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Popular fads from the year you were born

  • Popular fads from the year you were born
    1/ OaklyOriginals // Flickr

    Popular fads from the year you were born

    Whether through purchasing an Elvis Presley record, successfully completing a crossword puzzle (without cheating), or eating a Cronut, chances are you've jumped on a fad bandwagon at some point in your life.

    Merriam-Webster defines fads as "practices or interests followed for a time with exaggerated zeal: craze." While some fads and trends do, indeed, fall into the temporary category (think goldfish swallowing), others, such as Barbie dolls, remain venerable icons to this day.

    Stacker scoured historical accounts, company websites, news media and other sources to find the most popular fads from 1920 to today. They range from the bizarre, to the energetic, to pageants, games and toys, candy, books and national heroes, to touch on just a few. Some you've never heard of, some are beyond outrageous and others are mainstays of American life.

    Maybe you've participated in, or still do, at least one of these. Perhaps your parents, grandparents and great-grandparents experienced these over the years, passing along their love for the longer-lasting crazes through the decades. And maybe, you and your kids are involved with one now, or will pass them along to the next generation of eager youth and adults looking for pastimes and popular entertainmentor just plain silliness. Read on to discover the most interesting fads from each year since the Roaring '20s.

    ALSO: Click here to find out the best movie from the year you were born, from 1920 to today.

  • 1920: Commercial radio
    2/ Tufts College professor giving a lecture on the radio in 1922—Public Domain

    1920: Commercial radio

    The first commercial radio station in the nation, Pittsburgh radio station KDKA hit the airwaves in 1920 and started a wave of popularity. 500 stations hit the airwaves within the span of three years; by the end of the decade, 12 million households had radios. Although commercial radio remains relevant to this day, the growing popularity of television by the 1950s contributed to a decline in radio listeners.

  • 1921: Miss America
    3/ Contestants of the first Miss America Pageant in 1921—Public Domain

    1921: Miss America

    The first Miss America Pageant was staged in Atlantic City, and it continues to this day. But reports of controversy, including allegations of sexual and sexist remarks, and only partial payments of scholarships by pageant organizers, could darken its future.

  • 1922: Flappers
    4/ Public Domain

    1922: Flappers

    Self-defined flapper Ellen Welles Page wrote in 1922 of living the flapper lifestyle: a free-spirited, Charleston-dancing fad for young women who wore bobbed hair, powdered their noses, and wore fringed dresses and other striking styles. The demise of the lifestyle and look is attributed to the 1930s Great Depression.

  • 1923: Dance marathons
    5/ Marathon dancers in 1923—Public Domain

    1923: Dance marathons

    This fad originated in Washington state, when Alma Cummings danced for 27 straight hours with six different partners. Dance marathons involved couples who danced at local clubs for as long as their legs would hold them up, competing for money. The craze faded by the late 1930s as World War II loomed.

  • 1924: Crossword Puzzles
    6/ Recreation of the first crossword puzzle published in 1913—Public Domain

    1924: Crossword Puzzles

    Richard Leo Simon and Max Lincoln Schuster were the team who published the first “Cross Word Puzzle Book,” and they remain one of the most popular puzzles on newsstands today. Simon and Schuster's book came complete with a pencil, which helped launch crossword puzzles into a national phenomenon.

  • 1925: Flagpole sitting
    7/ John "Human Fly" Reynolds on a flag pole in 1924—Public Domain

    1925: Flagpole sitting

    This curious fad began after a friend dared actor Alvin “Shipwreck” Kelly to sit on the top of a flagpole. He obliged—and remained up top for 13 hours and 13 minutes. Somehow it caught on, and soon sitters set records of 12 days, 17 days, and 21 days, until Kelly himself took the all-time record of 49 days in 1929. Like many on the list, flagpole sitting’s eventual demise is attributed to the start of the Great Depression.

  • 1926: The Ionaco
    8/ Public Domain

    1926: The Ionaco

    Developed and used by Gaylord Wilshire a year earlier, the electric belt named the Ionaco reached peak sales in 1926. Supposedly a device to help magnetize the iron in the body and increase oxygen in the blood (thereby increasing “perfect health”), the Ionaco sold about 50,000 units. But the American Medical Association criticized the inventor’s claims, and device sales declined by 1927.

