During the 1980s a big fashion trend among women were Jelly Bracelets. Accessories were all the rage during the 1980s, and one of the most popular ways to add some flare to your outfit was to wear a ton of bracelets, amongst which jelly bracelets were one of the most popular options.
Jelly bracelets are one of those fads that everyone’s heard of. Whether it was because you lived through it, you were a parent concerned with your child’s safety (we’ll elaborate on that), or you were born after the 80s, these bracelets were ubiquitous with the tendency for children and teens to hoard anything remotely popular.
So what were jelly bracelets and why were they a popular 1980s fashion trend?
What Were Jelly Bracelets?
Jelly bracelets were little plastic bracelets that were super popular among teenagers and young adults during the 1980s. They were cheap and could be bought everywhere, which made their popularity spread that much faster. In record time, any teen who could go to a toy store or drug store could buy a huge collection of these.
Why Were Jelly Bracelets Popular?
The short answer? Madonna.
Everyone in the 80s had to emulate Madonna’s fashion trends. Once she began wearing armfuls of black jelly bracelets, everyone flocked to match her style. Unlike some of the other popular brands and items of the 80s, these bracelets were super cheap. That’s what made it easy to stock up and pile as many as you possibly could on your arm.
Unlike Madonna, though, teens usually would own them in a rainbow of colors to match the neon clothing trends at the time. It wasn’t uncommon to see these bracelets styled to match outfits since they were so accessible and available in an unlimited range of colors.
Jelly Bracelet Controversy
Oddly enough jelly bracelets were not without controversy during the 1980s. Believe it or not, there were rumors that jelly bracelets were being used at ‘rainbow parties’ to indicate a person’s… “physical availability”.
The different colors allegedly coincided with a different sexual act, and parents were whipped into a frenzy, worried that their children were partaking in dangerous activities.
It should be mentioned that there wasn’t any evidence of this phenomenon actually occurring. These were mostly just rumors proliferated by parents during PTA meetings. This moral panic led to the bracelets being banned in several schools.
And if you’re aware of how effective banning popular things from school was, you probably figured out that this didn’t in any way stop the popularity of jelly bracelets. Arguably, it just made them more popular because now they were a forbidden item.
Adults really don’t seem to understand how teenagers operate, and this wasn’t any different during the 1980s.
Are Jelly Bracelets In-Style Now?
The closest thing to the jelly bracelet fad now would probably be Silly Bandz. These were little pieces of rubber shaped like objects, animals, or even people. Kids would wear them all the way up their arms, trade them with other kids, and- like any other hotly coveted item- break out into fights over ‘rare’ Silly Bandz. Schools ended up banning them, either by not letting children take them off, or not letting them in the school at all. It was absolutely ridiculous and so, totally predictable.
The jelly bracelet fad (and subsequent controversy) was insane. Just like any other bracelet fad popular among kids, there seemed to be a concerted effort by adults to get rid of them that hilariously failed. The one thing that hasn’t changed in the 40 years since the 80s is the tendency for adults to overreact to just about anything.