Rubber band fashion is sudden kid craze

  • Silly Bandz rubber band bracelets are being sold at the Learning Express store in Lake Zurich.

    Silly Bandz rubber band bracelets are being sold at the Learning Express store in Lake Zurich. Paul Valade | Staff Photographer

 
 
Updated 5/27/2010 4:23 PM

The hottest craze - a mix between fashion and toys - is stretching into the suburbs this week. Kids of all ages have their wrists and lower arms lined with thin colorful rubber bands that come in an assortment of shapes.

The stretchy bracelets, which have been popular in the South for several months, are selling out at many area specialty toy stores, card shops and discount stores. Boys and girls of all ages are sporting the trendy plastic bands, which come in more than 100 shapes, from purple pineapples to tie-dye dinosaurs.

 

"I'm selling between 300 and 500 packs a day," said Rick Derr, owner of Learning Express in Lake Zurich and Barrington. "It's just hitting here now."

Derr said he expects the bands to be the hottest toy for summer.

Whether they're called Rubber Banz, Silly Banz, Zanybrandz or something else, the elastic bands in a dizzying array of colors sell in packs of 12 or 24 for less than $5. Part of the appeal is that they always return to their original shape when you take them off your wrist.

Many area retailers can't keep them on the shelves. Kildeer mom Patricia Martin hunted one night this week at three stores in two towns for the bracelets for her son.

"Everybody at school has them," said Bryce Martin, 10, who attends Kildeer Countryside School.

Bryce, while hunting for a pack of sports shapes at a local toy store, said he has 64 of the bands.

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Suburban parents are learning about the latest trend when their children come home from school wearing them.

"All the kids were trading them at the bus stop this morning," Patricia Martin said.

Trading is one of the hooks. Bryce explained that the skateboard is one of the most coveted bands at his school.

"I gave away my skateboard band and got 12 different shapes for it," he said with a smile. His mom said the green turtle was also popular.

Teresa Murtz of Mundelein just learned of the bracelet craze when her daughters came home asking for the bands.

"I had no idea what they were. It's a million-dollar idea that I didn't think of," she said with a laugh.

An entrepreneur in Ohio did think of the idea for Silly Banz while at a product show in China where a Japanese artist came up with a rubber band in a fun shape.

BCP Imports, a small Toledo, Ohio,-based company that makes the bracelets, was not prepared for the sudden blitz and has had to hike its work force from 20 employees to 200 in the past year. The toll-free number for the company was busy all morning Thursday. The company, led by President Robert Croak, now sells millions of packs a month. Other companies have since created their own version and shapes, some with the names of professional baseball teams or college universities printed on them.

Silly Bandz have been out for about two years, hitting Alabama early and then moving into New Jersey and Tennessee. It's reported that some schools in those states have banned the bands because they are causing a distraction in the classroom.