If someone had told you two years ago rubber bands shaped like animals would be the biggest fad since Beanie Babies, you might have said, "That's just silly."
And you'd have been right. Kids are nuts about Silly Bandz!
"Everyone has them," said Alex O'Reilly, 8, of Madison. "They are so awesome. For Christmas, I'm asking for every single one of them."
The Madison Station Elementary second-grader has 46 Silly Bandz and prefers dinosaur and sea animal shapes.
"It doesn't really matter how many you have; it just matters how good they are and which ones are neat and cool," he said. "My friends said they have some that are baby animals, and I was like, 'I'm going to have to get me some of those.' If I could make some, I would make like a planet or moon or Saturn."
Monkey Charms, a local boutique, sells the shaped bracelets.
"If we get 1,500 a day, we sell out in six hours," said co-owner Heather May. "This is the biggest fad we've seen since we opened. We could have hired another full-time person just to handle Silly Bandz. It's crazy."
A friend who witnessed their popularity at a Tennessee summer camp was the first to tell May about them.
"We said, 'You are crazy. We're not selling rubber bands,'" she said. "But we started getting phone calls at the end of September and didn't have any choice but to get them."
Monkey Charms began selling themed packs of Silly Bandz in October. May said most stores sell packs for $4.99 to $8.99. The dog bone, dollar sign, sun, snowman and Christmas tree shapes have been the most popular.
"Some children have said no one will play with them because they don't have Silly Bandz," May said. "We've had moms fighting over the last pink pig."
Monkey Charms co-owner Renita Peevy said many parents are surprised to learn what Silly Bandz are.
"When they find out it's just a rubber band, the look on their face is, 'You've got to be kidding,'" she said.
The upside is that Silly Bandz foster sharing.
Maggie Ingram of Brandon watched her daughter put 50 Silly Bandz on her arms to share with friends at school.
What a sweet perspective when we have plenty," Ingram said. "I've even been known to wear one or two on occasion."
Robert J. Croak, president of BCP Imports in Toledo, Ohio, hopes the sharing will continue. As manufacturer and distributor of Silly Bandz, Croak now runs a multimillion dollar business.
"Our first big splash in the U.S. market was custom silicon bracelets," he said.
The company supplied those for the Lance Armstrong Foundation and now customizes them for other businesses and groups.
"We've had the Silly Bandz product line out over a year, and it has slowly gained popularity," he said. "In the last few months, they've exploded in many different markets throughout the country."