Paging Gwen Stefani: Braces have officially become a trend

Gwen Stefani Braces
Photography by Evan Agostini/Getty Image

Gwen Stefani Braces
Photography by Evan Agostini/Getty Image

Braces. The mere word conjures up cringe-worthy memories of adolescent awkwardness and dorky grins at best and mortifying bloody kisses at worst. Having a mouthful of metal isn’t really something you’d associate with cool, right? Except now it is, according to the New York Daily News.

The latest fashion trend in Southeast Asia, buying braces on the black market—particularly in a rainbow of colours and designs, like Hello Kitty and Mickey Mouse—is to teenagers in Thailand, Indonesia and Malaysia what wearing neon jelly bracelets were to Western teenage girls in the ‘80s (don’t front like you didn’t): Ya gotta have ‘em. The newest It thing a, braces are a major signifier of wealth, status and style (given that genuine braces are quite expensive, if you’ve been blessed with a temporary silver set of teeth jewellery, you obviously come from money).

Asian pop stars like Thailand’s Earn the Star and Indonesia’s Andika Kangen both wear them and Gwen Stefani also recently confessed to wearing her braces in the ‘90s as a fashion statement, not out of necessity. And since we all know how simpatico Gwen Stefani is with teenagers in Asia, I think we need no longer wonder why and how this is a thing.

There is a downside to wearing fakes though (like a major one): the elastics can come loose and slip into your throat, or they can cause sores on your gums and the inside of your mouth (fake braces have reportedly been tied to the deaths of two Thai teens!). The Thai government has now cracked down on the importation, production and sale of fashion braces, making the sale of fakes punishable by up to six months in prison and a fine of 50,000 baht ($1,626). But apparently all that’s done is make the acquisition of fake braces even more sought after, with DIY kits being sold online and at flea markets.