  • 1927: Pez
    9/ Gerka // Wikicommons

    1927: Pez

    Developed by Austrian candy executive Eduard Haas, Pez was a small mint candy named for a shortened German word for peppermint. First sold in small tins, the candy sold well for more than 20 years, until Pez dispensers came out in 1948. Pez' popularity continues to this day with the iconic Star Wars and other character dispensers.

  • 1928: Mickey Mouse
    10/ Public Domain

    1928: Mickey Mouse

    Premiered by Walt Disney and Ub Iwerks at the Disney Studios in the 1928 cartoon “Steamboat Willie,” Mickey Mouse appeared in his first feature-length film in 1940, and is still one of the most beloved cartoon characters of all time.

  • 1929: Car radios
    11/ PxHere

    1929: Car radios

    Although introduced years earlier, mass-produced car radios spread far and wide in the U.S. this year, and their popularity remains somewhat, with virtually every production vehicle featuring them as part of their stock equipment. But live streaming of music and other technologies are leading to a decline in the devices.

  • 1930: Betty Boop
    12/ Betty Boop in Snow White, 1933—Public Domain

    1930: Betty Boop

    The first cartoon flapper, Betty Boop appeared in the 1930 animated short “Dizzy Dishes.” She started out cartoon life as an anthropomorphic dog, but evolved into her human form in 1931 with her first starring role in “Betty Coed.” Her popularity has led to a virtual museum’s worth of merchandise and movies.

  • 1931: New York humor magazines
    13/ A New York humor magazine from 1904—Public Domain

    1931: New York humor magazines

    With the popular launch of humor magazine “Ballyhoo,” publishers came out with imitations including “Boloney” and “Tickle-Me-Too” in attempts to ride the wave of the original—which reached two million copies early the next year. Although enthusiasm for the genre waned within a year, “Ballyhoo” remained popular for several decades.

  • 1932: Radio City Music Hall
    14/ NYPL // Wikicommons

    1932: Radio City Music Hall

    New York's famed concert and performance venue opened with Ray Bolger and Martha Graham. Since then, more than 300 million people have visited the venue, which is still the world’s largest indoor theater.

  • 1933: Drive-in Theaters
    15/ The first drive-in movie theater—Public Domain

    1933: Drive-in Theaters

    Begun in 1933 by Richard Hollingshead, drive-in theaters took off with the first in Camden, New Jersey. Starting with 100 theaters, the amount of these venues jumped to 2,200 in 12 years. Although their numbers peaked to 4,063 in 1958, drive-ins have been disappearing at a rapid rate. Among the reasons for their decline are changing attitudes toward cars to smaller vehicles, the advent of home movies and shifting economics of the movie industry. But some still survive.

  • 1934: Shirley Temple doll
    16/ Mike Licht // Flickr

    1934: Shirley Temple doll

    The Ideal Toy and Novelty Company began manufacturing the Shirley Temple doll in 1934, inspired by America’s favorite child actress. The doll, which sold for in the three to five dollar range, made $45 million for the company over seven production years.

  • 1935: Monopoly
    17/ Lucianomarq // Wikicommons

    1935: Monopoly

    Monopoly was introduced by Parker Brothers in 1935, and sold 20,000 sets in one week. It is still one of America's most popular board games and is produced in countless themes. The longest game of Monopoly reportedly lasted 70 days.

  • 1936: Girl Scout cookies
    18/ Marit & Toomas Hinnosaar // Flickr

    1936: Girl Scout cookies

    Although Girl Scout Cookies had been offered in local councils as early as 1922, it wasn't until 1936 that the national organization began licensing commercial bakers to produce the treats for the masses. Flavors and types of the iconic cookies evolved over the years, and the scouts have sold $700 million worth since 1999.

  • 1937: Spam
    19/ JeepersMedia // Flickr

    1937: Spam

    When Hormal launched SPAM, it became a consumer hit—complete with fan clubs that honored and praised this canned meat product. Made of pork with ham meat, water, potato starch, sugar and sodium nitrite, SPAM still spawns new recipe ideas and contests, keeping the product internationally popular.

  • 1938: Superman comics
    20/ From "Superman's Girlfriend Lois Lane" #103—Joel Kramer // Flickr

    1938: Superman comics

    Action Comics released the first Superman comics in 1938, which led the Man of Steel to become the first superhero to have his own comic book the following year—eventually leading to an empire including TV and movie series, plus merchandise galore. Superman is believed to be the start of the golden age of comics, and publications featuring him continue to be updated and revamped by DC Comics.

  • 1939: Goldfish swallowing
    21/ Michelle Jo // Wikicommons

    1939: Goldfish swallowing

    Launched as a dare executed by a Harvard freshman, goldfish swallowing on college campuses reached its peak in April, when 101 goldfish were swallowed to take the record that year. School administrators and the medical profession couldn’t put a stop to the fad, but it eventually died out.

  • 1940: "Conflict"
    22/ Boardgameblogger // Youtube

    1940: "Conflict"

    Parker Brothers created this popular war-themed board game in 1940, depicting both land and sea battles. Players moved miniature military pieces on a grid, trying to invade opponents’ spaces and capture their pieces. Parker Brothers produced the game until about 1972.

  • 1941: Master Cleanse
    23/ Casey Serin // Wikicommons

    1941: Master Cleanse

    Also known as the lemonade diet, Master Cleanse promised to eliminate cravings for junk food, alcohol, tobacco and drugs. According to creator Stanley Burroughs, it required consuming a mix of lemon or lime juice, maple syrup, water and cayenne pepper six times a day for at least 10 days. Beyoncé reportedly brought the diet back into popularity in 2006, claiming she lost 20 pounds in two weeks.

  • 1942: Scrap drives
    24/ Public Domain

    1942: Scrap drives

    In 1942, Americans took part in national scrap drives to aid in the war effort. Recycling unused or unwanted metal helped build war equipment. Rubber, paper, kitchen fat, tin cans, rags, and newsprint were gathered up. Even recorded music was salvaged and archived. The effort continued through the end of World War II.

  • 1943: The conical bra
    25/ Howard Hughes Productions

    1943: The conical bra

    Movie producer Howard Hughes designed this cantilevered bra for actress Jane Russell in 1943 in the movie, “The Outlaw.” After seeing how the bra enhanced Russell’s figure, brassieres that could “lift and separate” became popular across America.

  • 1944: Girls wearing men's clothing
    26/ Life Magazine February 28, 1944 (Public Domain)

    1944: Girls wearing men's clothing

    The May 15, 1944 edition of “Life” magazine explored the then-novel concept of high-school girls wearing men's clothing, such as shirts, bow ties, sweaters and jackets. Boys of the time kept it far more casual, often wearing blue jeans or corduroys rolled at the bottom. To this day, menswear-inspired fashion for women remains a classic wardrobe option.

  • 1945: Slinky
    27/ Roger McLassus // Wikicommons

    1945: Slinky

    Invented by Richard T. James and launched for the 1945 Christmas season by Gimbels of Philadelphia, Slinky is 80 feet of wire coiled into a 2-inch spiral that "walks" downstairs. More than 300 million of the metal toys have sold since its release.

  • 1946: "Baby and Child Care"
    28/ cdrummbks // Flickr

    1946: "Baby and Child Care"

    Originally published under the title “The Common Sense Book of Baby and Child Care,” Dr. Benjamin Spock's iconic book encouraged parents to trust their own instincts when raising their children. It was renamed in 1957 and revised seven times, selling more than 50 million copies in 42 languages.

  • 1947: The New Look Revolution
    29/ The 1947 New Look collection displayed in Moscow—shakko // Wikicommons

    1947: The New Look Revolution

    Popularized by Christian Dior at a Paris exhibition, the New Look Revolution featured Dior’s haute couture collection of styles that would enhance femininity at the cost of “austere, masculine style.” The look included rounded shoulders, cinched waist and a full A-line skirt, and, although it nearly disappeared in the 1960s, it has experienced a revival since the 1990s. 

  • 1948: Polaroid photography
    30/ Cburnett // Wikicommons

    1948: Polaroid photography

    The year 1948 was when the Polaroid Land Camera was first sold to the public, providing a one-step photography process that provided instant gratification. It was an immediate hit, and was used by Ansel Adams and other renowned photographers. The device remained more or less popular until around 1991, when digital photography began to appear.

  • 1949: Silly Putty
    31/ University of the Fraser Valley // Flickr

    1949: Silly Putty

    Peter Hodgson invested $150 to create one-ounce bags of Silly Putty in plastic eggs, and it became an instant success. Millions of the pliable goo have been sold since, and continue to sell today.

