I received my first friendship bracelet when I was 7. We were celebrating the annual Friendship Day in my alma mater, Colegio San Agustin (Philippines) 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.
In high school, the trend was all about thin, tightly woven string bracelets. Girls would buy them for friends and boyfriends. 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.
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 bracelet had to fall off naturally after months of wear and tear—that’s the only acceptable way for it to leave your wrist.
Some sported the alternative version of the friendship bracelet—colorful rubber bands and layered spring bracelets.
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?
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.
There are couture version from designer labels, but who would want to spend hundreds of dollars on a tribal friendship bracelet that I know I can get from street artists or better yet, something I can make myself?
These days, I’ve been layering my arm with message bracelets and woven pieces from my travels.
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.