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Awareness Bracelets

Awareness bracelets fall into numerous categories and serve widely differing purposes.

Awareness bracelets for breast cancer are, like the ribbons, pink. [©Shutterstock, 2010]
©Shutterstock, 2010
Awareness bracelets for breast cancer are, like the ribbons, pink.

Awareness Bracelet

An awareness bracelet is typically a silicone wristband, often embossed with a motto or phrase, used to raise awareness about a charitable cause. The bracelets come in a variety of colors and patterns, with certain color choices corresponding to particular social or medical issues. The bracelet's purpose is to increase visibility and awareness about the charitable causes represented. Often, charities benefit directly from the proceeds of bracelet sales, but greater awareness can also lead to more funding and support for a charitys cause.

History of Awareness Bracelets

Reputedly, Lance Armstrong and his cancer awareness and research organization, the Lance Armstrong Foundation (LAF), created the first awareness bracelet. The foundation launched its LIVESTRONG yellow bracelets in 2004 and, according to the LAF, more than 55 million bracelets were sold by 2005.

In the year the awareness bracelets were introduced, Lance Armstrong, his teammates and the team's support crew all wore the yellow wristbands throughout the Tour de France, a premiere cycling event that Armstrong won for the sixth time in 2004. Not coincidentally, the LAF yellow bracelet matches the customary yellow jersey worn by the leader of the Tour de France. By the end of that race in 2004, Armstrong's competitors, race officials and celebrities were wearing the yellow LIVESTRONG awareness bracelet. While Armstrongs celebrity status and Tour de France victory likely contributed significantly to the surge in popularity of his foundation's wristbands, all awareness bracelets work in similar ways: Increased visibility of the bracelets themselves raises visibility (and often funds) for the cause.

Types of Awareness Bracelets

Today, undoubtedly encouraged by the success of the LAF wristband, numerous organizations use awareness bracelets to draw attention to their needs and ideals. In addition to the yellow cancer awareness bracelets, there are camouflage green bracelets with the embossment Support Our Troops, pink breast cancer wristbands and numerous other colored bracelets for different causes. For instance, purple bracelets raise awareness about Alzheimers disease, battered women, animal abuse and epilepsy (among other possibilities). Gray awareness bracelets represent multiple sclerosis, lung cancer, emphysema and more. The color and cause combinations for awareness bracelets are seemingly endless.

Some campaigns, like the American Heart Association's (AHA) Go Red for Women movement to raise awareness about heart health, moved away from a basic rubber bracelet to fine jewelry. According to the AHA, their 2008 limited-edition silver and red bracelet retails for $50, with $10 going directly to the AHA. While the average awareness bracelet is stamped silicone that retails for less than $10, the AHA initiative shows that there are many ways to combine social consciousness and fashion. Even groups without celebrity endorsements or big budgets can customize and create silicone awareness bracelets easily through many Internet retailers; it simply becomes a matter of choosing a color and a slogan to represent the cause.

Awareness Bracelet Controversies

While the yellow LIVESTRONG bracelets emerged as icons for celebrities and non-celebrities alike, there are controversies surrounding these rubber bands. A New York Times article claims that unexpected demand for the LAF bracelets created a resale market, in which bracelets that originally cost $1 (all for the charity) were sold for significantly more, with no profit for the charity. Another issue relating to awareness bracelets is their effectiveness. When so many colors can represent so many different things, and more and more organizations produce awareness bracelets, each wristband becomes less visible and, therefore, less effective. These controversies serve as a reminder that both organizations and buyers should carefully consider the use, efficacy and purpose of awareness bracelets.

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