Silicone Wristbands: The Complete Guide
History of Wristbands and Its Popularity throughout the Years
There’s more to a wristband than its material or design. Silicone wristbands, also known as gel bracelets, have a colorful history behind them ever since it became popular in the mid-2000s.
The silicone wristband was popularized by US cyclist Lance Armstrong back in 2004. The iconic yellow bracelet he wore with the words “Livestrong” was used to raise awareness for cancer and as a sign of support for those suffering from the deadly disease, which included Armstrong himself.
His battle against cancer began in 1996, when he was diagnosed with testicular cancer. After undergoing surgery and chemotherapy, his cancer went into remission. He established the Armstrong Foundation a year after as a way to help improve the lives of his fellow cancer survivors as well as those who are struggling against the disease.
Lance Armstrong’s popularity at the time helped promote the use of silicone wristbands greatly, especially when he decided to push through with his participation in the Tour De France in 1999 as a personal statement against his fight with cancer. By the end of the same year when Armstrong won the Tour De France, these wristbands became widely popular for people across all walks of life.
Nike also ended up manufacturing more of the same yellow wristbands and had athletes competing in the 2004 Athens Olympic Games wear them. This increased the growing popularity of the accessory even further and paved the way for other organizations and campaigns to use it in a similar manner.
Another reason for its popularity is that it was very cheap to make, costing less than one US dollar. It was an inexpensive way to show support for various causes, and organizations could easily purchase wristbands in bulk orders and use them for their own fund raising events.
Many variations to the original silicone wristband were made in the years to follow. By 2007, customized gel wristbands of various thickness and designs have been made to suit various functions and events like political rallies, concerts, and even promotional merchandise.
Even the color of the wristband itself holds a specific meaning to the cause that they supported. For instance, pink wristbands show awareness for breast cancer while green wristbands were used to support kidney donations.
During the 2009 US recession, many out of job workers began to wear bracelets with the words “Laid Off Need a Job.com” written on them. This was a business idea started by Barbara Bourn and Stephanie Aucoin, after they were laid-off themselves. This trend was picked up by various news media outlets, including The Wall Street Journal and the BBC when they interviewed Bourn and Aucoin about the growing problem of unemployment in America during that time.
In 2011, a campaign was launched through the collaborative efforts of Starbucks and the Opportunity Finance Network to help give bank financing options for business and individuals throughout the country. The Create Jobs for USA campaign made use of red, white, and blue wristbands with the word “Indivisible” on it as promotional fund raising merchandise.
The campaign was able to raise over $15 million and helped finance up to $105 million for small businesses. It paved way for the creation of the Indivisible Fund, which continues to aid in financing businesses across the country and help them invest in their future growth.
The practice of using wristbands to promote different causes and to support various foundations continues to this day. It can promote various causes, with everything from diseases to charitable foundations. Many people today make use of wristbands as a trendy yet inexpensive way to rally behind a message that they want to send to their intended audiences.
Wristband Creation and Fabrication
Silicone rubber is a very versatile polymer which has seen extensive use in many industries. Its stable and durable nature allows it to be easily made into a variety of products. In addition to being hypoallergenic and non-toxic, it’s no wonder that it makes an ideal material for bracelets.
It played a pivotal role as a trendy promotional accessory in the early 2000s and has seen similar use until today. The construction process of silicone bracelets is very straightforward, given the flexibility and moldability of the material.
The first step in the process requires a silicone rubber base that will be either cut into strips or formed into tubes, depending on the type of wristband. Next, the separated materials are then placed in a steel mold to be melted and formed into a cross-section of the bracelet. The cast is then removed and can be customized based on the client’s specifications.
Custom colors for the wristband are typically mixed in before the molding process, although a second layer of ink can be used after the mold is finished. Depending on the type of wristband, the text can either be carved or printed onto the silicone.
A typical machine can produce thousands of wristbands in a single day, making it quite easy to manufacture this trendy accessory. The typical dimensions of a silicone wristband are around 7 to 8.5 inches in circumference, half an inch in width, and a three quarters of an inch in thickness.
Types of Wristbands
The construction of a wristband mainly lies in its type and style. This determines how the text, color, and design are printed on the silicone itself. Here’s a rundown of the different wristband types and how they differ from one another.
- Debossed – This is the classic style as seen in the famous Livestrong wristband popularized by Lance Armstrong. The text on the wristband is engraved onto the surface of the band via laser carving. Since the design is etched into the surface, wristbands like these tend to last longer and are relatively simple to mass produce.
- Embossed – Embossed printing gives the text on the wristband a raised look and feel, making it inversely different from the debossed style. The 3D-like effect given to the design makes it stand out easily and make a big impression for those who see it. The textured look is molded directly onto the wristband.
- Deboss-printed – Basically an upgrade from the debossed style, deboss-printed makes use of added ink of a different color to fill in the engraved spaces on the wristband. The contrast between the etched text and the ink makes the message stand out even more. Compared to a standard print design, this has more durability than the former since the recessed design gives the ink some level of protection.
