By JEFF PICKELL
When Morenci junior Dominique Cox’s cheap, faux-leather watchband snapped two years ago, she figured it would cost more than the watch was worth to replace it. Instead of chucking the watch and resorting to estimating the time from the position of the sun, she pulled out a roll of duct tape and stuck the band back together.
Before long, she found that the duct tape portion of the watchband irritated her skin much less than the faux-leather, so she scrapped the original band and fabricated a new one entirely out of the shiny gray tape.
Then she decided that duct tape would make a good raincoat. Using a slicker that used to belong to her grandfather as a template, she constructed one. It took her about six hours.
“It was an ambitious adventure in taping, to be sure,” says Dominique. But the project didn’t wear her out. Soon after, she completed a hat to match, which she describes as “a cross between a top hat and that hat that Gilligan wore on ‘Gilligan’s Island.’” When she wore the get-up to school one rainy day, she found it kept her dry and warm.
Thus began her affair with duct tape, a tape whose usefulness has won it a place in the hearts of utilitarians across the planet.
Aside from sticking together cracked glasses rims and mending holes in old sneakers, a faction of teenagers have, in recent years, devised a new function for duct tape—fashion.
These days, it’s not uncommon to see at least one or two kids in a given high school sporting shoes completely covered with the stuff, or to see a few book bags with messages spelled out in slender gray strips.
Dominique doesn’t expect the trend to hit the mainstream any time soon. She admits that, a lot of the time, the kids who integrate a lot of duct tape in their wardrobe are the same kids who dress to stand out, or to make a statement. She maintains that she wears her duct tape merely because she likes it.
For a lot of kids, there’s a novelty aspect to duct tape. For instance, Morenci freshman James Wright was hooked when he noticed “Duck” brand duct tape.
“I saw that there was a ‘Duck’ brand, and I thought ‘cool.’ And then I just started making things out of duct tape.”
Fledgling duct-tapers are helped by the fact that “Duck” brand tape also happens to be one of the best brands, at least according to the aficionados.
“Off-brand tapes have inferior glues and lesser thread counts than ‘Duck,’” says Dominique. “3M also has a nice tape.”
“You see,” says James, “we don’t just like duct tape, we understand it.”
The more the kids started understanding duct tape, the more they started branching out. About a year ago, Dominique started using different colors of duct tape in her creations. Along with the standard silvery sheen, duct tape comes in over twenty colors, including red, white, black, orange, green—even camouflage.
Her first alternately colored project was a camouflage neck tie, and is such an accurate reproduction of a real tie that it betrays the eye even up close.
Dominique also made a multi-colored book bag that doesn’t appear particularly duct tape-ish until she flips it open to reveal its silver insides.
The secret to making duct tape objects that don’t stick to her, says Dominique, is staggering the strips of tape, so that half the tacky side of one strip is stuck to half the tacky side of another. Using the adhesive sides to cancel each other out, duct-tapers can fashion pieces of fabric as big as their projects require.
The trade isn’t without its hazards, though. Long-haired artisans are at constant risk of snagging their locks, and if freeing them isn’t hard enough, washing out the legendarily robust adhesive is.
Dominique decided to abandon one of her more ambitious projects, a stuffed Tigger doll, after she cut her hand with an Xacto knife, which required seven stitches.
Now, she prefers to stick to safety scissors. Besides, she likes the color of them better.
When she unveils her newest creations, the reaction from other students is usually mixed, Dominique says.
“Some think I’m the coolest,” she says. “Some think I’m insane and try not to make eye contact with me.”
It’ll be interesting to see what people think when she unveils the finished version of her latest project—an all duct tape prom dress. She’ll also have her hands full helping James, her date, with an all duct tape tuxedo.
Who knows? If they stick together, maybe they can stick it out.