Friendship Pins, the Silly Bandz of 1980s

Twenty-five years ago, friendship pins adorned kids’ tennis shoes across America. When I was in elementary school back in the mid-1980s, I proudly displayed the safety pins, decorated with small colorful beads, attached to my shoe laces.

Today the hot trend is Silly Bandz, a brand of silicone rubber bands with shapes including animals, objects, and letters. They are distributed by BCP Imports and are generally worn as bracelets by middle school, high school, and elementary students.

If you know a school-age child, chances are they can eagerly tell you all about how Silly Bandz bracelets look like regular bracelets on the wrist, however when taken off, they revert to the original shape. The bracelets are often worn many at a time and are traded. Silly Bandz have even inspired controversy as schools in several states have banned the stretchy, bright bracelets for being a distraction.

I don’t recall friendship pins ever being banned, but I do remember that the pins made school more fun. Kids traded those also or simply shared them with friends as gifts. I remember being the proud recipient of pins given by my friend Joanne. If no one awarded you a friendship pin, though, you created one for yourself…and kept that part quiet. Not being particularly crafty, I just waited for the pins to come to me and I don’t think I gave any to my friends. (Sorry, guys.) I wasn’t that into following fads and felt like the only girl in the world who thought Cabbage Patch Kids were ugly.

I had no clue where everyone was getting the beads to design the pins, but I must admit, I secretly treasured the pins that came my way. The beads even had a color code. My memory is fuzzy on this, but according to an article on a really interesting web site,, red beads meant strong, vigorous, or sweetheart, while yellow symbolized intelligence and good friends. I don’t remember what colors mine were, but they did make my sneakers look cool.

I’m betting that 25 years from now, today’s kids won’t recall whether they wore stretchy giraffes, sea horses, hearts, or cowboy hats on their arms, but they’ll reflect on the good old days of Silly Bandz with fondness. I wonder what the trend will be then?

If you have any thoughts on Silly Bandz, friendship pins, or other fashion trends, please share them in the comments.

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  1. Darcia Helle says

    I never saw friendship pins. Cute idea! Back in the mid ’80s, I was chasing a hyperactive toddler around, which might explain my ignorance of the pins.

    I read about the ban on Silly Bandz. It’s pretty sad when schools have to ban such innocuous items.

  2. I’m not sure how I feel about the ban. On one hand, I can understand schools banning them if they are a distraction. But are they really that much of a distraction, or are the schools just copying each other? I’d love to hear from a classroom teacher on how distracting the bracelets really are.

  3. Darcia Helle says

    I thought the ban was pretty extreme. Honestly, it doesn’t take much to distract kids. Colored shoelaces could be an issue! And doesn’t every kid own a cell phone now? Of course, my kids are long past grade school, so I don’t know how bad it is now. I agree that it would be interesting to get a teacher’s perspective.

Stacy Juba