First there were charm bracelets with dangling tea pots and ballet shoes. In the ’80s, there were slap bracelets. And in the ’90s and early 2000s, women and children jumped on the Italian charm wagon.
Now, kids and teens have embraced a new fad: rubber bracelets. But some school officials aren’t so enthusiastic. They are concerned that the colorful ornamentations can be distracting — or even send an inappropriate message.
Silly Bandz, silicone rubber band bracelets that are shaped like butterflies and football players, are most popular at Lodi elementary schools but have carried into high schools, where teens are even more obsessed with colorful “I Heart Boobies” bracelets. The “boobies” bracelets are marketed by The Keep A Breast Foundation, a non profit aimed at raising breast cancer awareness among youths.
The thinner, rubber-band like Silly Bandz, however, are simply for fun. They started to become popular in elementary schools earlier this year. Students can buy packs of them for between $1 and $4 at the grocery store, Walmart or the Dollar Store. Students collect as many as they can, trading with friends to get their favorite shapes and colors.
On their wrists, the bracelets are messy zigzags and you can’t make out the shapes. But when you lay them on a flat surface, the bracelets reveal shapes from unicorns to Sponge Bob Square Pants, Transformers, butterflies, warriors and Barbie.
Silly Bandz, the original maker of these types of bracelets, launched an online sale of the bracelets in November 2009. The bracelet bonanza began: first on the East Coast, then here.
Tokay High junior Angie Melton gets really excited talking about Silly Bandz. She rattles off about all of the ones she has: “I have a dog, pig, dragon, mermaid, heart, guitar.”
“You have a pig?” someone asks her, as if pig-shaped Silly Bandz are hard to come by.
Melton, though, is on the search for a unicorn because the one she had broke.
Veronica Zarbe, a Tokay High junior, wears bracelets across both hands, as well as a black knitted glove. When it comes to bracelets, she doesn’t discriminate.
“I wear them all because they’re random. And I’m a random person,” she said.
Johnny Gilley, a Lodi High School student, wears a single pink balloon-shaped bracelet given to him by an ex-girlfriend.
And just like everything that has ever been cool — pogs, Zhu Zhu pets, all things Hannah Montana and Justin Beiber — rubber bracelets sometimes cause a distraction in school. While a Lodi elementary schools hasn’t banned the bracelets, some teachers have chosen not to allow them in their individual classrooms.
Millswood Middle School, however, doesn’t allow the bracelets at all. About six weeks into the first quarter, Millswood Principal Sheree Flemmer saw the bracelets for the first time. While she thought they were “fun” and “cool,” she warned the students that they would not be allowed at school if they became a distraction.
“We got a distraction, so we had them disappear,” said Flemmer, adding that some students were using them as sling shots.
At Millswood, it was a similar situation with the “I Love Boobies” bracelets. While Flemmer supports breast cancer awareness, it became obvious that the young boys were wearing them for other reasons.
“You would see 13-year-old boys with 15 (I Love Boobies bracelets) going up their arm,” Flemmer said.
Lodi High School has also attempted to keep students from wearing the “I Love Boobies” bracelets.
When he sees students wearing them, assistant principal Jeff Palmquist says he will ask the students to turn them inside out or take them off.
Angela LeStrange, a second assistant principal, says the rule is not because the school doesn’t support the cause. She points out that The Keep A Breast Foundation only raises money for awareness, not for actual breast cancer research.
The students, though, wear them openly and under their sweaters. They are bright colors, and about double the size of the yellow rubber Live Strong bracelets made popular by Lance Armstrong.
Tokay High School student Dylan Nabors, who doesn’t wear either of the fad bracelets, thinks everyone wears them for attention.
“They just wear it because it says boobies,” he said.