It may have started with a simple line, an invitation, if you will. Make the friendship bracelets, take the moment, and taste it, Taylor Swift implored her fans in her 2022 hit “You’re On Your Own Kid” from her latest album Midnights. In true Swiftie style, the song’s bridge became a worldwide phenomenon as fans embraced it, sang it at the top of their lungs, and took her suggestion to make friendship bracelets quite seriously. When Swift embarked on her Eras Tour in March 2023, suddenly, the accessory, more commonly associated with preadolescent sleepovers than concert fashion, became the year’s fashion currency and a symbol of community.
“Taylor Swift has led the charge on bringing beaded friendship bracelets, out of their past lives at summer camps, into the forefront of fashion culture this year,” says Emilia de Poret, the fashion director at Klarna which saw an increase of 915% in purchases of friendship bracelet kits this year.
Similarly, on the shopping platform Mercari, searches for terms like “friendship bracelets” and “Taylor Swift friendship bracelets” increased by more than 96% in 2023. Michaels, the crafts chain store, also saw a 40% increase in jewelry-making kits, while stores in cities in which Swift had tour stops received an increase of 300% in sales on beads and jewelry tools. The accessory has reached such popularity that the Pennsylvania hospital where Taylor Swift was born handed friendship bracelets to babies born on December 13, the pop star’s birthday.
Following the Eras Tour on TikTok — where videos with #friendshipbracelet got 200 million views and #erastourfriendshipbracelet collected over 30 million — it was hard to not feel a sense of FOMO over the craze. Fans shared tutorials on how to make bracelets, while others simply showed off their creations. Even celebrities like Channing Tatum, Sydney Sweeney, Selena Gomez, Jennifer Lawrence, and Gigi Hadid wore and exchanged beaded friendship bracelets with Taylor Swift fans. Later, we all found out that it was an undelivered friendship bracelet that Travis Kelce made for Swift that started the year’s most talked-about romance.
The euphoria trickled down to brands. Accessories designer Roxanne Assoulin, known for her candy-colored enamel bracelets, released customizable friendship bracelets. “To me, friendship bracelets are small tokens of appreciation that represent a bond of friendship, camaraderie, and love,” the designer says. “They can often tell a story, carry sentimental value, and remind us of the times and the love shared between two or more friends.”
For Little Words Project founder Adriana Carrig, it was validation that she had been on the right track for the past 10 years. Throughout 2023, Carrig has seen her bracelet business grow exponentially, not only in numbers but in cultural impact, too. The company was tapped by Disney for a pop-up shop in conjunction with the Eras Tour movie premiere. NSYNC member Lance Bass gave Taylor Swift a stack of friendship bracelets from the brand when he presented her with a trophy at the 2023 VMA Awards. “As a result of that, we were able to see even more organic traction because it really was our brand that she received in this major cultural moment,” Carrig says. “It gave the friendship bracelet back to us in a way.”
The return of concerts, including the Eras Tour which boosted the overall US economy by over $4 billion, and its subsequent cinematic release, provided an antidote to the pandemic-induced isolation. It also allowed girls to be girls, using the friendship bracelet to tap back into their preadolescence. Sharing them with both longtime companions and strangers, friendship bracelets also served as an icebreaker, perhaps turning a random seatmate into a new pal. “It’s so important, in these challenging times, to reach out, to show you remember, to show you care,” says Assoulin. “Friendship bracelets are one way to do that.”
For people like Carrig, who has long been in the business of connecting people through friendship bracelets, the phenomenon was not surprising. “I think the friendship bracelet as a cultural concept has always been about building community,” she says. “But also getting exposed to things that’ll help us practice self-kindness, self-love.”
Maybe we’re not that much on our own after all, kids.
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