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awareness band also awareness bracelet

noun [countable]

a bracelet made of rubber or fabric which has a slogan written on it, sold to raise awareness of particular charitable causes

'Eighth grade students in a California school district's health class were recently awarded top honors for raising awareness about the importance of hand hygiene with their new W.A.S.H. (Water and Soap Help) program. … They also are distributing silicone awareness bands that have been branded with proper hand washing messages.'

Newswise 25th April 2005

'The white anti-poverty wristbands, with their Make Poverty History message subtly indented into the silicon, are not the first of the so-called awareness bracelets to generate a frenzy so great that would-be wearers are prepared to pay inflated prices to get their hands on – and in – one.'

The Guardian 11th February 2005

Who would have thought that a mass-produced silicone rubber wristband would become one of the must-have fashion accessories of 2005? Worn by celebrities of sport, politics and entertainment, such as David Beckham, Nelson Mandela and Bono, the awareness band has recently emerged as a fashionable mechanism for promoting worthwhile causes, and the subject of some controversy.

bands which are more difficult to obtain are being auctioned on the Internet at inflated prices, and the manufacturing of counterfeit bands has emerged as big business …

Awareness bands come in a range of bright colours, each bearing an individual slogan intended to raise money for and general awareness of a particular charity. Among the most popular is a white band with the slogan 'Make Poverty History', distributed by organizations such as Christian Aid and Oxfam on behalf of charities campaigning for trade justice and better aid for the world's poorest countries. The white band is just one in a rainbow of coloured bands circulating Britain and the US, each representing a medical or social issue such as cancer, HIV, racism, etc.

The popularity of the bands has been phenomenal, substantially enhanced by high-profile wearers in politics and entertainment. The overwhelming demand for this unexpected fashion craze has however had some rather controversial consequences. Bands which are more difficult to obtain are being auctioned on the Internet at inflated prices, and the manufacturing of counterfeit bands has emerged as big business, with no benefit to the bona fide charities.

In autumn of 2004, the UK government Department for Education and Skills sponsored a bright blue band promoting an anti-bullying campaign. In a bizarre twist, schoolchildren wearing the band inadvertently became the target of bullies, simply because the limited edition band had become a highly sought after fashion item. The 'beat bullying' wristbands were being auctioned on websites such as eBay™ for as much as £21.

Background – awareness band and awareness bracelet

The awareness band concept began with Lance Armstrong, an American cyclist who was diagnosed with cancer in 1996, and only given a 50% chance of survival. Armstrong created the Lance Armstrong Foundation for cancer patients, and designed a yellow Livestrong wristband, the yellow for the Tour de France and 'live strong', his motto. Five million bands were initially made, to be sold at one dollar each with all proceeds going to the foundation. When Armstrong subsequently won his sixth Tour de France, the bands sold out within days. Millions more were manufactured, but new orders continued to flood in at a rate of 400,000 a day from the charity website. With demand far outstripping supply, a black market grew on the Internet, second-hand bands being sold at many times their cost and none of the profit going to charity.

by Kerry Maxwell, author of Brave New Words

This article was first published on 6th June 2005.

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