- Feb 2, 2006
- Reaction score
Wagging Their Tags
Icons, gems replace rank, serial number
Sunday, May 21, 2006
By MIKE SCHWARTZ
Dog tags are the hottest jewelry fad among kids across the nation.
Dog tags come imprinted with a variety of eye-catching pictures and can be engraved with anything you want.
And the all-American military dog tag is its inspiration.
But rather than a plain piece of metal stamped with name, rank, serial number, blood type and religion, these rectangular (some are heart-shaped or round) tags allow teens and grownups alike to go beyond making mere fashion statements.
Swinging on a chain around your neck, a dog tag can speak eloquently about your interests, goals and passions.
Darlene Lara, 17, of Riverside, recently walked around the Galleria at Tyler wearing a black dog tag emblazoned with three silver stars.
"I like stars because I've been thinking of going into acting," said Lara, a student at Sherman Indian High School. "This is my first and only dog tag ... so far. I've had it a couple of months."
Dog tags come imprinted with a nearly infinite variety of eye-catching pictures and can be engraved with anything you want -- from a "sweet nothing" to a loved one, a favorite saying or some bold or provocative statement calculated to garner attention.
At the Galleria at Tyler, Breeionna Butts, 16, of Riverside, wore a dog tag with a picture of The Game, a popular rap artist from Compton.
"I luuuuv the Game," gushed Breeionna as three gal pals cruising the mall with her convulsed into giggles. "I'm going to have that engraved on the back very soon."
Breeionna bought her dog tag for $20 about a month ago at Extreme Belt, Buckle and Dog Tag, a vending cart in the mall.
"The trend has been going on two or three years and it's still picking up," said owner Bobby Sachbev, as he proudly displayed his wares. "I've even had customers in their 40s and 50s."
But Jackie St. Peter, manager at Spencer's Gifts, first noticed the trend about a year ago.
"It really started to hit within the past six months ... ever since you could get your picture on it," St. Peter said.
From Rappers to Disney
Many aficionados engrave their dog tags with images of boyfriends or girlfriends or deceased loved ones. Others buy them off the shelf festooned with pictures and logos of pro teams and players.
"The Oakland Raiders, Dallas Cowboys and New York Yankees are big right now," said Mimi Tran, a salesperson at the Sport Collection. "So are Michael Jordan tags."
Rappers such as Tupac Shakur and 50 Cent also are popular, said Tran, 17, who doesn't wear a dog tag.
"But if I did, I'd pick Superman," she said.
Even Disney characters are sought after by elementary-school kids now starting to get in on the craze, she said.
A crazy quilt of cultural and historical motifs cover a gamut of images and symbols -- from Jesus Christ and Gothic crosses to marijuana and zodiac signs.
Wholesale suppliers, such as Mattman Enterprises, offer vendors a dizzying array in brass, aluminum, stainless steel and precious metal. Even chains come in a variety of materials and styles, including extra brass ball, shiny silver and black ball chains.
Stainless-steel tags and chains at mall kiosks sell for about $15 to $40 depending on their size, if they're surrounded by rhinestones or have blinking LED lights.
Personalized gift shops such as Things Remembered sell sterling-silver tags costing $79.95. One sterling and black onyx sample is engraved with "Joe Brown -- Groomsman -- 10/29/05."
"We don't put pictures on them here ... just engrave into the metal," said assistant manager Katie Carmichael. "Mostly people put love messages on them."
Carmichael said many people wear dog tags as mementos of soldiers serving or slain in Iraq. "That's a huge part of it," she said. "That will continue until everyone comes back from the war."
Indeed, "yellow ribbon" dog tags to show support for the troops are a big seller, according to vendors.
New technology likewise is fueling the dog-tag fad. Better machines for putting pictures on dog tags are coming out each year, said Yani Karni, an engraver at Main Street Retail, a vending cart at Ontario Mills.
"We're still doing them in black and white. But next year we'll have color machines," Karni said.
Around for many years, a process called color doming recently has been adapted for dog tags. It calls for taking a favorite photo and digitalizing it with a scanner or digital camera.
The digital photo can be placed on any pendant, then encapsulated with a hard crystal-clear dome that protects a dog tag from scratches, tarnishing and moisture for years to come.