Servicemen wore an identification bracelet as part of their uniform during World War II (1939–45). Identification bracelets were bent metal bands or heavy chains with metal plates engraved with the key elements of his identification: his name, rank, and serial number. Although they first wore identification bracelets only during the war, men continued to wear their bracelets once they had returned home as a type of jewelry to signal their participation in the war. Identification bracelets continued to be popular as jewelry throughout the 1940s.
In the 1970s civilian, or non-military, Americans began wearing identification bracelets with the names of soldiers missing in action or taken as prisoners during the Korean War (1950–53) and the Vietnam War (1954–75). Civilian identification bracelets were made out of stainless steel, silver, copper, or aluminum. Once a soldier returned home, those who had worn a bracelet with his name sent the bracelet to him. If a soldier's body was found, people mailed their bracelets to his family.
Military identification bracelets continue to be worn, but more often identification bracelets are worn for medical reasons. People with life threatening allergies or medical conditions wear identification bracelets engraved with information that may help save their lives in case of emergency.
Payne, Blanche, Geitel Winakor, and Jane Farrell-Beck. The History of Costume. 2nd ed. New York: HarperCollins, 1992.