While today’s trend of wearing rubber wristbands is certainly a relatively recent development in the course of human history, the practice of wearing a band on ones wrist as a symbolic gesture is not a new concept. The bracelets worn in ancient Roman, Chinese, and Indian cultures, however, had quite different meanings than the rubber bracelets people wear today in an effort to express their support of a variety of social and political causes, including disease awareness, prevention, and eradication, as well as acknowledging a societal need to eliminate violence and poverty.
The allure of these simple, inexpensive bracelets has crossed class divides. Whether it is on the wrists of movie stars or military personnel, famous athletes or future presidents, these wristbands are being seen worldwide. In a gesture to honor the men and women who died fighting in the Iraq War, Barack Obama donned a black (albeit metal) wristband in his successful 2008 bid for the US presidency.
In the early 2000s, a wristband wearers cause was distinguishable by the color of the band:
Purple bands denoted solidarity in the fight to eliminate domestic violence.
A pink rubber bracelets: signified the desire to wipe out breast cancer.
Bright yellow bands, worn by those supporting world-champion cyclist Lance Armstrong in his 2004 Livestrong campaign against cancer, have been among the most popular.
Generally, these wristbands, which are widely available, cost approximately $ 1.00, the proceeds of which go to support many charitable causes all over the world.
Students at Bellflower High School, in Bellflower, California recently raised over $ 100 in just one afternoon selling beaded bracelets for charity for one dollar a piece. They plan to donate the money raised in selling these homemade bracelets to efforts in modern India to offer disadvantaged children needed cleft palate surgery though the organization Smile Train.
While a person who wears a rubber bracelet may appear altruistic and conscientious in todays societal standard, the casualness with which todays bracelets are worn is in great contrast to the traditional and very particular meanings of the bracelet-wearing in ancient Greece, China, and India.
In ancient Greece, women wore gold and silver arm wrappings above and below their elbows in an effort of embellishment of superstitious origin. Armbands adorned with snakes and lions were thought to scare away evil spirits. The forearm cuffs which were worn by men, served a different, more practical purpose. They offered physical protection for the men fighting in battle.
In ancient China, wrist coverings were as much a part of a kings wardrobe as his silk robes and head coverings were. Their bracelets and those of others in their aristocracies were adorned with phoenix and dragon designs, which incorporated precious metals and stones; they were also a means of signifying affluence.
Still today in India, women wear gold bangles to pronounce marital status- similar to the role a wedding band plays in Western culture. More bangles and those of greater value had the power to communicate a greater social standing of a womans husband, a meaning those colorful rubbery bracelets certainly cannot relay.
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