Every once in awhile an item transcends its original purpose and acquires uses that ripple throughout a culture, using its very simplicity and versatility to become useful to many people in many ways. Military dog tags are one such item. These simple, thin metal tags suspended on a ball chain have been used in ways that you might never have imagined.
Of course, army dog tags perform a vital function during wartime by identifying soldiers if they are unable to identify themselves. This alone is an extremely important function. But they are also used in the wider culture, in some very imaginative ways.
Without benefit of big ad campaigns, these tags have worked their way into fashion, particularly among young people. While they may carry identifying information, they can be engraved with just about any information you can fit on a piece of metal measuring 1.25 x 2 inches. Quotes, slogans, and phrases with personal meaning are popular on dog tags worn for fashion.
Sometimes people use tags to convey important medical information, such as severe allergies, or medical conditions like heart disease, epilepsy, or diabetes. This can be extremely useful for school-age children with insulin-dependent diabetes, and the tags can easily be attached to backpacks or laced into shoelaces so they do not have to be worn around the neck.
They also make fun party or wedding favors, engraved with a memento of the occasion, such as a wedding date, or the name and age of someone celebrating a birthday. Bands can, for example, have them engraved with the band name, the name of a CD being released, and a date. The family name can be engraved on dog tags handed out at a family reunion, or a club or scout troop can have tags engraved with an important event or date.
And of course, these metal tags can be used for identification purposes: on luggage, tool bags, equipment, video cameras, team equipment, or camping equipment. School groups on field trips can tag each participant during the trip and let students and chaperons keep them as a keepsake once the trip is over. Tags can even be used as motivational objects by businesses, who can have their company slogan engraved.
Sometimes charitable organizations will have large numbers of tags engraved with special sayings or information about the charity and sell them to supporters. Many church groups have had favorite bible verses engraved and raise money by selling them.
You can buy tags individually, in pairs, or in huge quantities, and they are very reasonably priced – usually well under $10 each, or even less when bought in bulk. Silencers are great accessories that can be ordered with them. These are the plastic or rubber frames around the edges of the tags that keep them from making noise when they bump into things, and they come in lots of colors.
You can get tags in either shiny or matte finish, with or without various lengths of ball chain. The uses for these tags are almost limitless. Whether you want to make a fashion statement, wear them as a form of ID, have them engraved with emergency information, or put your band name on them, you can create dog tags for everyone. They are not just for military personnel anymore!
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