Role in Pop Culture

Duct tape has permeated into American culture so thoroughly that it has become an essential for many households. It is featured on television shows like MacGyver, whose main character never goes anywhere without his trusty roll of duct tape, which saves him from countless sticky situations [20]. Similar references to duct tape in popular culture support the idea that anything can be fixed or solved with a little elbow grease and a lot of duct tape and has contributed to its wholehearted proliferation. Duct tape represents a return to the handiness and do-it-yourself mentality that this country was founded on. The resourcefulness of using the tape has interesting implications in a society full of people who are always throwing things away in favor of something newer and better. To repair something with duct tape is a statement of one’s resourcefulness and thrift. It also bridges the gap between the rich and the poor. Unlike many other innovations, a large bank account is not required to enjoy the many uses of duct tape. It does not require any training and is not particularly expensive. These factors, coupled with the tape’s reliability and durability, explain American’s fascination and wholehearted acceptance of duct tape.

Since duct tape was brought back from the battlefields of Europe, it has become popular within mainstream society. It has even engendered a sort of cult following with a whole genre of books dedicated to the use of duct tape. The Duct Tape Book, pictured above, features hundreds of bizarre uses for the tape ranging from tool belts to fly catchers [21]. It has also inspired the creation of such books as Duct Shui, a distinctly American take on a traditional Chinese idea, and Ductigami which provides directions for making a duct tape apron, lunch box, or address book cover [22][23].

Prom attire made entirely of duct tape

Duct tape has inspired more than a few fashion trends, some of them pragmatic, some down right ugly. Duck Brand, which is a producer of duck tape, offers a contest called Stuck at Prom which offers a scholarship to the couple who can create the most unique prom attire solely out of duct tape. Pictured at right are two of the finalists in the competition.

As duct tape became a part of mainstream popular culture, it has also been embraced by alternative groups. Punk music was a subset of rock that became popular in the United States in the later half of the 20th century. The punk movement brought with it political ideals, literature, art, and of course fashion [24]. Personal fashion is often used to represent who one is and what one believes, so it makes sense that a movement valuing the alternative would be drawn to duct tape’s grungy utilitarian feel. Many followers of the punk movement purposefully destroy clothing and then repair it with duct tape or safety pins.

Duct tape has also prompted several fads, one of the most well known being duct tape wallets. These wallets offer the durability and trendiness of duct tape and come in the wide variety of colors that the tape is now offered.

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