Look for them and you’ll start seeing them everywhere: brightly colored rubber bracelets around the wrists of trend-setting Phnom Penhois.
The global bracelet fad has reached Cambodia, with increasing numbers of people sporting stretchy bands with slogans such as “LiveStrong,” “Challenge” and “Courage.”
The bracelets retail from between 1,000 riel and $1 at accessory outlets in popular shopping venues such as Sorya Shopping Center and the Olympic Market.
The wristbands began arriving from Thailand several months ago and are copies of merchandise used in a fund-raising campaign that began in the United States.
Lance Armstrong, seven-time winner of the Tour de France and cancer survivor, pioneered the trend with the release of the original Lance Armstrong Foundation/Nike wristband in May 2004, which had the word “LiveStrong” on them.
Boosted by support from talk show host Oprah Winfrey earlier this year, sales of the yellow LiveStrong bands have raised more than $50 million for cancer research.
The popular bracelets were inspired by “baller bands”, thick rubber bands that US basketball players stretched before pickup games to get warmed up.
Numerous copycats have sprung up around the world, in all shades and for causes as diverse as Irritable Bowel Syndrome (light blue) and Make Poverty History (white).
Other knockoffs are purely fashion items.
This seems to be the case of the Thailand-imported versions available in Cambodia. Though they are sometimes referred to as “tsunami bracelets,” there appear to be no philanthropic benefits.
“I think they should give money to charities, because they do in other countries,” said Bob McNaughton, 13, who owns more than 40 of the plastic bands.
Kim Chanvirak, 16, has been wearing his blue “Nike” bracelet for two months but is unaware of any charity connection.
“I bought this one because I saw other people wearing it. I don’t know anything about their meaning – I like them because they’re attractive.”