Every week, Today in Nostalgia looks at the trends we once clung to, defended, and were ultimately betrayed by. Memberships to the Beanie Babies Official Club accepted; BYO clear plastic bra straps that were removable for some reason. Let’s do this.
Trend: Slap bracelets
Era of cool: 1990 – 1991 (roughly)
Describe, please: Imagine a . . . thing. A stick—a wide stick; a wide six-inch or so plastic stick that measures about the width of two fingers that might be covered in fabric. Maybe it’s patterned. Maybe it’s bright. Maybe it’s Disney-themed (if you had money). Maybe it, by some miracle, matches your outfit. Maybe you’re born with it. Maybe it’s Maybelline. Maybe.
So now you take that stick. (Is it a stick? Let’s call it, “that piece of plastic.” There. Better.) So now you take that piece of plastic, and you hold it up, and you admire it. And just when you didn’t think this description could get any less interesting, WHACK. You slap it on your wrist and it turns into a bracelet.
And it hurts. Oh my God, it hurts. It’s an incredibly unpleasant experience. But despite all that, you still hold your arm out, and you admire the laws of physics and how one minute ago you held only plastic (covered in fabric), and now you admire this: a bracelet (made of plastic, covered in fabric). You are the proud sport-er of a wrist cuff—one you wouldn’t buy today.
So after all this, you unravel it slowly, and you set it back into its piece-of-plastic-shape so you can do it again. And again. And again. And if you don’t do it, you’re a disgrace to schoolyard fashion, and you didn’t deserve that birthday loot bag it came in to begin with, how very dare you.
Why were they cool: Because, as we’d learn in our later years, beauty is pain. Or, more realistically: we had permission to slap the wrists of our classmates under the cover of sharing our toys with them.
“Can I see your bracelet?” they’d ask. “Sure, but I have to slap it on for you, very hard,” came the counter.
Done. And after acting like your fellow student hadn’t delivered their bracelet-slap with the tenacity of a Roman guard brandishing a cat o’ nine tails mega-whip, you relished in not only having a cool new thing (albeit temporary), but having had a successful social exchange while simultaneously holding back tears because somebody just slapped your wrist, very hard, with plastic. (So yeah, frat boys, I think we “get” hazing.)
Odds of a comeback: In our generation? 100%. Anyone familiar with slap bracelets in their childhood is a grown adult now, if these grown adults could jump into a pile of Lisa Frank stickers and call it a ‘90s comeback outfit, we would. Amongst anybody younger? Probably not. Today, kids can’t even hug in class, let alone use a piece of curled plastic to inflict pain on their contemporaries.
Like most trends in my school, slap bracelets got banned – not just because we were obviously slapping each other under the guise of fashion, but because the gentlemen in my grade one class started stealing them and using them as swords. Though in retrospect, I think banning them was the teachers’ mistake. Because while they were afraid of guys whipping and trying to stab each other with the most dangerous party favour any of us would ever receive, they could’ve used the situation to prove toys obviously aren’t gender specific. Or at the very least, that some toymakers just want to watch the world burn.
Last week in nostalgia: Pogs