The Cost of a Hoop

Money Airplane [This week Hooping.org columnist Lara Eastburn considers the price of admission.]

by Lara Eastburn

I was in a frenzy, biting at the bit, massaging my temples, and banging on my poor, hapless laptop as my google searches went out into the ether and came back, again and again, in vain. It was August 18, 2002, and I would have done anything, would have paid anything for a big, fat hoop. All it had taken was one taste, just a few minutes of blissful joy inside that unusually heavy circle to get me hooked. But I had no idea how I’d get that feeling again. I would have begun to despair, if I hadn’t been so determined. That big hoop I’d danced with at a Summer’s festival in Louisiana had come from somewhere, right? And by god, I was going to get mine.

I don’t remember how many months it took me to finally stumble upon Jason Unbound’s instructions for making a hoop. But it felt like an e…..ter…..ni….ty. After studying Jason’s long-distance gift of grace, I set out upon my mission. I’d estimate that I drove over 300 miles in and outside the city of Atlanta GA until I located the right tubing and connectors. And how long did it take for me to produce a workable hoop? How many pots of water did I boil? How many coils of tubing did I cut? How many rolls of tape ended up in sticky, wadded messes on the floor? How many tantrums did I throw? I don’t even remember now. In my mind, that frantic time is cobbled together like a montage of alchemy in mind. The moment I succeeded, I imagine, was accompanied by Dr. Frankenstein-like glee and the cackling of a madwoman.

The rest becomes a two-year blur of spinning, experimenting, and smiling. After that, giddy excitement at watching the availability of the modern, adult-sized dance hoop slowly grow and grow … and grow. Today, not yet ten years later, there must be hundreds of online stores, local studios, and festival vendors that exist solely to get you your hoop-high faster and easier than ever before. And Jason’s instructions? Still there, like a beacon of light for do-it-yourself-ers everywhere.

Back when Wham-O launched its child’s hula-hoop in 1958, however, the toy that took the nation by storm cost consumers $1.98. In today’s money, that’s the equivalent of $15.84. Yep. But today, you can still buy the generic, mass-produced hoop at any local WalMart for just a dollar more than it cost 53 years ago. No doubt the resilience of the toy “hula hoop” against inflation is helped by production power of the factories that make them, the buying power of the massive companies that sell them, the death of a fad, and economic factors beyond my layman’s understanding.

So it’s truly remarkable when you consider the cost and story of the modern, adult-sized dance hoop. The most marked difference, of course, is that the great majority of our beloved hoops are made by hand. Each one, formed and decorated with love (and some serious, time-earned skill) by a hooper. In the nine years I’ve been in the game, I’ve watched material prices (tubing, connectors, tape) for the small-quantity hoop-maker nearly double. A 100 foot coil of ¾” 160psi tubing, for example, was $31.57 in 2002 at my local hardware store. At the same store in 2011, it is $58.24. The costs of tape and connectors follow a similar, staggeringly upward curve. Buying in bulk can bring that price down, but no matter how you do the math, the cost of hand-crafting a modern hoop is far out-pacing the speed of inflation. Nevertheless, and with all these changes, the price of a modern hoop for the consumer has barely budged.

As a longtime hoop-maker, I’ve only ever seen two reactions to the average $30-$50 price of a hoop : 1) “Oh, thank god. Gimmee!!!,” and 2) “Whaaaaat? For a hula hoop?!” And I can understand both reactions. That said, any hooper that’s loved their hoop for days, months, or even years, might laugh now at their initial resistance in investing the equivalent of 4 movie tickets, or 6 mocha-lattes, in what eventually became a hugely rewarding part of their lives.

But perhaps only the growing and loving army of hoop-makers truly knows the cost of a hoop. It lay somewhere on their floors amidst a month-high pile of expensive, wadded up tape. It’s buried beneath callused fingers, failed experiments, mountains of tubing remnants, and pulled-out hair. The modern hoop-maker knows the true cost of a hoop is in the gray area where they stopped calculating the actual costs and time because, if they did, they might have to stop making them. The modern hoop-maker continues to make hoops because they know the cost of a hoop, no matter what it really is, pales in comparison to the value.

Today, I lift my proverbial glass to hoop-makers everywhere (especially you, Jason), and the hoopers who support them in this, our communal labor of love. Keep on keepin’ on, spinning, and weaving that circle magic.

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Lara Eastburn Lara Eastburn has been dancing in meadows and singing with the moon while spinning in circles for eons at Superhooper.org. Beyond commenting here, you can also discuss this and other topics related to the Hooposophy for living in Hooping.org’s Hooposophy Group and Forum. Lara is also the planting and gardening force behind discovering our hooping community roots at The Hooping Family Tree Project.

