Friendship Bracelets: From the ’80s to Noughties

I received my first friendship bracelet when I was 7. We were celebrating the annual Friendship Day in my alma mater, Colegio San Agustin, and the teachers distributed bracelets made of yellow and red yarns to represent our school colors.

In the early ’90s, silk ribbon bracelets were all the rage, and we would purchase them for P5-15 each. A classmate taught me how to make them from scratch, so I started buying colorful ribbons and turned my hobby into a little business.

Did anybody say #ThrowbackThursdays? These were all the rage in Manila in the ’80s and I learned to make different designs for my friends.
’90s friendship bracelets

In high school, the trend was all about thin, tightly woven string bracelets. We’d buy them for our friends or the person we’re dating, and the colors and designs had to represent the wearer’s personality. The guys who could make these intricate friendship bracelets from scratch were considered artists. You had to be on their good side if you wanted them to make one for you.

A Philippine Centennial souvenir bracelet I got from a field trip back in 1998.

The recipient had to tie it to his/her wrist permanently and wear it even in the shower. Forcibly taking it off would symbolize the end of your friendship or relationship. The friendship bracelet would have to fall off naturally after months of wear and tear.

These springy bracelets came from “Fish” and “Sari-Sari” in Glorietta, Makati, back in the ’90s.

Some sported the alternative version of the friendship bracelet—colorful rubber bands and layered spring bracelets.

In 2010, the Silly Bandz craze broke the piggy banks of thousands of kids and tweens worldwide.

Throughout college and my career, sentimental wrist fashion evolved into baller bands, plastic bands, and those pleather straps used as either a choker or layered bracelet. Does anyone remember when Silly Bandz were all the rage in 2010?

Plastic bracelets from Claire’s, Los Angeles

And yes, I fell for every single one of them. I’ve kept most of my friendship bracelets and they all have a special place in my accessories box.

My baller band collection from my travels and press events

Grownups may have the couture version from designer labels and artsy retail shops, but who would want to spend hundreds of dollars on a tribal friendship bracelet that I know I can get for a cheaper price from street markets, aspiring artists, or better yet, something I can make myself?

These days, I’ve been layering my arm with message bracelets and woven pieces from street artists, hobbyist friends, and random travels.

I wear my heart on my wrist. This is my grownup version of friendship bracelets.

There are the tribal leather pieces I purchased from market vendors in Baguio, Philippines. There’s a Moroccan moon pendant I got from my aunt Lisa. There’s a beaded Rastra bracelet by my aunt Remy, a teacher who runs a small business of handmade accessories. There’s a baller band with the mantra, “Keep the Faith,” which I bought from my cancer survivor friend, Ejen, who sold baller bands to help fund his chemotherapy. There are bohemian pieces I purchased from different beaches I’ve visited, such as Waikiki and Boracay.

Each tells a story. Each has a sentimental value.

What’s your friendship bracelet story?

July 6, 2013

  1. Hi Kate,

    I would like to know how to do the silk friendship bracelets, pahingi nman po ako ng link. Badly needed po sana before the year ends e hehehehe… throwback 90’s kasi theme ng party nmin. thank u

  2. Hi, Kate! Enjoyed your article on Friendship bracelets. Like you, I have quite a trove that is like a tapestry of interwoven stories of my past. BTW, I noticed you have the Australian Baller bands we got you from our cruise. If I find any from Michigan, I will get you a pair! Love always-Mom!

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Instagram Feed Instagram Feed Instagram Feed Instagram Feed Instagram Feed Instagram Feed