When I began this post I was going to simply talk about Loom Bands, however as I delved deep into the bracelet phenomenon the bracelets over the last few generations were popping up on the internet so I decided to discuss the “fads” from the 1970s to now and what they really mean for children and teenagers.

Friendships in childhood are essential for mental health and wellbeing. Children develop their identity while enhancing social and emotional skills and more importantly identify their place within our world.  Strong friendships develop around 8-9 years of age when children have an idea about behaivours and acceptances and they have developed a sense of security. At 10 years of age, particularly girls, develop best friends and they can become emotionally attached. They have sleep overs and share their deepest secretes. Boys at this stage are still active with their “mates” and don’t develop as strong a friendship and have little interest of the opposite sex. With the developing friendships children share “gifts” which is often current fads, such as friendship bracelet, beads and pins to name a few.

Friendship bands and bracelets have been popular for many years. I remember in the 1980s making friendship pins for my friends. The process of making a friendship pin was to simply use a safety pin and thread colour beads onto the pin. Once you have collected several pins you would either hang them off a larger safety pin or pin them on your shoes. After trawling the Internet I haven’t been able to locate the origin of this fad but I did find an article that reminded me that the colour of each bead resembled a trait about the person.

White = gentle                     red = strong                orange = calm

yellow = good friend           green = envious           blue = happy           black = sad.

Another craze of the 1980s that I was unable to find how or when they began involved taking an O-ring off the lid of a drum and wearing them on your wrist. In Queensland they were known as a racist name and through extensive research other states of Australia had a different name for them, nunga bands. Again, this is a racist reflection as Nunga is the name of Aboriginal people from southern South Australia. The O-rings were worn on the person’s arm. Often children and teenagers collected them and gave some to their friends.  With the teenagers these bands had a theory of some type of sexual orientation. All I can remember is our mother’s would tell us to stay away from the boys who wore them!!

Friendship Pins

Friendship bracelets took hold in the late 1970s and have continued to current times. It is known these were based on the traditions of Indians who in Central and South America gave a bracelet to a friend. Once the band was attached to the friend’s arm the recipient had to make a wish and was worn until it fell off by itself and at that moment a wish was supposed to come true. In the 1970s friendship bracelets were brought into the United States by religious groups for use in political rallies and was used as a symbol during political protests about the disappearance of Mayan Indians and peasants in Guatemala. There has been some evidence to find these bracelets were used in China from 481 to 221BC.

Since the 1970s children and teenagers have used embroidery thread to tie knots to form the bracelet. The colours of the thread resemble various meanings.

Pink = kind                        red = happy           orange = energetic          yellow = cheerful

green = responsible           blue = loyal            black = strong.

After friendship bracelets came the slap bands. The steel bands, made of the same type of material as retractable tape measures, were covered in material. Invented by teacher Stuart Anders they were the fad on the late 1980s and early 1990s. Children would slap the bands on friends arms and ankles, however the dangers of these bands unraveling from the material causing cuts on the recipients body saw them banned.

 Friendship Bracelets


The recent fad that has circulated playgrounds around the world is loom bands, targeted at ages 8-14 years old. A former Nissan employee, Cheong Choon Ng created the idea in 2011. The idea was born after watching his daughters wrap elastic bands around their fingers, after he tried and failed, as his fingers were too big, he made a loom. The loom was based on 15th century clothing technology. Global Toy Expert, Richard Jottlieb, believes loom bands are the social network of the playground, similar to updating a status on Facebook.


From own photo library.

The next craze to take over our shores is the Silly Bandz. This idea has even sparked a silly bandz rap on YouTube (see below).   Originally invented in 2002 by Japanese design team of Passkey Design, Yumiko Ohashi and Masonar Haneda, American, Robert Croak saw an online market for them in 2008. They are colourful, elasticised silicon wristbands that come in different shapes and sizes but when taken off the wrist they revert back to the original shape. The difference with silly bandz is children buy these already established and have no creative flair on them.

Researchers have discussed the crazes of the bracelet world. Indian researcher Tuli (2014) has suggested children are losing interest in the bracelet craze tending to update their status on Facebook or updating WhatApp messages in lieu of trading bracelets. Some psychologists have discussed the loom band craze and believe they provide tools that can help build social skills, form friendships and learn important life lessons. These could include the process of swapping, which helps children understand about trade and barter and how to trade without fighting or losing friends.   Some teachers and parents use the current bracelet trend as a reward system replacing the iconic marbles and Pokémon cards. Child psychologist, Kenneth H Kessler, has continued to support the trends of swapping bracelets as he deems they are good for struggling with peer relationships, they form social connections. The item itself helps build or even start friendships.

I’m sure the silly bandz and loom bands will be a thing of the past in the not too distant future and I wonder what the next trend will be and what material the next inventor will find to create the bracelet with.


Denning, A. Friendship pins in the 1980s. (2014). Retrieved from http://www.liketotally80s.com/2007/11/friendship-pins/

Friendship bracelets. (2006). Retrieved from http://friendship-bracelets.net

Keith, K. L. (2014). Child Development: The Ten Year Old. http://childparenting.about.com/od/yourtenyearold/a/tenyearoldplay_2.htm


Lissau, R. (2010).Does the latest bracelet craze help or hinder? Daily Herald Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com/docview/755052758?accountid=13380

Parkinson, J. (2014). A craze for loom bands. Retrieved from http://www.bbc.com/news/magazine-27974401

Tefler, T. (2014). Whatever happened to slap bracelets? The dark history of a banned, dirty, and high-tech accessory. Retrieved October 15, 2014, from http://www.bustle.com/articles/30305-whatever-happened-to-slap-bracelets-the-dark-history-of-a-banned-dirty-and-high-tech-accessory

Tuli, A. (2014, Aug 02). Friendship bands: Once cool, now tacky man-woman]. The Times of India (Online) Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com/docview/1550355104?accountid=13380

Kids Matter. (2012). Helping children learn positive friendship skills. Retrieved October 14, 2014, from https://www.kidsmatter.edu.au/families/about-friendship/making-friends/helping-children-learning-positive-friendship-skills

Wikipedia. (2014). Silly Bandz. Retrieved October 15, 2014, from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Silly_Bandz

Wikipedia. (2014).   Friendship Bracelets. Retrieved October 15, 2014, from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Friendship_bracelet


Comments on: "Beads + Cotton + Elastic Bands equal Friends!!" (1)

  1. Wow, I didn’t know friendship bracelets/bands had a such a history. They weren’t really a thing in my 70s childhood, or perhaps they were and I was too socially unaware to realise! II liked the recent loom band thing at first. I like anything that gets kids being creative, and some of the things they were making were amazing. There were some great YouTube videos. But I’ll admit they lost their appeal after vacuuming up loads of the broken bits and pieces off the floor for the millionth time.


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