- Emboss-filled – Similar to the deboss-printed wristband, this one also uses ink to highlight the raised text and give it more prominence to those who see it. This wristband is quite popular because this particular style further enhances the 3D-like effect it already has.
- Imprinted – This straightforward style prints the ink directly on the colored bracelet’s surface. Since this wristband relies mainly on the user’s preference, there can be a huge number of variations that can come out of this style. Since this wristband doesn’t rely on any specific molding techniques and simply uses direct printing, this is considered one of the easiest and most cost-effective to produce.
- Dual-layer – This style makes use of both an inner and outer layer wristband of contrasting colors to give it a look with more overall depth. The outer layer is usually oil-sprayed with a different color from the inner one, while parts of it are carved to fit a specific user design. While a bit more complicated to make than the other types, it is considered a very trendy accessory for people to wear.
- Figured – A wristband that is best suited for designs that want the central graphic to be the center of attention. The band typically has a specially molded space in the center where the graphic design is usually printed alongside the text. The featured logo gives the wristband a centerpiece that can catch the eye. Other styles, like debossed and debossed-printed, can also be incorporated with a figured wristband.
In the end, choosing what kind of wristband a person wants to use is up to their personal preference. However, giving consumers a wide range to choose from empowers them in purchasing an accessory that can suit their exact purpose, as well as become a powerful way to express their belief or cause.
Types of Wristband Materials
Silicone rubber is still considered the one of the most common material used for wristbands due to its resilience and cost effectiveness. However, there are also other materials that can be used for bracelets. Each material has its own set of pros and cons, and, depending on their purpose as a wristband, can become just as ideal an accessory as a gel bracelet.
- Vinyl – This material boasts similar properties as silicone rubber, considering they are also strong and resistant to wear-and-tear. This plastic has also seen many practical applications in other industries and is commonly used in other products like gloves, floorings, sidings, and musical records. Compared to silicone is a bit more rigid, but can still be shaped according to any required specifications.
- Fabric – Another common material used in many items, fabric wristbands can be much gentler on the skin when worn compared to its silicone counterpart. While its strength can be comparable to gel bracelets, it does require a special water-resistant coating for that added durability.
- Tyvek – A paper-like material that’s composed of polyethylene plastic fibers. It was discovered by DuPoint in 1955 and was introduced for commercial purposes in 1967. It features lightweight, tear-resistant qualities that make it an ideal material for wristbands. Despite having the consistency of paper, it is quite water-resistant as well. They are most commonly used as disposable wristbands for events like concerts or as VIP bands at theme parks.
- Thermal Paper – Typically used as one-time use wristband, this material is typically used for users who require on-demand printing needs. A good example for this is at an airport, where airline staff will print tags to be placed on passengers’ bags. With the use of thermal printing equipment, text can be easily placed on the paper, which is generally resistant to oil, water, and smudging.
Choosing the right material for a wristband is mainly reliant on its purpose. Choosing a durable and long-lasting material is best for wristbands that plan to be worn for a good part of the day, across a long span of time. On the other hand, if the wristband will be used as a quick means of tagging guests or items during an event, then it’s best to consider a cheap yet reliable material.
There are several options to consider when it comes to customizing wristbands. Since the manufacturing process can churn out hundreds to thousands of wristbands per batch, it’s relatively simple to include custom options for these accessories in the final product.
The most common options that can be modified are the wristband’s size, color, and design. Many of these changes are made during the molding process and are based on the client’s specifications.
In terms of size, most wristbands have a standard circumference of 7 to 8.5 inches, width of 0.5 to 0.75 inches, and thickness of 0.75 inches. It’s always possible to create a custom order of wristbands that are thicker and wider than the standard, but these must be specified as early as possible to be able to modify the mold to fit the specs.
Likewise, colors are integrated with the rubber during the mixing process and will need to be specified before this step. Depending on the type of wristband, multi-colored bands can be made as well. Colored printing can also be added after molding, with silk-screen being the cheapest option.
Finally, custom designed logos and images need the most attention to detail when it comes to client specs. Any changes that need to be changed need to be done before the final process and need to be properly reviewed before rolling out the final product.
All in all, customizing a wristband can be a challenging yet satisfying project. Once the exact look is finally achieved, these trendy accessories can become an effective tool of spreading any advocacy while making their wearers look good.
Why Use Wristbands?
With its presence in seen in many events and organizations, the popularity of wristbands cannot be denied. But why is such a simple accessory so popular these days? Custom bracelets can be used in a variety of ways in different events, and here are just some of the reasons why it has seen extensive use throughout the years.
- Brand Awareness – Much in the same way that Lance Armstrong was able to promote his message of “Livestrong”, gel bracelets are an effective way of spreading one’s cause or advocacy. At its peak, the iconic yellow wristband was able to sell around 80 million pieces. The eye-catching design of some silicone wristbands can easy draw the attention of those who see it, making it a great form of promotional material. For those who are looking to spread their brand, this is a great medium to use.
