Wayne Gretzky and Bubble Wrap have the same birthday. Imagine that!
SADDLE BROOK, N.J.–People have walked to the altar dressed in it, protected their garden plants with it, even put it on display at highbrow art museums.
Mostly, they like the sound it makes when they destroy it, piece by piece, which largely explains the appeal of Bubble Wrap, the stress reducer disguised as package cushioning that maintains an inexplicable hold on pop culture.
The product once envisioned as a new type of wallpaper turns 50 this month, and enthusiasts' obsession with it has spawned 250 Facebook pages devoted to Bubble Wrap.
Ken Aurichio, communications director for Sealed Air, the Elmwood Park-based company that manufactures Bubble Wrap, thought he'd witnessed every form of Bubble Wrap mania until he received a wedding invitation last year from a woman in Ohio who said she would wear the product on her trip down the aisle.
"I'd never, never met her before," Aurichio said. "She must have gotten my name off the website." (No, he didn't attend.)
Like many innovations, Bubble Wrap initially was conceived for an entirely different purpose. According to Aurichio, a New York City designer approached inventors Marc Chavannes and Al Fielding in the late 1950s with a proposal for creating textured wallpaper.
That idea stalled, but the product the two men created in a lab in New Jersey found its niche when, according to company lore, Fielding was flying into Newark Airport and noticed the clouds that seemed to cushion the plane's descent.
Fifty years later, Sealed Air has global revenues of more than $4 billion (U.S.) and legions of fans who have come up with myriad uses for Bubble Wrap (It's a wig! It's a mobile home! It's a sleeping bag! It's a flotation device!).
Then there's the true badge of hipness: A bubble-popping application for Apple's iPhone. A piece of Bubble Wrap appears onscreen and you pop as many bubbles as you can in 45 seconds