The slap bracelet, an innocuous little wrist wrap turned children's toy, was to early '90s kids what fidget spinners are to children of the 2010s. Incredibly simple and idiotically brilliant, the slap bracelet was both a fashion statement and an endlessly entertaining toy. The bracelet was conceived in 1983 by Stuart Andres, a high school shop teacher from Sun Prairie, Wisconsin. The original prototype featured a flexible piece of steel, similar to the material a tape measure is made of, covered in a colorful soft fabric. With the flick of a wrist, Slap-Bracelets could be smacked onto child-sized limbs and would conform to their shape. Repeated over and over, the movement of snapping the bracelet and molding it flat again became reasonably addictive.
Anders sold his concept to Main Street Toys using the name "Slap Wrap." Company's president Eugene Murtha immediately saw the toy's potential: a cheaply manufactured product that customers would buy over and over. In 1990, slap bracelets sold for about $1.30 wholesale and $2.50 retail. Main Street Toys had prior experience dealing with fad toys. The company was led by former executives, including Murtha, from Coleco Industries, which marketed the famous Cabbage Patch dolls in the 1970s.
The overwhelming popularity of slap bracelets encouraged many copycat competitors who created and sold knockoffs of the toy. However, some of these unlicensed products disregarded safety standards and began to cause injuries when the metal bands broke. Headlines such as "Principle Puts a Halt to Slap Bracelet Fad" ran in newspapers like the New York Times. Covering the backlash against the trend, the AP wrote, "Children in this suburb of New York will just have to suffer being unfashionable, at least during school hours, because the slap-bracelet has been banned at two elementary schools."Item Categories: