Back in the 70’s, rock and punk band performers had worn rubber “0-rings”. Interestingly, in the late 70’s and early 80’s, they were worn by famous singers such as Madonna and Cindy Lauer as “anti-jewellery sentiment” fashion, as rubber symbolized a lack of value or spectacle in contrast with the precious stones, silver, and gold.
Rubber bracelets were also known in the past as “jelly bracelets”, “sex bracelets”, “ballers”, and “wristbands”. These names evolved according to specific time frames and reflected the culture of that time.
In the 1980’s, the plain blackfashion bracelets evolved as Jelly Bracelets, bearing an increased sense of fashion because of their different opaque or translucent colours. As the celebrities at that time popularized this fashion statement, these became readily available for the masses, primarily for the sake of fandom.
Later on in the 1990’s, Jelly Bracelets evolved into Sex Bracelets. They were called Sex Bracelets as the people started putting sexual connotations to the certain colours; each colour then corresponded to the kind of act the person wearing the bracelet wanted to engage into. As a result, wearing them became restricted in schools, and parents had prohibited their children from buying these colorful rubber bracelets.
As you may notice, there’s a transition of their meaning, from a mere rock and punkgroup expression to a sense of subversive fashion, and then to a form of illicit communication; a medium of non-letter codes. The more popular they got, the more people wanted to wear them.
Those who couldn’t afford jelly bracelets had used strands from old tires or by combining prophylactics. Others made their way in with the trend by collecting the thick rubber bands that were used to tie together vegetables in the markets. But not everyone wore them to communicate sexual codes. Some have managed to retain their original individual or group fashion sense.
Later on, Nike started to make rubber braceletsas NBA Players Baller ID. That’s why they became known as “ballers”, and “wristbands” because Nike had been using the same raw materials for making sports wristwatches.
In 2004, Lance Armstrong together with Nike, had started creating the Live Strong yellow bracelets, in order to support cancer patients in their battle against the disease. These were originally sold at $1 per piece, and because of that, they were able to help many cancer patients.
Now, these braceletsare everywhere. And not just that! Now you can make your own designs, choose from a bigger range of colours or mix of colours, and put in them names, catch phrases, logos, and the different good causes your group is advocating.
Some are giving them away as tokens, some are selling them as souvenirs, and some give them to specific people for whom they want to communicate their love and care in a different way. That’s why there are expressions embedded such as “I love you”, “Thank you!” and “I’m sorry.”
Going back further, this trend of wearing rubber braceletscould be traced from ancient tradition of tattooing. In ancient culture, tattoos on the person’s forehead, forearm, and hands mean different things. They indicate the person’s social and political status in society, their skills and also, the crimes committed. The ranks of political status, the variety of skill, and the level of offense in a crime committed were based on the number of tattoo layers on the person’s body, amongest both men and women.
Another fascinating trend that came with the popularization of the kind of bracelets was the culture of wearing the “WWJD bracelets” (composed of the same raw material) among Christians. “WWJD” meant “What Would Jesus Do?” This intended to remind the Christianto think “What would Jesus do if He were in my shoes?”
This is parallel with the ancient beliefs that a particular tattoo around the wrist and fingers could drive away illnesses. Very religious and mystical connotations. This kind of lifestyles reflected humanity’s inevitable inclination to venture into the supernatural with the purpose of gaining personal peace and moral integrity. Most importantly, this reflects the pursuit of controlling one’s will and to gain a sense of power over evil.
Another parallelism that could be derived from ancient culture and the now is the use of tattoos to identify yourself as part of a tribe or community in a society. Isn’t this true also for the rubber bracelets? People buy and customize them in bulks to express their support for a cause, or to identify themselves as part of a religion (remember the fish sign for Christians?), a club, a campaign, etc.
Many buy to this way of expression because it is a lot cheaper than statement shirts, tarpaulin, sun visors, and the like. It is also more visible and fashionable compared to personalized key chains and pens. Therefore, these bracelets are economic, convenient, not aesthetically obsolete, and despite being lightweight, they carry a lot of weight in popular culture history.