  • 1950: Poodle skirt
    32/ Public Domain

    1950: Poodle skirt

    Juli Charlot created the original prototype of a poodle skirt in 1947 after cutting a circle of felt to fit her waist and appliqueing Christmas trees to it. By 1950, the skirt became so popular that she opened her own factory. Although many designs were used on the skirts, poodles were the most popular, making the skirt a true icon of the 1950s. Its popularity continues as a novelty retro item.

  • 1951: Vintage toys
    33/ Museum of Hartlepool // Flickr

    1951: Vintage toys

    This year saw the release of a collection of toys that would become classics through the decade, including a crawling baby toy ($1.15); Hopalong Cassidy Wrist Watch ($7.65); the pull-along Butch the Pup toy that barked and wagged its tail (56 cents); and the Alice in Wonderland watch ($7.65), among many others. The advent of images of Walt Disney characters pushed the View Master into popularity this year.

  • 1952: Panty raids
    34/ 1955 University of Michigan panty raid—Wystan // Flickr

    1952: Panty raids

    Originating in 1949, panty raids took off in 1952 after a crowd of male students at the University of Michigan entered several women's dorms and “took items of lingerie as souvenirs.” Before the year was out, the raids spread to 52 campuses across the country, with as many as 3,000 male panty raiders at the University of Texas in 1961. The fad died in the late 1960s with changing attitudes about sex, rule changes on college campuses, and other outlets for social protest.

  • 1953: 3-D movies
    35/ "House of Wax"—Warner Bros.

    1953: 3-D movies

    Beginning with the release of “Bwana Devil” in 1952, the popularity of 3-D movies spread far and wide in 1953, when there were more than 5,000 theaters nationwide equipped to show them. The movies “House of Wax” and “It Came From Outer Space” were released in 3-D this year. Moviegoers complained of eyestrain a few years later, but new technology fueled a comeback with IMAX films.

  • 1954: Davy Crockett
    36/ Walt Disney Productions

    1954: Davy Crockett

    Actor Fess Parker, starring as Davy Crockett, helped launch this wildly popular television series this year. Nearly 12 million viewers watched each of its five installments, beginning in December. “The Ballad of Davy Crockett,” the show's theme song, became a #1 Billboard hit in 1955. His signature coonskin cap topped the New York Times’ list of “must have” toys of the decade.

  • 1955: Mickey Mouse Club
    37/ Walt Disney Productions

    1955: Mickey Mouse Club

    One of the 50s’ most beloved variety TV shows for kids, the Mickey Mouse Club show (featuring the Mouseketeers) kicked off in 1955 on ABC, which dropped the series just four years later in 1959. But edited reruns and evolving programming kept versions of it on the air through 1996. Later cast members included Ryan Gosling, Britney Spears, Justin Timberlake, Christina Aguilera and other household names.

  • 1956: Elvis
    38/ Elvis Presley signing autographs in Minneapolis, 1956—Public Domain

    1956: Elvis

    Still one of America's all-time favorite singers, Elvis Presley’s fame skyrocketed in 1956, with his first #1 single, “Heartbreak Hotel”and first #1 album, “Elvis Presley.” His fame continued to spread across America, with TV appearances and chart-topping records, plus his first movie contract with Paramount Pictures for “Love Me Tender.”

  • 1957: Frisbee
    39/ Walter Frederick Morrison holding a Pluto Platter—Public Domain

    1957: Frisbee

    Released to the public in January, Frisbees took off this year after toy company Wham-O bought the  initial flying disk concept (dubbed the Pluto Platter) from inventor Walter Frederick Morrison in the late 1940s. Considered a fad that would soon die out, more than 100 million Frisbees have been sold so far, and sports such as Frisbee golf have evolved to keep the hovering disc popular.

  • 1958: Hula hoop
    40/ GeorgeLouis // Wikicommons

    1958: Hula hoop

    Invented by Arthur K. Melin and Richard P. Knerr of the Wham-O toy company, the hula hoop was inspired by Australian wood rings. More than 100 million of the multi-colored plastic hoops sold in the first year on the market. Although the fad slowed in the 1960s, the toy is still popular, and has had resurgence as an effective exercise routine.

