Silicone wristbands nowadays are synonymous to marketing and awareness. They are used by both corporate entities and non-profit organizations (NGOs) to raise awareness on relevant issues they believe in. Some companies issue them during corporate celebrations and similar events. These humble bands have even become a political statement, with voters donning bands representing the colors of the parties or politicians they support.
Doesn’t it make you wonder where they started? Here’s a brief history of silicone wristbands and how they ended up being the perfect marketing and awareness materials.
1980s – 1990s: Pop Music and Fashion Wrist Bands
While wristbands have been in recorded in history since the early Egyptians, the modern bands that resemble today’s gel bands seem to have started in the 1980s. At the time, they gained popularity as queen of pop Madonna donned them in concerts. This trend would die down and resurface in the 1990s and the early 2000s with teens taking inspiration from other music icons, including Avril Lavigne.
Prior to the popularity of the bands as a means of expressing support for charity and other causes, they were simply a fashion accessory. This would change in the mid-2000s with the birth of the yellow Livestrong band.
2000s: The Yellow Livestrong Band Storm
The idea of using the wristband as a means of supporting a movement was popularized by cyclist Lance Armstrong and his Livestrong brand.
When he was 25 years old, Armstrong was diagnosed with testicular cancer. The cyclist had undergone treatment was able to recover before winning the Tour de France – the most popular cycling event in the world – six consecutive times.
In May 2004, the yellow gel bracelet was launched as a fundraising item, in what was a collaboration between the Livestrong Foundation and Nike. The color is in reference to the yellow jersey, which is worn by the Tour de France leader. In the summer of that same year, Tour de France would be a venue for the world’s most popular cyclists to wear the yellow band. Over the course of many years, 80 million yellow bands would be sold.
Armstrong would eventually admit to doping years later before leaving the foundation. However, the yellow band would remain popular for those supporting the fight against cancer.
2000s: Movements Vs. Poverty, Racism, and More
Following the footsteps of the Livestrong band, similar organizations would adopt the use silicone wristbands to express support for certain causes.
Launched by BBC Radio One in 2004, Beat Bullying wristbands were an instant hit. The initial 100,000 units were adopted quickly. The campaign was supported by various celebrities in the United Kingdom, including soccer star Thierry Henry. The Arsenal player would later launch his own campaign, this time against racism in soccer. The 2005 “Stand Up Speak Up” campaign used black and white wristbands.
The Make Poverty History campaign, meanwhile, used white wristbands with a black inscription of those same words. It was supported by major Hollywood celebrities including Brad Pitt and Kate Moss.
Several other charities would use the gel band in the coming years, raising awareness on breast cancer, heart attacks, and breaking barriers, among others.
2010s: Personalized and Custom Wristbands
Thanks partly to the emergence of production companies online, the customization of silicone wristbands has become easier than ever for buyers. This ease of customization has allowed many businesses, charity groups, and even the general public to gain access to wristbands that express their affiliation to a brand, movement, or ideal. No longer is the production of silicone bands limited to major organizations.
Those who want to order wristbands for their corporate events and even major family gatherings can do so online. They can even customize the color and text through easy to use design software. Some companies enable buyers change even the width and style, so that buyers can choose to have their bands embossed, debossed, etc.
The continuing development of technology to improve the production of gel bands simply shows that the humble piece of accessory is here to stay for years to come. Its history is set to go on.