Michelle Flesh’s eyes went wide and locked on her friend’s wrist. “Omigod,” she exclaimed. “Is that the sparkly tiara from the Princess pack?” What sounded like babble from a first grader was uttered by a 21-year-old University of Pennsylvania student on break in her native Beverly Hills. The object of her excitement: a Silly Bandz bracelet, a silicone band that appears as a squiggle on the wrist but springs, when removed, into the silhouette of an object—a castle, a dog bone, a DJ. Like metal Slap bracelets in the ’80s and Pogs in the ’90s, Silly Bandz—at $4.95 for a pack of 24—have emerged as the latest cheap kids’ collectible. It’s no surprise that children have taken to the colorful (and flingable) items. But what’s with the adult world’s fixation?
“Sarah Jessica Parker put us on the map with the fashionista crowd,” says Robert Croak, a silicone accessory maker (Tsunami Relief) who created Silly Bandz two years ago in Toledo after seeing a similar Japanese accessory at a trade show. When the Sex and the City star raved about the gewgaws on Live with Regis and Kelly last May, it wasn’t with irony. “It’s an easy way to add color, and it reminds me of when I was a kid,” says Adriana Lipsztein, the 26-year-old owner of Covet Communications, a West Hollywood PR firm for, ahem, fine jewelry companies. “I’ve got all 12 packs of them, and I’ve just preordered the Justin Bieber ones. Sometimes I wonder how I can be so entertained by this.”
Like any ephemera destined for a future pop culture museum, Silly Bandz have engendered bans (by teachers who find them distracting), copycats (Zanybandz, Crazy Bands), and an economy of their own. “If you have a sparkly, which is kind of rare,” Flesh explains, “I would trade you three regular ones for it.” So far the craze hasn’t resulted in boycotts or burnings. Its adoption by adults has extended the trend, given the obsession fatigue among some youngsters. Sniffed a five-year-old Beverlywood resident, “I had the Princess pack and the Alphabet pack, but I traded them with my brother for gum.”
Photograph by Larry Underhill