1401 Trinadad Street, Marco
COLLIER COUNTY — In the heady tradition of the pet rock, the hula hoop and the Tamigotchi, Silly Bandz are now all the rage among local children and adolescents.
The stretchy, multi-colored silicone bands come in a variety of shapes such as animals and fish, princess silhouettes and rock band motifs, and more are emerging as the national craze snowballs.
Some may scoff and sneer, labeling the craze as typically vacuous, but it does mirror that grand and time-honored American tradition - trading cards.
Kids buy them (when available) at between $3.50 and $10 a pack for 12 or 24 bands, store them like bracelets on their wrists, and trade with each other during school lunch breaks and recesses.
Elizabeth Carrington, 12, said the craze seemed to pop out of nowhere.
"They're just kind of cute," she said of the bands. "You trade a lot."
Her friend Violet Sullivan, a fellow student at the Marco Island Charter Middle School, had just warmed to the craze. "I can't really say why I like them," she said. "First, just a few people had them, and then everyone did."
Although there have been reports of some schools banning them, local principals are unfazed by the craze.
Jory Westberry, principal of Tommie Barfield Elementary on Marco, said no problems have arisen, and several teachers have even taken to wearing them on their wrists.
"Every couple of years there's a huge fad," Westberry said. "We've learned to expect them. They're not a terrible distraction, and we don't have any restrictions on them yet."
Westberry said if the bands did create any distractions, she would likely tell teachers to inform the students to put them away.
At the island's Charter Middle School, slightly older students have been immersed in the fad for the past few weeks.
"We currently have no policy regarding the wearing of the Silly Bandz, but we do have policies that apply to inappropriate or dangerous actions as a result of misusing them," said principal George Abounader.
"For example, if a student used one to cause injury to another student, we would take appropriate action."
Abounader said the students see the items as cute, cool jewelry they can afford, and that they get a kick out of trading them with each other. Principals at several Naples Schools were contacted for comment, but did not respond.
Entrepreneur Robert Croak of Toledo, Ohio, is credited with launching the product, although there are now plenty of copycat suppliers using names such as Crazy Bandz and Zanybandz. Free publicity has come from social networking sites, headed by Facebook.
Mindful that crazes burn fiercely and then fizzle without warning, SillyBandz is expanding its reach to organizations such as the Red Cross and the Michael J. Fox Foundation, according to reports.