Jumping on the wristband wagon

Have you noticed people’s wrists lately? There seems to be a rash of colour spreading up arms across the nation. On closer inspection the dazzling rainbow effects on people’s arms turn out to be wristbands. And if you look closer still you will notice that these bright bands of colour have messages on them. Live Strong, Make Poverty History, Breakthrough Breast Cancer, Beat Bullying. But what are they really trying to tell us? Well apart from the obviously good intentions of promoting charitable causes – the subliminal message seems to be ‘look at me, can you see how charitable I am’ and by proxy if you aren’t wearing a band then obviously the message is ‘you don’t care!’ It’s that guy on the bike who started it, yes Lance Armstrong who yesterday was struggling up a mountain somewhere in France, always well ahead of the pack. His bright yellow wristband asking us to Live Strong quickly became THE fashion accessory to be sporting when it first came onto the market to raise money for Cancer research. Then from one band of yellow a rainbow rash quickly spread up people’s arms as every charity realised the fund and awareness raising benefits of these little plastic bracelets. Pink for breast cancer, white for Make Poverty History, blue for Tsunami relief, red for aids etc.

We Treehuggers actually prefer the embroidered Make Poverty History bands which firstly aren’t made from plastic, but more importantly they are made by a women’s cooperative in Bangladesh which is training women in various skills so they can earn a living to help improve their own lives and those of their families. The organisation is called Nari Maitree and is linked to Action Aid.

Whether you like promoting charitable causes from the wrist or not it, cannot have escaped your notice that these bands have become a fashion trend phenomenon and as with all seemingly good ideas it’s not long before clever opportunists come along to rip it off. In a very short space of time the trend for wearing these plastic bands has gone from cult charity loving accessory promoted by celebs and politicians (people were buying them on eBay!) to a teenage style obsession where kids are collecting as many different colours as possible. And suddenly the awareness raising messages have been lost and random sentimental words have started replacing them. ‘love’, ‘happy’, ‘together’ In fact you can now choose to make whatever statement you want on your wrist. Certain websites are now selling custom made bands to order. And you can be sure that none of the profits from these bands are going to charity.

While it is galling to see people making a lot of money out of an idea that was designed to raise funds and awareness for good causes it is of course impossible to do anything about it and that is the unfortunate way of the world. Sadly there are also stories of even the supposedly ‘official’ bands being produced in Chinese sweat shops and recently the bands promoting the Live 8 concerts have been tarnished by stories of workers rights violations. (click here to read the full story)

So even if you do have good intentions of donating money by buying a wristband you can’t be certain that the origins of your fun coloured jewelry are entirely charitable. However we can take some comfort from the fact that this being a fashion trend it will eventually fade into sartorial history. Let’s just hope that when the wristbands end up in the fashion bin the trend for supporting charities will carry on in a more classical fashion.
Websites selling official fundraising bands:
www.livestrong.org
www.actionaid.org.uk
www.breakthrough.org.uk
www.one.org
www.weartsunamiaid.org
[Leonora & Petz]

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