Charms of the 1980s, Reexamined.

From kindergarten through the third grade, I don’t think a school day went by that I didn’t see at least six dozen of those plastic “charms.” You know, the ones with the little bells attached, typically clipped onto long neon chains?

This photo tells the story better than I can:

These things were everywhere. The girls wore them as bracelet, necklace and earring ornaments, but even if they were more popular with females, it’s not like the guys were totally cut out. We just had to choose charms that were a little more macho. Toilet bowl charms, and charms that looked like tiny cans of Pepsi. Macho stuff like that.

From what I recall, there was no standard “way” to get these charms. Vending machines were the safest bet, but for a while, they were pretty much everywhere. No one company had “majority control” of ‘em, but it’s also true that some charms were much better than others.

Like, if you had a charm that was based on a real life food item, that was gold. If your charm was a fully-functioning miniature version of some everyday appliance, that was silver. Then there was the sea of bronze, filled with everything from animals to tennis rackets to baby bottles.

Even if there was a hierarchy, I don’t think there was such a thing as a “bad” charm. Actually, at least with the girls in my classes, the only goal seemed to regard volume. I swear, a few of them would wear no less than fifty of the things on any given day, loudly jingling from 9-3.

The boys had it tougher. I know I wasn’t the only guy bewitched by these, but we could never be as showy. Even the word “charm” seemed to have a female tinge. It was totally dumb, but it’s hard to shake conventions when you’re in the 1st grade. For the most part, we could only get away with sticking the more easily defendable charms (you know, stuff like frogs wearing t-shirts) onto the zippers of our schoolbags.

But it was a different story at home, and I had plenty of these. The tiny soda cans and bottles were my favorites, especially since they were passably scaled for action figures. You haven’t lived until you’ve seen Skeletor battle He-Man for a one-inch can of Sprite.

I saw a lot of weird fashion accessories come and go during those years. Jelly bracelets. Slap bracelets. Those weird giant pencils that came with a pouch of super tiny pencils attached by a string, which I’m counting as a “fashion accessory” for some reason.

But I don’t think any of them were as interesting as these charms. No matter what your hobbies or interests, there was a charm for you. And after you found it, you still wanted a thousand more. Even if they were based on stupid things, like abacuses. Alternatively, abaci.

Okay, I’m done. I’ve used the word “abaci,” and now there’s nowhere to go but down.