Southeast Asian Teenagers Are Obsessed with Fake 'Fashion Braces'

Illustration for article titled Southeast Asian Teenagers Are Obsessed with Fake 'Fashion Braces'

Apparently this "trend" has been going on for "years," and has the media "buzzing," so forgive me if you're already a weary old soldier in the "fashion braces" craze. I just heard about it today. Seems vaguely hoaxy, in a Mexican Pointy Boots kind of way, but then again I totally remember some twinges of confused jealousy as an orthodonture-free child. All those colorful rubberbands to pick out! So many options for seasonal coordination! Wherever there's a club—no matter how unglamorous—there's a kid who wants to be in that club. And I'm sure brace-decoration-technology (?) has only improved since I was young, making them ripe for customization and bedazzling and conspicuous consumption. (Wait, is Xzibit busy?)


So, sure. Fake fashion braces:

The media has been abuzz over the past week with reports of youngsters in Southeast Asia buying black market braces — fake metal-and-rubber mouth accessories in a rainbow of colors and designs (Hello Kitty and Mickey Mouse are popular options) — for around $100 a pop.

Aside from the fashion statement, wearing a mouthful of braces has the added allure of being a status symbol. In Bangkok, paying for dental care is costly, with real braces running around $1,200 — a hefty sum for the average family.

But as Oddity Central website points out, fake braces have a dark side: they can come loose and slip into the throat, or can cause sores on the gums and inside the mouth. Plus some of the wires may contain lead.

The website Vice UK writes that fake braces were the cause of death for two teens.

This image was lost some time after publication, but you can still view it here.
This image was lost some time after publication, but you can still view it here.

I...okay. Bye.

Asian teens shell out money for fake fashion braces; Metal mouth is style trend in Thailand, Indonesia and Malaysia [NYDN]

Photo credit: Mikko / Stockfresh.



In Japan, they find crooked teeth to be charming - it's known as yaeba, meaning "double tooth". They actually avoid getting braces so their teeth won't be too straight.

More unsettling than just avoiding an elective orthodontic process, though, is that there are now the inevitable interventions to make teeth less straight. As fads go, it's certainly less dangerous and invasive than many, and I guess it's relatively reversible. But while I am a supporter of people making their own choices about how they want to look, it will come as no surprise that the fascination with yaeba applies predominantly to girls. It's troubling.

It would just be great if people - especially women - could be allowed to embrace their own individuality, and be spared the pressure to pay people to help them conform to whatever is (currently) considered cute.