When Slap Bracelets Took the 90s by Storm

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As a girl who spend the 90s in school, I have fond, nostalgia tinged memories of slap bracelets. They were these pieces of flat metal (?) covered in poorly constructed cloth, and when you “slapped” them against your wrist they curled up like a bracelet.

And yes, sometimes the metal broke through the material and cut you, because this was the 90s and we played with toys that could injure or kill us on the regular.


Even though my memories of the slap bracelet are fond, I doubt that anyone who was teaching at the time could say the same – much like the annoying thud that accompanies kids today flipping water bottles, the thwack of a closing snap bracelet probably got old really, really fast.

In fact, some schools banned them altogether, probably because they were annoying, but under the guise of them being dangerous, given that some of the knockoffs actually led to stitches for some.

The original product, the Slap Wrap, was invented by Stuart Anders, a substitute teacher and coach from Fort Prairie, Wisconsin.  He was using his mother’s sewing table and pulled out her self-rolling tape measure when he thought – for some reason – that it would make a cool bracelet.

As Anders didn’t have the money or resources to make anything other than a prototype, though, it didn’t go anywhere for awhile.


Then he enlisted in the National Guard, learned to fly helicopters, moved to Florida, and began working for a local apparel company – and all the while keeping his bracelet prototype in his truck. Until fortuitous day he ran into Philip Bart, who was agent for toy designers.

Anders ran to get his bracelet, snapped it around Bart’s wrist, and the man was sold.

Philip Bart didn’t get very far with the big toy companies, as they saw the bracelet as a trinket they wouldn’t be able to sell for much. Eugene Murtha, who owned Main Street Toy Company in Simsbury, CT, though, felt differently. He had been the VP of Coleco during the Cabbage Patch craze and saw potential in Anders’ Slap Wrap.

The bracelets were the talk of their first trade show, the 1990 American International Toy Fair n New York City, and Murtha received a 250,000-unit order from KB Toys. After overcoming some manufacturing and design hurdles, the bracelets arrived in the summer of 1990.

Unfortunately, some of the prototypes got into competitors’ hands at the Toy Fair, which meant several knockoffs appeared on shelves before the original Slap Wrap. The cheaper versions used carbon steel which rusted easily, employed lower-quality fabric, and therefore created opportunities for injury.

Still, by fall, everyone wanted one. Kids were grabbing them up, they’d become a fad at schools all over the country, and The New York Times had described them as “a Venetian blind with an attitude.”

Schools were less than enthusiastic, banning them on grounds of danger and distraction, with some even requiring teachers to inspect the edges to endure they weren’t frayed and others taking away the accessory at the first sound of a snap.


The State of Connecticut recalled foreign version of the bracelet due to safety concerns, as well.

The craze, like most fads, was short-lived. It flamed out by the end of the year, but with everyone involved with Slap Wraps being around $4 million richer. Even so, finger pointing began, with Bart and Murtha pointing fingers and blaming each other for all of the reasons they didn’t make more like $25 million instead.

The pair went to court, and though a judge found fault with all parties, ruled that Murtha owed Anders his royalties – to the tune of over $750k.

He never received it, as Main Street Toy Company was belly-up. Murtha went on to work at Mattel and Gund, and later reconciled with Anders after he invented a popular tool socket holder picked up by Sears.

Slap bracelets are still around, but are still controversial due to their continued risk of lacerating skin with exposed edges. The ones sold with Troll dolls in 2017 were recalled, as were a 2018 version sold at Target.

People just don’t want to give up on the fun and popular fashion, even if it’s literally cutting kids.

I suppose that’s capitalism for you, though, and maybe one day people will get the design just right!