In Defense of Kandi Kids by the EDM Snob


I am proud to say: I am a kandi kid. Or if you prefer, you may also refer to me as a candy kid, or candy raver, or dumbass in neon beads.

When I became a kandi kid, I did it for what I thought was a very compelling reason– I wanted to fit in. My first rave left me feeling as if I had stepped onto another planet. Not only was music being listened to by the hour instead of by the minute, but there was an entire culture around me that would take years to truly understand. In some ways, rave culture has evolved like a write-your-own adventure novel. Many people have taken the liberty of making it up as they go. As a result, we have this melting pot of different ideas, styles, goals, and ambitions for what raving means.

Most people have no clue why kandi kids dress the way they do. As a result, they’ve become easy targets for mocking stereotypes of ravers, like this little gem from Rolling Stone magazine. I hope I get a job someday where I get paid for writing about things I know absolutely nothing about; though I suppose it’s far easier to mock something that looks different than to try and understand it. It’s ironic that the same generations that used to thrive on counterculture are now ridiculing things that seem a little TOO different. The culture surrounding EDM is just as powerful as musically-driven cultural movements of the past. The problem is, we don’t recognize our place in history or the significance of our own symbolism. That’s our own fault.

Somewhere along the way, “rave” became a dirty word. It used to be beautiful. It was synonymous with freedom, happiness and an all-inclusive celebration of being alive. But somehow, out of fear of backlash from politicians, law enforcement and media, we let society kidnap our word.

Several years ago, I noticed when I would call something a rave, how promoters would get panicked and wide-eyed before saying, “You mean ‘party,’ right?” Or concert, or show, or whatever politically correct term happened to be in fashion at the time. At first, that didn’t make a difference, but language is powerful. When we lost the word “rave,” we started to lose the bold magic that went along with it. At the time, it might have been necessary for survival, but we’ve grown up. We don’t have to be afraid anymore. Bring back the rave.

Kandi kids suffered the most in the war of the word. When raves lost their fearless defiance and toned themselves down to fit in, kandi kids did too. Just like that, the meaning behind an entire subculture was lost. Now, people at EDM events wear colored beads, but only the veteran kandi kids have any idea why.

Allow me to set the record straight. There is a reason behind every aspect of kandi kid culture, and while I became one just to fit in, I remained one because of what I learned. Kandi has become a signature symbol of EDM, and these symbols need meaning to be anything more than throw-away, plastic bracelets.

Being a kandi kid is about channeling the kid you used to be. Kandi kids take the psychology of the inner child and make it the outer child. That’s why cartoons, stuffed animals, sweets and bright colors are the norm. The idea is, the world would be a much better place if we kept intact the mindset we had when we were little. Children don’t pick their playground friends based on clothes, skin color or gender. Kids just want to have fun. They value people for who they are (and how high they can swing, of course).

Now, it’s a natural thing to grow up and mature. No one is saying to act completely childish, but there are important lessons we can learn from our former selves. There is something to be said for the fact that we come out of the womb naturally playful, honest and caring, and only learn with time to be devious, cruel and judgmental. Being a kandi kid is about trying to reverse the bad qualities these years have led us to wrongfully adopt.

Wearing brightly colored, beaded kandi arose from a similarly powerful philosophy. Kandi is about taking who you are on the inside and physically representing it on the outside. I’ve wanted to post my collection of kandi, but it’s simply too revealing. I’ve got kandi for places I’ve been, what I studied in college, my ethnicity, the sports I like; my entire self would be on display in all its beaded glory. That’s why trading kandi is so personal. It’s done with something special two people have in common. It could be a place, an activity or just an artist you like. We used to meet someone for the first time and study their kandi to get to know them, and we would get excited to find some common bond expressed in bead form. These connections sometimes lasted a lifetime.

Making kandi was a very special ritual. We would sit around on Saturday afternoons before a rave and wage war on a bucket of beads, making all kinds of artistic things: necklaces, cuffs, anklets, and most commonly, bracelets. We made every piece by hand, because it was important to show how much we cared. In my group of kandi friends, only two of us went to college. So, they made us pacifier necklaces in the colors of the schools we were going to. I still have mine.

