In these days of Homeland Security, natural disasters and possible looming zombie attacks, how does a girl stay in style while preparing for survival? The answer appears around an increasing number of wrists: paracord bracelets. These bracelets, which resemble the macrame bracelets of yesteryear, serve more than a fashion function. They're made with one long length of parachute cord that can be unwound in an emergency. If you need to throw a rope to a friend who fell in the raging river or rappel down the side of a building to escape the undead, your tool will be right around your wrist with a paracord bracelet.
You're more likely to find paracord bracelets in the woods than on the runway. Paracord is short for parachute cord -- the cord used for military parachutes. The bracelets originated with the military, when Iraq and Afghanistan soldiers wove the cord into bracelets, watchbands, lanyards and other decorative but useful items. The veterans brought the bracelets home, and friends and neighbors also appreciated such utilitarian adornments. Creative soldiers wove different cording together to create patterns and themes. Some warriors, like those at the Vietnam Veterans of America Valley Forge Chapter, now sell paracord bracelets on their websites and donate the proceeds to help their fellow vets.
Paracord bracelet makers all use variations on the sennit, or braided rope or other material used to make bracelets, hats and baskets. Think macrame -- your mom might have a white bracelet from the beach souvenir shop made from cotton rope, with a weave that looks very much like a paracord bracelet. Makers of paracord bracelets know their knots and get creative with intricate designs. The use of one continuous length of cord makes the difference with the paracord bracelet. They're made so you can quickly undo them to use the rope in an emergency. When different colors are woven together, each color represents one length of about 10 feet of cord.
The Valley Forge Vietnam veterans make their paracord bracelets in four basic colors: olive drab, black, coyote brown and foliage green. At the Survival Straps website, they're more diversified. You can order men's bracelets in solids, bright patterns, team colors, and with dog tags or other memorabilia incorporated into the bracelet. Women's straps come in those styles and also in pink and pastel colors. And, of course, anyone can order red, white and blue patriotic straps. You can also find instructive videos that show you how to create your own paracord bracelet.
The original bracelets were made with the super-strong nylon 550-pound test cord used to make government-issued parachutes. Most bracelet makers still use the 550 cord as their main material. Some make thinner-weave bracelets with lighter weight cord, and some incorporate lightweight cord into bracelets that mainly use the 550 cord. As paracord bracelets work their way into the fashion mainstream, their creative makers come up with ever more designs and varieties.