- Security – Wristbands can easily be used as a way to enforce added security to any event. Specialized wristbands like those made from Tyvek are quite tear resistant and tamper proof. This makes it so that it will be difficult to pass around wristbands to outsiders without having to tamper with the adhesive seal.
- Safety – Color coded wristbands are a great way to ensure that event attendees according to their specialized needs. For instance, those with certain allergies or specific food restrictions can easily be identified by the event organizers and can be attended to accordingly. Large groups of people can also be identified using colored wristbands, making it easy to keep the group organized and to avoid anyone getting separated.
- Guest Management – Wristbands can be especially useful for large events with a big group of attendees. Instead of giving out tickets – which can run the risk of getting lost – it’s possible for guests to wear wristbands instead to identify the level of access they have within the different sections of the venue. Wristbands are also preferable over wipe away stamps or uncomfortable lanyards due to its added security and ease.
- Queue Management – Getting held up in a line can be a frustrating experience, for both the guest and the security personnel. Wristbands can help expedite the process by allowing event staff to quickly identify attendees through their wristband. Some wristbands can even have barcodes printed on them, allowing for a hassle-free experience when navigating long queues at any event.
- Memorable Souvenir – There will always be guests that want to bring a bit of the event back home with them. As souvenirs go, wristbands are cost effective and can serve as a memorable keepsake for event attendees. A well designed wristband can even be used as a trendy accessory, well after the event has ended.
Making use of wristbands for an event can greatly enhance the experience for everyone. It’s certainly something to consider as part of an event’s logistics if the organizers want to make an impact with their guests.
Things to Look for in a Wristband
There are several qualities that are the marks of a good wristband. While choosing a wristband mainly boils down to preference, it’s always a good idea to consider several of these factors when deciding on which wristband to make use of.
Consider Its Purpose
One of the biggest questions that need to be answered when considering a wristband is: “What exactly will it be used for?” If the wristband will be used as a giveaway during an event, then it might be a good idea to utilize wristbands that are trendy looking and can be easily designed as such. In a case such as this, fabric wristbands or a silicone wristband with an interesting design will certainly fit the bill. Conversely, if there’s a need to help track a large amount of guests that will be attending a particular venue or event, then disposable wristbands made from Tyvek or thermal paper can be a cheap yet effective solution.
Consider Its Material
The type of material used in a wristband can change the way it is seen as an accessory. A common trait of many wristband materials is its durability since they tend to be worn by people for prolonged amounts of time – requiring them to be sturdy enough to last during the entire time. There’s also the skin type of the wearer to consider. Some people are allergic to certain materials, so making sure that the material is hypoallergenic and safe for its wearer is also an important factor. Don’t forget that plastic wristbands are naturally waterproof, making them ideal for outdoor events.
Consider Its Cost
The type of material also affects its overall cost, with plastic-based materials being the cheaper option. Despite silicone or gel wristbands being less costly, this doesn’t mean that they’re flimsy. One of the main reasons that plastic-based wristbands are popular is that they’re cheap to make and can be produced in large quantities. However, since wristbands with more intricate designs and materials are typically more expensive, people tend to reserve them for events that can afford more elaborate accessories.
Popular Organizations Associated with Wristbands
Many organizations have adopted the use of wristbands to promote their cause throughout the years. Whether it’s an iconic logo or slogan, or a simple colored wristband, groups around the world have used wristbands as a symbol for their advocacy.
Aside from the ones mentioned previously, here are just a few examples of some of the other well-known organizations and advocacies.
- American Heart Month – Many groups that support this cause to raise awareness about the risks of heart disease. American Heart Month is practiced every February and encourages people to wear wristbands that are colored red during that time.
- HIV-AIDs – The universal symbol for HIV-AIDs awareness is the red ribbon. Wristbands and bracelets with this symbol are worn by supporters of this cause.
- Blood Cancer Awareness Month – Supporters of Blood Cancer Awareness month tend to wear orange wristbands during the month of September.
- Breast Cancer Awareness Month – Advocates of this cause wear the color pink during the month of October to help others become aware of the risks and dangers of breast cancer.
- Alzheimer’s Disease and ADHD – While not limited to a particular month, supporters of this cause are associated with the color purple and wear wristbands and other similar accessories bearing this color.
- Hurricane Katrina – Many people were left homeless during the devastation of hurricane Katrina in August of 2005. As a sign of support and solidarity, people wore blue wristbands to help support the victims of this natural disaster.
- Anti-bullying Campaign (2004) – This advocacy was practiced widely in the UK back in 2004 due to the rampant number of bullying cases at the time. Supporters of this cause wore blue bracelets as a sign of support.
To this day, people and organizations continue to spread their respective causes through the use of wristbands. As rising costs become an issue in terms of advertising, finding a cost effective platform in which to promote a particular advocacy is an important step towards this goal.