The Robert Pattinson baby bump watch has become something of a social media phenomenon since its release last month. Launching the trend of “bellywatch” on social media platforms like Instagram, the luxury brand Kering has seen unprecedented growth, with sales tripling and half of their target audience in the United Kingdom adopting the look. But is it as innocent as it seems? We set the record straight on the latest viral craze.

The Legend Of The Bellywatch

You might have heard of the Kardashians’ infamous “bellyache” or seen a viral trend emerge from South Korea in the shape of a horse or chicken, but the “bellywatch” craze actually dates back to 1947 when French journalist Robert Pattinson first published an article in Paris Match in which he referred to the expanding stomachs of newlywed couples as “bellywatches”. Since then, the term has been used to describe the growing child bump in images circulated on social media platforms like Instagram. What started as a satirical trend has now become a recognizable aesthetic among mothers-to-be across the globe, and it’s not all about showing off your baby bump.

Why Are So Many People Wearing Bellywatches?

A 2018 study from the United Kingdom indicated that while 94% of respondents said they would wear a bellywatch if invited to a wedding or similar social event, only 57% said they would actually wear the band they are sported on social media. It turns out that the #bellywatch trend is less about showing off your baby bump and more about expressing a fashion statement or as a subtle way to show solidarity with other parents at a time when the world needs more families not less. Whatever the reason, more and more people have taken up the trendy look.

The Rise Of The Bellywatches

While it may not be the most comfortable feeling to have a growing stomach, there is ample historical precedent for this fashion choice. In fact, women have been wearing belly bands since the 17th century, with Queen Victoria reportedly wearing a pearl-studded band at the time. Since the dawn of the 21st century, it appears that the look has been taken up enthusiastically by females, especially in the United Kingdom where it has become somewhat of a national pastime. With Brexit negotiations still ongoing, it seems fitting that this trend emerged in the year Britain decides to “divorce” from the European Union.

According to data from the Office for National Statistics, 33.7% of people in England and Wales in 2017 were already wearing a bellyband at the time of the survey. That’s compared to 11.9% in Scotland, which is marginally higher than the overall average across the UK. This trend is not just confined to the home of Shakespeare and Dickens either, with a 2017 poll from revealing that 37% of Londoners were already wearing a bellyband at the time of the survey.

The Popularity Of The Bellywatches Around The World

While the #bellywatch trend emerged in the UK, it quickly spread to other parts of the world where social media is more widely used. This includes countries like Indonesia and Japan, where according to the United Nations, there are 131 million and 112 million internet users respectively. Naturally, these figures include all age groups and both sexes, so the overall figures might not reflect the trend per se, but it’s still fascinating to see how this look has become so in-demand around the globe. Especially since it has been so prevalently adopted by women.

What Do These Numbers Really Mean?

With the rise of the #bellywatch trend in many parts of the world comes a lot of statistical analysis trying to figure out just how in-demand this look is. Some researchers have gone as far as to correlate the rise of the “bellywatched” generation to the ubiquitous nature of social media and the ability to share one’s personal life online.

Writing in Psychology Today in 2017, Sheryl Sandberg — a professional manager who advises businesses on how to use social media effectively — said: “If you had asked me 10 years ago if I thought social media would be so important to our lives, I would have said no. Yet here we are. Without social media, we might not have gotten the opportunity to experience the weddings we’ve photographed. We might not have seen the cute baby bumps of friends who are now parents. We might not have gotten to know the new family members Twitter has introduced us to. The list of what social media has done for us is endless. It has changed our lives … and the lives of those around us.”

Why Are People Embracing The Trend So Quickly?

While some may choose to wear a bellyband as a fashion statement, others are simply capitalizing on an opportunity to make some extra cash. In 2017, Daily Mail journalist Rachel Andrews reported that people were “juggling work, childcare and exercise”, with many women choosing to forgo traditional Friday night dinners in favor of a babymoon trip.

Andrews went on to write that while there is certainly a trend among celebrities to sport the look, it’s not necessarily exclusive to them. In fact, she said the look is “wider than social media would have you believe”. What’s interesting is that people are seemingly aware that they are “appropriating” a fashionable aesthetic while also making money from this trend.

According to the British Plastics Association, as of April 2018, there were an estimated 12.5 million tonnes of plastic waste sitting in Britain’s landfills. That’s enough to fill a 150-meter high tower.

The public’s appetite for “green” products is growing, which provides an opportunity for companies that produce recyclable plastic packaging. Fuelling this trend is a desire among many people to be more “green” and reduce their environmental footprint. As well as reducing plastic waste, customers want to be sure their purchases are both biodegradable and recycled where possible.

According to the UN Environmental Programme (UNEP), around 8 million tonnes of plastic are thrown away worldwide every year. While some of this waste ends up in the environment, a lot of it is thrown away and doesn’t break down naturally. Which is why it really isn’t a good idea to simply chuck plastic packaging in a landfill.

What’s more is that the UK government has committed to collecting and recycling 100% of all plastic waste by 2030, which means the 12.5 million tonne mountain of plastic languishing in UK landfills will soon be a thing of the past. It also means the opportunity for companies that produce plastic packaging to cash in on this growing trend while also making an environmental impact. So while there is certainly a social media-fueled fashion trend to blame for the huge increase in plastic waste, businesses are also profiting from this “green” marketing ploy.

The Growing Trend Is Changing How We See Bellybands

These days, it seems like a bellyband is as essential to a woman’s wardrobe as a high heel or a mini skirt. According to an Instagram post by fashion brand Heidi Klein, the band is “so 90s” and it’s “time for a comeback”. She went on to say that while she appreciates the irony of embracing a retro trend at a time when the environment is calling for increased sustainability, she sees the opportunity in resurrecting a fashion option that is both stylish and eco-friendly.

In line with this “comeback” mentality, many fashion brands have cashed in on the growing trend, with some rebranding existing products while also developing new ones. According to the German company’s website, Heidelberger Druckmaschinen AG, or Heidelberg for short, they make the gravure and offset printing machines essential to creating luxury packaging and fashion labels. And what’s more is that their products are built to last, reducing the environmental impact of frequent replacement parts. So while the Heidelberg brand might be best known for their letterpresses which are built like tanks and have been used to print famous German newspapers like the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung and the Süddeutsche Zeitung, this year they have repurposed their equipment to produce bespoke designs for wealthy clients around the world.

The Secret Of The Bellyband: How It Works

Many people have asked us how they can get their hands on a bellyband. So in the interest of helping customers easily identify this fashion option when they are choosing a gift for a pregnant woman or new mother, we decided to take a look behind the scenes of this particular style trend.