Wearing your cause on your sleeve ... or wrist (bracelets)

The ubiquitous yellow bracelets put out by Nike as part of its “Live Strong Wear Yellow” campaign to benefit cancer research have me on the fence. It’s good that awareness is being brought to whatever cause is being championed, but does it really inspire any action? Or are the bracelets just a cheap, trendy fashion statement?

I get the feeling that this is another example of runaway consumer culture. The bracelet gives a sense that the wearer did something to benefit society, and can look cool at the same time. Just like anything else that’s popular, other causes have rushed to put out bracelets to get a piece of the pie.

Am I missing something here? I briefly considered pitting the cause bracelets, but don’t think it would be appropriate since it’s raising money for agencies even if I question some of the wearers’ motivation. Is this a good thing that is here to stay, or will it end up like the “WWJD” bracelets from a few years back? Is it something that “we” should want to have stick around? I can understand cancer survivors, or relatives that would want to wear the yellow bracelet, but if other people want to help, aren’t there other things that can be done than spending $1 on a bracelet? And do people really need recognition for something like that?

I’m willing to be convinced either way here, so I would like to hear arguments for the pro or con.

My feeling is that it’s definitely a fashion statement and won’t be around in a few years (now watch, I’ll be kicking myself when someone brings this post up in a few years…).

How many more causes have jumped on the bandwagon? I know of two right here in Central Illinois. The University of Illinois is selling orange loyalty bracelets which benefit the University Libraries. A local community is selling purple bracelets to raise money to continue the search for a local man who went missing five years ago when he was 19. They’re imprinted with the name of the website with info about him (www.findryan.com). (news story)

Yes, it’s a fashion statement, just like lapel ribbons and “Support the Troops” bumper magnets, and Daffodil Days. At least in the case of the yellow wristbands, it’s also raised millions for cancer research.

What disturbs me is when it is assumed that everyone buys into the causes. One woman was showing me her armful of bands and says “And ‘Support the Troops’ of course” as if everyone goes along with that and how could you disagree. Who can disagree with a cure for breast cancer, say, but when it gets into more disputed topics the small symbol could become “heavier” than it should be.

My issue with these is the dilution we get by having so many different bracelets, pins, buttons, whatever. This was a fine idea when there was just one thing to be on about but now I have lost complete track of what color supports which cause when worn on which part of the body. I think it is mroe now to allow people of the same group to more readily identify each other and tell each other how great they are.

That said I have no issue with people doing whatever they see fit to support whatever cause they are on about but I do not feel these things carry the weight they once did. At least they are largely meaningless to me when I see them.

Yeah my school (The Ohio State University) also has a lame rip off called Buckeye Strong.

Fashion statement and not much more.

It seems to be a matter of gaining morality points without actually having to do anything moral. The core idea is the same as that behind bumper stickers that advertise one’s favorite band/candidate/pet/sexual orientation; it says, “I’m in favor of X,” but makes no attempt to persuade others to agree, or to demonstrate one’s support by showing results. It’s pure statement, with no discernible reality to it.

Then again, what’s wrong with that? If we’re living in a “runaway consumer culture,” why not fritter away one’s fritterable income on something that at least voices support for a worthy cause? I’d rather have compulsive shoppers buy those than Britney Spears albums. Or crack.

I see it as a short-term, trendy way to raise money for targeted causes.

One of the things I like about them is that they allow many people to spend a little. You don’t have to be rich to participate. There isn’t a checkoff box suggesting a minimum donation of $10 or $25. And because they’re trendy, they pique people’s interest and garner some press. So overall I think they help connect people to a cause and make them feel more optimistic about “making a difference,” even if they aren’t able to give a lot. People in this country seem to have a hard time scaling up and realizing how one dollar (or one vote–see dozens of threads pre-November) can make a difference when pooled with others. If projects like this change people’s thinking, good.

Our local children’s hospital is likely going to raise at least a quarter of a million dollars with these types of bracelets. Everyone who is wearing one can say “Hey, I helped” and can feel as much a part of that fundraising as the other people who gave. While it’s true there are some businesses who have bought a gross and are giving them to clients, a lot of money is being raised one bracelet at a time.

At some point the idea may seem stale, or the market will be saturated, but that won’t take away the money that has been raised. Maybe there will be a new trend. No biggie.