As you would expect, I was pretty baffled when I saw this picture of Hot Topic’s new line of jewelry:

the edm snob    In Defense of Kandi Kids by the EDM Snob

This is the raver equivalent of buying your mom a gift card for her birthday. It just totally misses the point. It’s the thought behind the item that counts. Kandi is a very personal form of self-expression. Mass-producing it is backward and self-defeating. I’ve heard of ancient tribes that tattooed their life’s accomplishments on their bodies. Kandi is our version of that concept. I’m sure Hot Topic will make a profit. After all, who has time to actually put thought and care into something, when you can just spend a few dollars and effortlessly look the part? Every shortcut has a cost, and anyone who buys these is spending good money on worthless plastic. Without meaning, the symbol is useless.

Kandi kids should be proud of their culture. I see fewer and fewer kandi kids every year, and that’s a tragedy. The truth is, many people are afraid to go all out. I know I have been. I used to hide my kandi in my pockets until I got close to the event, for fear people might think I was a weirdo, or because I was afraid of police thinking I was carrying or taking drugs.  But if we allow ourselves to live in fear of being judged, we are letting the atmosphere of EDM die the moment the show stops.

Kandi kids have become, for better or worse, the stereotype of EDM culture, and as a result, must be the most willing to be themselves. What we’ve created is special. The world needs to see it.

I’ve always thought there is a parallel between the rise of EDM that we’re now experiencing and the popularity of rock’n’roll in the ’60s and ’70s. With new music came new cultures and new ways of living. All of a sudden, people were growing their hair long, playing their music loud and rough, and challenging the way they’d been told to live. They were the generation of dreamers. The Civil Rights and Anti-War movements of the ’60s were, I think, given a certain degree of vitality and passion by the music of the era. It’s a lot easier to protest with Bob Dylan in the background than with smooth jazz or doo-wop. The music helped define the mentality and spirit of the times. I think we have the same opportunity now.

I believe that the same way rock’n’roll ended wars, brought people together and gave people a voice, EDM has a surrounding culture that will change the world for the better. Kandi kids are, I think, the most powerful visible representation of what EDM is about. Never be afraid to show everyone who you are. Be proud of it. Encourage other people to be proud of who they are. Above all, do what makes you happy.

My favorite piece of my kandi is a necklace with a quote from Thoreau: “The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation.” It reminds me that most people are unwilling to take risks to live their life the way they want. It reminds me that most people dread being seen as not good enough. It reminds me that most people are living in a prison of their own fear.

It reminds me to never be one of them. That’s why I’m a kandi kid.

-The Snob

The EDM Snob

The EDM Snob

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EDM addict, Insufferable Snob, Wackjob, Life of the Party, and Archiver of Rave Culture. See all my faces:

Comments (33)

  • Drake Friedman

    I never REALLY knew, I am So Glad I found this :)

  • Jamie Plur-Thug Robley

    <3 this is so true you hit it on the money KANDI KIDS UNITE <3.

  • Laura PixelPal Pop-Fizz

    Amazing read! So glad people can still stand up for kandi kids. Keep on raving kiddos <3.

  • Dianna Beaulaurier

    Peace Love Unity Respect…. & Responsiblity

  • Max Flynn

    <3 absoloutly right on the spot I always wear my kandi before shows and people who don't understand I explain to them and trade them a single.

  • Mohawk Kell-Yeah Greene

    Being a kandi kid is a funny thing, because being in the scene almost 10 years, for the generation before mine, kandi was non-existent or not NEARLY as big. It fascinates the OGs how much the concept of kandi has evolved. Now I find almost an issue with the evolution of kandi bracelets. I see way too many ravers out there these days who have uber complex pieces, and 0 to trade. Kandi is not a fashion statement–who cares if you made a deadmau5 or knife party cuff? Having kandi all up and down your arms is some kind of status symbol now, but those guys don't have a single one to trade. You have to lose those attachments you have to those pieces of kandi and make it count when you trade or give it away! At least those are my thoughts on it. There are a few I've held onto, but one day, even those will be given to someone who I feel deserves it.

