I remember doing whatever it takes to accumulate as many silly bands bracelets as possible. Everything needed to be a challenge otherwise I won’t participate. I even bet on who’s going out with who first for silly bands… silly stuff!

    Like

  • seo st louis

    As a kid, the silliest things entertain you and keep you busy for hours. Sadly, that goes away as an adult. I wish I could still joy in a silly band. But people would think I’m so immature and crazy… lol But that’s the joy of having kids. You can watch them be silly and you can find the joy in that.

    Like

  • tax accountant

    I just graduated from college and about a week before finals, these Silly Bandz started appearing around campus, sadly they were occasionally on the wrist of one of my friends. I will say though, the college crowd seemed to be fans of the letter ones, something about wearing your initial.

    Like

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