Loom band fad has us in a twist

Forget the cancer scares and environmental worries — the loom band craze will only last so long, says Mark Evans

Loom band fad has us in a twist

SUPERSTITION among sportspeople is almost always contained among those who partake in team events. You will find plenty of rituals among footballers but not too many among snooker players. Psychologists say it’s all to do with how much individual control they have over their sport’s outcome. If they have to rely on those around them to win, there’s more chance they will have a pre-match ritual. Golfers too were always ones to depend on science and rarely messed about with religious blessings or silly dances on the first tee box. So, there were plenty of raised eyebrows after Rory McIlroy raised the idea that his fantastic year should be attributed to a charm made out of small rubber bands which he sported throughout the summer.

“It was given to me by Stephen Gallacher’s little girl [Ellie] before the [British] Open and I still haven’t taken it off,” said Rory in July. “Stevie said that when I was on my way to winning at Hoylake, she was watching on TV and jumping up and down. Maybe I should be thanking her.”

Three weeks after bagging the British Open with little Ellie’s colourful charm on his right wrist, he walked off with his fourth Major at the USPGA Championship. Whether or not knitted pieces of rubber helped Rory become the most successful Irish golfer of all time, McIlroy’s decision to wear it put the latest kids’ toy craze onto a whole other level.

The first rubber band was patented by Englishman Stephen Perry in 1845. What makes 2014 the year of the loom band is not down to the rubber but the plastic ‘loom’ upon which the bands can be intertwined.

The rainbow loom was invented by Malaysian engineer Cheong-Choon Ng in 2010, who dreamed up the pegboard after watching his young daughters, then aged 9 and 12, creating bracelets with rubber bands. Choon and his wife Fen, emigrants in the US, spent their $10,000 life savings on manufacturing and patenting the device. The toy eventually took off and has so far sold up to 7 million kits in the US alone. Inevitably, similar contraptions flooded the market before patents were nailed down. Choon’s Rainbow Loom faced competition from Cra-Z-Loom and FunLoom. On August 6 last, Choon finally was granted the patent for his kit’s design. But loom bands were given endorsements by celebrities long before that. Early adopters included David Beckham and One Direction’s Harry Styles. Irish soccer legend and RTÉ pundit John Giles sported one while analysing the football during the World Cup.

It hasn’t all been sweetness and light for the colourful craze. Loom bands became ‘loom banned’ at US schools late last year. Apparently, kids were fashioning bracelets in class, then fighting over them at lunchtime.

“The children are playing with the bracelets during class without permission from teachers. [They] are playing with them at recess, and it is causing conflict between children,” said one New York principal. More bad press for the craze came from environmentalists who took a more long-term view.

“They can’t be recycled and when a child does eventually get bored with them and the craze dies out, they will just be taking up space,” fretted a spokeswoman for Waste Connect in Britain.

Animal lovers too waded in with warnings of the choking hazard they presented to pets.

However, concerns reached fever pitch when newspapers reported that some loom band accessories contained cancer-causing chemicals.

Some retailers were selling charms laced with 500 times the legal limit of phthalates, suspected carcinogens.

Despite the dreaded C-word being mentioned in the same breath as loom bands, parents don’t seem too concerned.

They understand the short-term nature of toy fads. Who knows what craze will keep kids distracted this time next year?

Predicting that it will help a sportsperson to epic victories would certainly be stretching the imagination.


We asked loom band wearers in the Irish Examiner office about their bracelets.


1 Who made your loom band?

My son Tadhg, who is nearly 5, and daughter Áine, 7, both of whom are loom band obsessed.

2 Why do you wear it?

It’s so nice to wear something that your kids made for you, and they put real thought into them. Grandad got one in Cork colours, my husband in the blue and yellow of Tipperary, and mine was multicoloured to match my clothes.

3 Are you worried about the links to cancer?

Not really. I think if they were eating the things maybe, but the reports to date seem rather vague.


1 Who made your loom band?

I am the proud father of two girls, one 9, the other 6 and both are consumed by the craze. It’s costing me a fortune. It’s passing the summer for them and my eldest, Ella, made me a rainbow loom band bracelet, one of her proud first creations.

2 Why do you wear it?

It stands out like a beacon on my wrist and I don’t care cos I’m happy to be my daughter’s guinea pig.

3) Are you worried about the links to cancer?

I must be honest and admit I was unaware of the suggested cancer risk attached to cheaper loom bands but, as I mentioned, mine were far from cheap, so I guess we’re ok... I must look into that some more.


1 Who made your loom band?

My seven-year-old daughter Arwen is the loom band fiend in our house. They turn up everywhere — on her bed, under her bed, under the cushions on the sofa and even in the sink. We had to ban them while eating dinner for fear it would end up in there as well.

2 Why do you wear it?

Quite simply because she loves them and has made them for me. For me every loom band she creates is a testament to her resolve to complete tasks she finds difficult as she has issues with fine motor skills. Each bracelet represents a colourful triumph over adversity.

3 Are you worried about the links to cancer?

No. These are a fad, it will fade away like every other craze we have endured in a house filled with three small girls.

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