LaReeca Rucker has been a journalist for more than 20 years, and her work has appeared in newspapers across the nation. She spent a decade as a features writer and multimedia journalist with The Clarion-Ledger in Jackson, Mississippi, where she was also a USA TODAY contributor. She is a freelance journalist and support journalism instructor in the University of Mississippi's Meek School of Journalism and New Media in Oxford, Mississippi.

Silly Bandz: Kids collect bracelets with open arms

LaReeca Rucker
The Clarion-Ledger

If someone had told you two years ago rubber bands shaped like animals would be the biggest fad since Beanie Babies, you might have said, "That's just silly."

And you'd have been right. Kids are nuts about Silly Bandz.

"Everyone has them," said Alex O'Reilly, 8, of Madison. "They are so awesome. For Christmas, I'm asking for every single one of them."

With today's release of the Princess pack, the Silly Bandz total reaches 68. O'Reilly, a Madison Station Elementary second-grader, has 46 Silly Bandz and prefers dinosaur and sea animal shapes.

"It doesn't really matter how many you have; it just matters how good they are and which ones are neat and cool," he said. "My friends said they have some that are baby animals, and I was like, 'I'm going to have to get me some of those.' If I could make some, I would make like a planet or moon or Saturn."

Monkey Charms, a Flowood boutique, is one of the stores that sells the bracelets locally.

"If we get 1,500 a day, we sell out in six hours," said co-owner Heather May. "This is the biggest fad we've seen since we opened. We could have hired another full-time person just to handle Silly Bandz. It's crazy."

A friend who witnessed their popularity at a Tennessee summer camp was the first to tell May about them. Monkey Charms began selling themed packs of Silly Bandz in October. May said most stores sell packs for $4.99 to $8.99. The dog bone, dollar sign, sun, snowman and Christmas tree shapes have been the most popular.

"Some children have said no one will play with them because they don't have Silly Bandz," May said. "We've had moms fighting over the last pink pig."

Monkey Charms co-owner Renita Peevy said many parents are surprised to learn what Silly Bandz are.

"When they find out it's just a rubber band, the look on their face is, 'You've got to be kidding,' " she said.

The upside is that Silly Bandz foster sharing. Maggie Ingram of Brandon watched her daughter put 50 Silly Bandz on her arms to share with friends at school.

"What a sweet perspective when we have plenty," Ingram said. "I've even been known to wear one or two on occasion."

Robert J. Croak, president of BCP Imports in Toledo, Ohio, hopes the sharing will continue. As manufacturer and distributor of Silly Bandz, Croak now runs a multimillion-dollar business.

"Our first big splash in the U.S. market was custom silicon bracelets," he said.

The company supplied those for the Lance Armstrong Foundation and now customizes them for other businesses and groups.

"We've had the Silly Bandz product line out over a year, and it has slowly gained popularity," he said. "In the last few months, they've exploded in many different markets throughout the country."

Croak said he has a few ideas why they're a hit.

"Parents can challenge their kids and ask them what the shapes are," he said. "They are a learning device and a fashion accessory."



The Journalism Portfolio of LaReeca Rucker