From clothes to tattoos, the way we choose to decorate and distinguish our appearance speaks volumes about who we are.
But the humble rubber bracelet has come to stand for a lot more than our style choices. These gel wristbands were once nothing more than simple fashion accessories in the 1980s. However, since 2004, no end of brands, charities, and groups have used silicone bracelets to raise awareness for a variety of causes and movements.
These days, the endless amount of wristband designs and styles makes them easy to customize for a wide range of uses. But where and how did it all start?
Keep reading to find out all about the history behind rubber bracelets.
1. Madonna Starts a Trend
She might be a ‘Material Girl’ but Madonna was also the queen of accessories when she first came onto the music scene in the 1980s. While wristbands and various forms of bracelets have been around since the early Egyptians, it was Madonna who first popularized the rubber wristbands we know today.
During various live appearances, concerts, and photoshoots, she wore stacks of wristbands alongside other popular ’80s accessories such as scrunchies, headbands, and layered chains.
Never one to stick to the same style for too long, Madonna changed her wristbands according to her look. While she favored a rainbow of colored silicone bands for her early pop hits, she later switched to stacks of black rubber bracelets for a sexier, grown-up look.
2. A Late ’90s Revival
The trend for rubber wristbands had died down by the end of the 1980s. But, by the turn of the century, silicone bracelets were popular again after a late ’90s revival.
This was mainly thanks to music icons like Avril Lavigne wearing them as part of the grungy look that dominated pop culture at the time.
3. The Birth of ‘Awareness Bracelets’
Before 2004, silicone wristbands were still a fashion accessory rather than a means of expressing support for a cause.
All that changed when cyclist Lance Armstrong’s Livestrong Foundation launched a yellow silicone bracelet as a fundraising item in support of cancer patients. Armstrong started the foundation after overcoming testicular cancer and going on to win the Tour de France six consecutive times.
The yellow color of the band, launched in collaboration with Nike, refers to the yellow jersey worn by the Tour de France leader. In the summer of 2004, the world’s most popular cyclists wore the yellow band at the Tour de France in support of Armstrong’s foundation.
4. Record-Breaking Wristband Sales
Nike cut ties with Armstrong and his foundation following his doping confession in 2013. But, over the years, the collaboration sold over 80 million yellow ‘Livestrong’ silicone bands. And, despite Armstrong’s fall from grace, the yellow bands remain a popular symbol for those supporting the fight against cancer.
5. The Symbol for a Variety of Causes
Following the success of the Livestrong band, many different organizations started using silicone wristbands to raise awareness for various campaigns and causes.
In 2004, BBC Radio 1 launched Beat Bullying wristbands with support from celebrities such as singer Bono and soccer stars David Beckham and Thierry Henry. The campaign moved over one million blue wristbands over the course of a year and started a huge anti-bullying movement throughout the UK.
Inspired by the wristband’s success, Thierry Henry launched his own in 2005. The ‘Stand Up Speak Up’ campaign appealed for an end to racism in soccer and used black and white wristbands to promote the cause.
Various other campaigns and charities used the concept of the silicone bracelet to raise awareness in the coming years. But, one of the biggest campaigns was ‘Make Poverty History’. The campaign featured this message on a white wristband, and received support from major celebrities such as Brad Pitt and George Clooney.
6. Safe, Eco-Friendly, and Resistant
Support ribbons and remembrance poppies come with sharp pins and are easy to break. In contrast, rubber awareness wristbands are harmless and very resistant.
Made from natural silicone rubber, these bands adapt to your wrist and can withstand high temperatures, making them highly wearable. What’s more, silicone is an eco-friendly material so it’s a great choice in today’s eco-conscious world.
7. Quick and Easy to Customize
Thanks to online production companies, it’s now quicker and easier than ever to order custom rubber bracelets.
Charitable organizations, businesses, and even the general public now have access to wristbands that express their support for a campaign, event, or brand. And, with an endless amount of options from band thickness to the style of lettering on your band, you can select a design that’s personal to you.
Choose from lettering options such as dual-layer wristbands, debossed wristbands, and ink-filled wristbands, in widths ranging from 1/4 inch to one inch thick. And, since you can choose any shade from Pantone’s color pallet, there’s no end of different combinations available.
As well as being an inexpensive option for brands and groups to order in bulk, it’s possible to order one bracelet for a unique look. Or, if you’re in need of a large number of silicone wristbands at short notice, you can order as many as 10,000 for next day delivery.
Fascinating Rubber Bracelet Facts
As these fascinating facts show, rubber bracelets have come a long way since Madonna first wore them as an ’80s fashion accessory.
Silicone bands are still as wearable and fun as they were back then. But they’ve also become a symbol for our affiliation to a brand, group, or campaign.
For more inspiring stories on everything from travel to finances, be sure to check out our other blog posts!