  • Pete Rokdadiskotek

    yeah those kandi kids are why i stopped going to raves, all they do is sit in the middle of the dance floor and compare their bracelets

  • Justin Bogart

    Pete Rokdadiskotek i dont think those ones' particular problem is the kandi

  • Michael Kaplan

    I myself am still young at 21 years old so I am still new to the scene with only about 2 or 3 years under my cuffs. But in such a short time i have come to understand the culture that is the EDM and RAVE scene. I work with an EDM DJ and go to multiple events and get to experience all types of ravers, kandi kids, and just EDM music lovers. I personally make kandi and always make sure i have plenty to trade and give away. Music as everyone knows already brings people together. Adding kandi to EDM just personalizes it more and makes it that much more enjoyable. For example, when i attended Dayglow/Life In Color this past April, I made about 50 singles to trade and just give away to the newbies to the scene that truly wanted to know what and why. Kandi is beautiful, its art, its personal, its fun, and more importantly than anything else is that it brings people together. EDM has its culture just like any other type of music has its own. However, we as kandi kids, ravers, EDM fanatics, etc. can not let our culture fade or die because we're afraid of what society or others will think of us. My good sir, you have made such good points and you have truly touched my heart with your words and i thank you and love you for that. You are an inspiration to all those afraid to be themselves everywhere they go or even at events. I wear my kandi to school sometimes and i love educating people on it and what the kandi kid life is all about. Peace Love Unity Respect. This is the foundation on which we live, so don't lose it and don't forget it. Keep your inner child alive and be who you are. Live YOUR life because it is your life and none others.

  • Danny Perez

    I have to admit that i do own and create these complex pieces (never a deadmau5 or knife party one lol) . I always trade them all away and I always make sure to have tradables on hand. I guess it just depends on the person. I make complex pieces for the people that I make deep connections with.

  • Violet Rose McWhirk-Logan

    The kandi that I wear I don't trade. Most kandi kids (myself included) wear belts with tradables. You're completely missing the point of it. It's about showing who you are. For me it's about expressin who I am in a place I feel comfortable. I never don't have tradables. Sometimes they aren't huge cuffs but normally I make those for special people that I know a lot about. I think you're clumping all kandi kids into one group when they really shouldn't be.

  • Jonathon Corcoran

    I love sitting down and putting thought into my pieces of kandi I make especially my cuffs. But i'm not stingy about them I love to trade my cuffs away to people who truly appreciate what they represent! There is no greater satisfaction to me then seeing someone at another show rocking my cuff :)

  • Mohawk Kell-Yeah Greene

    Violet Rose McWhirk-Logan I'm missing the point? I think not. And historically, kandi was about sneaking ecstasy tablets in past security or otherwise designating you had some. Like I said before, kandi has evolved. Maybe now it's more about showing off and "self expression" than anything I ever came into the scene with. Feel free to do as you please with you kandi. I find that it means nothing if it doesn't have some kind of story behind it.

  • Atty Divine

    Yeah the generation before were more focused on, and concerned with, dancing and the music, rather than on the need for douchey and obnoxious "kandi". The pacifiers weren't a fashion statement either, they were actually used for a purpose ……which is also Long over.

  • Alexis RainbowJizz PlurrVanity

    this is well true of what has become of the rave scene and i couldnt say it any better than this person… whatever happened to still being plur :p

  • Ben Allen

    I totally agree 100% with your description of the movement and culture behind it that you described; that was beautifully written and inspirational.

    But kandi trading is a somewhat recent development in the rave culture. It isn't really fair to say kandi kids represent the rave culture and the dance music movement, because those of us not new to the scene have been doing this for years without it. Kandi kids are the new kid in the group – we all embrace him, but he's not the heart of it – he just got here. While kandi is a great way to meet new friends and find things in common with everyone at a show, it isn't necessary to wear it to make everyone your new best friend by the end of it.

  • Alex Mercado

    When i started goin, drug dealers wore kandi to show people they were not cops

  • Tyler Dunbar

    Life will give you whatever experience is the most helpful for the evolution of your consciousness -Eckhart Tolle

  • Turtle Miller

    Shit i became a raver in 1996 when it was not cool to be a raver… We were a group of out cast that came together in a where house or under the stars in the desert to come together as one!!! when PLUR didn't have the second R, responsibility was part of all four elements…

  • Brian Engle

    Great article, and well said.

    There's a lot I could say, but I'm only going to point out one thing of importance. Back when it was truly underground for a reason, using the word "rave" had a negative connotation to those outside the culture, i.e. parents and law enforcement, but that's not why we started calling them parties. We call them parties because that's exactly what they are, a celebration of life. While all raves are parties, not all parties are raves. I prefer all types.

    Don't be afraid of losing the culture…it's not going anywhere. There are still hippies around, and 50 years from now people will still be wearing kandi. ;)

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