Comments

comments

17 comments for “The Cost of a Hoop

  1. Brook Anne
    July 8, 2011 at 6:42 am

    My journey to my first hoop is a mirror image of yours, my friend. After just seeing one at my first music festival, I searched high and low for MONTHS until I found Jason’s instructions. Then I found the ONE hardware store in all of Orlando that had what I needed. My first hoop was plain black 1″ tubing with one purple electrical tape stripe. I wore that thing out!

    • July 10, 2011 at 2:49 pm

      i have the same exact beginning to my hoop story.. except i unfortunately had duct tape involved! >.< lol thank you festivals for the inspiration!

  2. July 8, 2011 at 6:48 am

    Love, love, love this! I made so many hoops before I started making them to sell, which drove my fiance crazy. But he doesn’t quite get it. :) It’s ok though. Most of those are beater/class hoops now.

  3. July 8, 2011 at 6:56 am

    I totally learned to make a hoop from Jason’s instructions too! The first hoop I bought was so heavy (1 inch thick tubing, too small in diameter, stiff as a board!) so I started making my own. At first the tubing was wayyyy too floppy, but after a few tries and ordering some beautiful tape online I finally got it :)

  4. July 8, 2011 at 7:17 am

    Here here, from a modern hoop maker! I too learned from Jason’s DIY page, and of course slowly learned little tricks and whatevers that work for me. I’ve had to explain why I charge between $30-40 for a hoop. Perhaps some sort of video montage of the joy and pain of cutting tubing and applying tape is in order! :)

  5. July 8, 2011 at 8:17 am

    Sugarskull, I think you’re right. Time lapse hoop making and taping video! By time I found the hoop, there were hoops to be found online, but I was one of the people like “OMG! $40!! PLUS shipping!?!?” Then I saw a link for Jason’s DIY instructions on one of the hoop maker’s sites and was like “now THIS seems more manageable!!!” Since Adam is a hooper too, I tend to make two of everything lol.

  6. July 8, 2011 at 8:55 am

    Great column, Lara. I was lucky to “come of age” as an adult hooper fairly recently, and have both bought and made hoops. Today we are so lucky to have such a selection of beautiful hoops to buy online in various sizes, weights, colors and materials. As we all know, one is never enough!

  7. July 8, 2011 at 9:15 am

    Lara is 100% right. In the last four years I have seen the price charged by tape manufacturers skyrocket. It can be very difficult, knowing that small cottage industries are using the product, to put prices up to reflect the buying cost. But ultimately we have no choice if we wish to stay in business. Everything, including tape, which is manufactured from oil base, has increased in price due to the rising cost of oil.

    I would suggest who makers out there, that you two should increase your prices in line with the increase in the cost of materials, so that you are not working for nothing. Those who value the handcrafted nature of the project will understand. Those who don’t will not regardless how much you charge.

    Keep making those hoops, keep selling them and giving them away, because hooping can truly bring joy to people’s lives and we have the ability to make that happen.

  8. jason
    July 8, 2011 at 1:51 pm

    …and i raise my glass back at ya! putting that webpage up 10 years ago is definitely one of the best ideas i’ve ever had.

    i love you hoopers!!

  9. Maritta Fink
    July 9, 2011 at 11:15 pm

    Another perfect article for the archives of hooping history. Many thanks also, to Jason Unbound for his gift of hoop-making instructions.

  10. Susan
    July 11, 2011 at 4:34 pm

    “…the cost of a hoop, no matter what it really is, pales in comparison to the value.” I completely agree! Love to you, Lara!

  11. July 11, 2011 at 11:09 pm

    Love Love LOVE this article :-) As my pile of hoops continues to grow…..

  12. July 12, 2011 at 7:08 am

    Excellent article! When I started hooping, I also had that moment of sticker shock at the cost of buying a premade hoop and having it shipped to me. For a while, I balked at the amount of money I was pouring into this new “hobby” of mine, knowing how I tend to go through phases with things.

    After a while, though, I realized I was a hooper for life, and suddenly the cost didn’t seem any more unreasonable than the money my Dad and brothers spend to play golf. In fact, if you take into account the balls, tees, clubs, cart maintenance and greens fees, the golfers in my family probably spend way more in a year than I do on hoop supplies, music downloads and hoop clothes.

    Hooping is my golf, and the value far outweighs the cost. ;)

  13. July 12, 2011 at 9:56 am

    Love it! All so true. :-)

  14. July 13, 2011 at 4:52 am

    As I am not making them yet I am still paying for them, and gladly pay what’s asked cos the joy of hooping outbids the financial cost in this great auction we call life :)

  15. August 7, 2011 at 1:24 pm

    Amen, Sister!!!

  16. barbara
    October 12, 2011 at 8:17 pm

    Oh the mangles and mangles of tape all stuck together in a ball, as well as the endless hours of selecting color patterns that work together with the hope of seeing that circle spin. the light reflecting and bouncing off of every color used within that unique pattern with the hope that the true artist within that circle will shine just a bit brighter. And I return and do it again, and again, and again!!!!

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