In the fall of 1990, when elementary schools across the country were still affected by the great ban on Bart Simpson t-shirts from the past school year, teachers and administrators were faced with another distracting fad. When instructors wrote on blackboards and warned students to open books, they were frustrated by a constant percussion of steel hitting the skin. Thwack . Thwack . Thwack .
The noise echoed through classrooms and school cafeterias, playgrounds and bus rides. Millions of children had discovered Slap Wraps, the brand name for a 9-inch piece of stainless steel that was covered with decorative fabric and covered the user's wrist with a quick movement. Part toys and part fashion statement, children found them irresistible. Meanwhile, the educators found them unbearable. Some schools banned them, but not only because of distraction ̵
Slap wraps were the invention of Stuart Anders, a Fort Prairie native, Wisconsin who graduated from college in 1983 with a degree in education. Teaching jobs were difficult to get at this time, so Anders Anders took on replacement positions and trained sports.
Anders sat down at his mother's sewing table one day, took out a self-rolling tape measure that curled up with the movement of his wrist, and began to wriggle. He thought it would make a cool bracelet, provided someone covered the steel with fabric.
He called the company that made the tape measure, but they no longer made it. Anders didn't know what else to do. Although he thought the snap bracelet idea could be successful, he had no money or other resources to make it himself. But he kept the prototype on his steering wheel.
Later he joined the National Guard, where he learned to fly helicopters. He then moved to Florida and started working for a local clothing company. The bracelet had never left his truck.
One day Anders met a man named Philip Bart who happened to be an agent for toy designers. Anders, who couldn't believe his luck, ran outside to get the bracelet. He tucked it around Bart's wrist. Thwack .
Bart was sold. Now all he had to do was sell someone else.
Bart turned to all big toy companies with the idea of a bracelet, but they rejected him. The reason? They weren't interested in spending time and money on a product that was little more than a piece of jewelry that would have a low retail price. But Bart found a receptive audience in Eugene Murtha, who opened the Main Street Toy Company in Simsbury, Connecticut in 1988. Murtha, a former Vice President of Coleco during the company's Cabbage Patch Kid madness, immediately recognized the potential of Anders' invention. He agreed to distribute slap wraps and pay Bart and Anders' royalties.
Bart and Anders hurried to make bracelet prototypes in time for the American International Toy Fair in New York City in the 1990s. The bracelets were the topic of conversation at the fair, and Murtha received an order for 250,000 units from KB Toys. But there were problems: Murtha seemed ill-equipped to manufacture, and Bart had to found Main Street Industries and make the bracelets, which he then turned over and sold to the Main Street Toy Company. It was not a smooth process as the thickness and quality of the rounded-edge steel had to be adjusted from 0.004 inches to 0.006 inches to ensure that the steel did not protrude from the double-knit fabric, which meant that the bracelets were required to be made longer than expected. Murtha expected delivery in April, but the slap wraps weren't ready until summer 1990.
Meanwhile, Bart was annoyed that Murtha had allowed some prototypes to escape the toy fair, a rash of counterfeits that appeared on store shelves before the slap wraps were even released. These versions typically used carbon steel, the lightly rusted, and inferior material that allowed the steel to be exposed and create the risk of injury.
These dangers were only understood when slap wraps and their counterparts made in Taiwan started in the fall. Made popular through word of mouth, the children shoveled the bracelets up and turned them into a school fad, beating neon-colored accessories against themselves all day. The New York Times described them as "blinds with one attitude".
Bracelets disorder (both the noise and the fact that children were playing while listening) and reports of injuries – 4-year-old Nicole Tomaso from Wallingford, Connecticut cut a finger off – prompted some schools to take action. The bracelets were banned at the Colonial School and Siwanoy School in New York after a child was cut at the West Orchard Elementary School in Chappaqua, New York. The Lehigh Township Elementary School in Pennsylvania banned them for reasons that distracted them. The Steckel Elementary School in Whitehall, Pennsylvania introduced a rule that did not beat a bracelet. Others asked the teachers to examine the bracelets for ragged edges. The State Department of Consumer Protection recalled the foreign versions in Connecticut. The Federal Consumer Product Safety Commission advised parents to check the wristbands for frayed edges.
The controversy troubled Murtha, who repeatedly told the press that the injuries were the result of cheap imports rather than the Slap Wraps brand name. Although the Main Street Toy Company moved 1 million bracelets for $ 2.50 each and ordered another 5 million in just three months, an estimated 10 to 15 million counterfeit versions were sold, some for only $ 0.70 each
 When the fad started to blaze towards the end of 1990, Bart and Murtha started pointing their fingers. Bart criticized Murtha for allowing her to take the bracelets to the toy fair, which led to a rash of counterfeit products. Bart believed that if Murtha hadn't been so careless, they could have made $ 25 million in sales instead of $ 4 million. He also claimed that Murtha went to another manufacturer and left him unsold inventory. Murtha countered that Bart took too long to produce, missed the spring delivery targets, and further increased the price of the bracelets. Plans for slap ponytail bracelets and slap anklets fell by the wayside.
It got uglier. Bart and Anders had received no royalties from selling the slap wraps because both sides had different interpretations of contracts signed in 1990. Bart and Anders applied to terminate the license agreement. Murtha sued and the lawsuit went into arbitration in 1991. While the umpire complained about both parties, the net amount owed fell at Murtha's feet, which was slapped on the wrist for $ 751,309. However, the Main Street Toy Company was practically insolvent and no payment would be made. Bart claimed that he had lost $ 1 million in manufacturing costs and 2.5 million slap wraps in a warehouse that would never sell because the kids had already moved on to the next step.
Murtha moved to positions with Mattel and Gund and later reconciled with Anders, who had more success with the invention of a tool base holder that he sold to Sears.
Various manufacturers have dealt with the striking bracelet phenomenon over the years, but there are still pressing safety problems. In 2017, bracelets adorned with troll dolls and packed with a picture book were recalled due to the risk of injury from exposed edges. This includes bracelets from Yumark Industries that were sold by Target in 2018. Good or bad, Anders' invention continues to leave its mark on pop culture.