When I was in elementary school, we had these things called Pogs™. Based on the idea that if children were playing with bottle caps they’d play with anything, pogs were circular cardboard disks with different pictures on the front. Some children used them to play the Pogs game. This included making a pile of pogs and then hitting them with what was called a “Slammer,” which was a thicker pog. Others just traded and collected pogs and stored them in tubes. Because I, too, collected pogs, I can only introduce you to this decade’s equivalent with slight judgement and a little hypocrisy. If you have seen kids with elastic bands on their wrists or strange elastic bands moulded into shapes, and you’re wondering just how important marketing and popularity is… well… I can explain.
Silly Bandz are a brand of elastic bands that come in hundreds of different shapes (from animals to super heroes to internet vernacular). Not only are there funky shapes, but Silly Bandz also come in a variety of colours including tie-dye, glitter, and glow-in-the-dark. These bands are worn on the wrist (often many at a time) like a fashion accessory for children. When removed from the wrist, they return to their original fun shape. If you’re looking for a more detailed description on what these things are, because there’s no way such a simple concept would sweep the country this fast, there isn’t one. I mean, they can also be used as actual elastic bands. Otherwise, Silly Bandz are nothing more than colourful fun-shaped elastic bands.
The Japanese were the first to shape elastic bands into animals. But Robert Croak, the head of the company that makes Live Strong bracelets, spotted them at a convention and realized their true potential. He started manufacturing them in the U.S.A. and instead of marketing them as elastic bands to offices, he targeted them towards children as a fashion accessory. First, they were sold online; within a year, they were in stores across the southern United States; and in no time, they were making their way up the coast. Before long, they were Amazon’s bestselling toys, and there were knock off brands like Logo Bandz, Cool Bandz, Zany Bandz and Googly Bandz.
But why are they so popular? It’s likely a combination of a few things:
#1) First, it taps into the collector’s mentality. As a species, we want to gather and collect large quantities of valuable assets (the term “valuable” being loosely used). Whether its comic books, Pokemon cards, Pogs, or elastic bands, we want to “catch them all.”
#2) Second, Silly Bandz have become popular amongst youngsters. Those that have them try to have more than other kids, and the competition spirals into collecting as many as possible just for the sake of having more. Additionally, those that don’t have them are, at times, ostracized.
#3) Finally, when you’re young and can find something that speaks to your personality (animal shapes, Barbie shapes, etc.), you express yourself!
Now Silly Bandz aren’t all fun and games. They’ve been banned in many classrooms for being too distracting. Older teens are using them to symbolize what level of sexual activity they’ll engage in. Some minor injuries have even been reported when Bandz were pulled up a child’s arms, which cut off circulation. However, for the most part, Silly Bandz are just one more child-centric fad that will disappear as quickly as you can say, “Beenie Babies.”
In any case, if you’re wondering what it means when you grandson gives you an elastic band shaped like a Power Ranger… I can explain!