The Popularity of Silly Bandz
Like all trends as hot as wildfire, this fashion trend started where almost all of them begin -- Alabama?
All right, so the Heart of Dixie isn't generally considered the authority of the chic and fashion-forward. But reports seem to indicate that it was in Birmingham, Ala., around late 2009 that Silly Bandz suddenly picked up sales speed [source: George]. By November 2010, the East Coast (including New Jersey, Long Island and Staten Island) started spotting Silly Bandz on the wrists and in the backpacks of youngsters.
Robert Croak, CEO of Silly Bandz, claims to have started the Silly Bandz craze after seeing a shapeable rubber band at a Chinese trade show. Croak, who also created the customized silicone bracelets made popular by Lance Armstrong and his Live Strong campaign, saw the opportunity to branch out. Making the bands slightly thicker, he envisioned them as a fashion accessory [source: Berfield].
Made of what the Silly Bandz Web site calls "100 percent medical-grade silicone," the bands are manufactured quite cheaply in China [source: Silly Bandz]. In fact, a toy analyst estimates that each Silly Bandz package costs "nickels" to produce, and eyes the profit margin at close to 75 percent [source: Berfield].
The science behind the bands is predictably simple. Silicone is a very malleable material. With changes to its molecular structure, the substance can become quite rigid and hard (like the rubber in car tires) or it can take on the properties of a thin fluid (think silicone gel in breast implants). Landing somewhere in between both extremes, the silicone in Silly Bandz is able to have a "backbone" that can bend without breaking and mold toward specific forms [source: Dow Corning].
And while some might grumble that loads of rubber bands aren't helping the environment, the original use (from a Japanese designer who molded rubber into flexible shapes) was actually intended to prevent people from throwing away countless rubber bands by keeping them attached to their frog-shaped band [source: Marek].