  • 1959: Barbie
    41/ 1961 Barbie—Julius Seelbach // Flickr

    1959: Barbie

    Born Barbie Millicent Roberts on March 9, 1959 to Mattel founders Ruth and Elliot Handler, the Barbie doll and her fashions, accessories and friends swept America’s little girls off their feet. The ever-evolving fashionista and her entourage continue to be some of America’s favorite toy selections, with more than a billion sold since its release.

  • 1960: The Twist
    42/ Dancers doing the twist in 1964—FOTO:FORTEPAN / Erky-Nagy Tibor // Wikicommons

    1960: The Twist

    Rock ‘n Roll singer Chubby Checker took “The Twist” song and dance style to the top after he appeared on American Bandstand. The dance originated in the Peppermint Lounge, a New York nightclub. The dance craze gave way to new dances such as the Mashed Potato and the Watusi.

  • 1961: Fallout shelters
    43/ Joerg Moellenkamp // Flickr

    1961: Fallout shelters

    With America and the Soviet Union seeming on the brink of nuclear war, President John F. Kennedy urged Americans to protect themselves by building fallout shelters. Soon, how-to books were widespread, and fallout shelters were all the rage until negotiations (détente) eased tensions and fears later in the decade and into the late 1970s.

  • 1962: Surfing
    44/ Surfer in Oxnard California, 1975—rappensuncle // Flickr

    1962: Surfing

    Popularized by the music of the Beach Boys, Jan & Dean, Dick Dale, the Bel-Airs and dozens more, the surfing craze was more of a lifestyle than a fad. Epitomized in 1962 with “Surfin Safari” by the Beach Boys and catapulted into popularity with numerous movies, the sport is still popular with many.

  • 1963: Smiley faces
    45/ Harvey Ball sitting at the 35th Anniversary of Smiley in 1998—Public Domain

    1963: Smiley faces

    In an era long before emoji, smiley faces were created in 1963 by graphic artist and advertising pro H.R. Ball—a client was seeking a way to raise morale among insurance company employees. He never copyrighted the image, which was appropriated in 1971 by the Spain brothers. Many others have taken claim for the icon, which makes more than $100 million a year for the Smiley Company and was even used by Walmart for a time.

  • 1964: Troll dolls
    46/ phil_g // Flickr

    1964: Troll dolls

    The Danish inventor of Troll dolls, Thomas Dam, originally created these longhaired, wide-eyed creatures (once known as Dam Dolls) for his daughter in 1959. It became an American toy craze in 1964 and became popular again in the 1990s. Like many popular toys, knockoffs ran rampant—but the Dam family prevailed in a copyright battle in 2003.

  • 1965: Go-go boots
    47/ Twins of Sedona // Wikicommons

    1965: Go-go boots

    Created in 1964 by Andre Courreges, go-go boots went popular the following year as the go-to fashion accessory for women from Los Angeles to New York. Nancy Sinatra’s hit “These Boots Are Made for Walkin” further boosted the appeal of these calf-level shoes. But fashion changes with shorter skirts and higher boots pushed this one out of the mainstream before year’s end.

  • 1966: Twister
    48/ B****Buzz // Wikicommons

    1966: Twister

    In the Twister party game, four players have to touch colored spots with hands or feet only, on a floor mat. As colors are called out, the players have to twist to maneuver to new spots without falling. The game became an overnight hit when Johnny Carson played it with Eva Gabor, and it made it to the National Toy Hall of Fame.

  • 1967: Hippies and the Summer of Love
    49/ The Fantasy Fair and Magic Mountain Music Festival in California, 1967—Bryan Costales // Wikicommons

    1967: Hippies and the Summer of Love

    The so-called Human Be-In in San Francisco popularized hippie culture across the nation this year, as 30,000 flower children gathered in Golden Gate Park, and the Monterey Pop Festival in June brought the rock music of this counterculture to a wide audience and kicked off the Summer of Love. Time Magazine wrote of the hippie subculture in July. In October, the hippie movement was declared dead in a symbolic parade and funeral.

  • 1968: Jacuzzi hot tubs
    50/ PxHere

    1968: Jacuzzi hot tubs

    Named for inventor Roy Jacuzzi, the world's first integrated whirlpool bath was released this year, leading to an indoor-outdoor hot tub craze that peaked in the late 1970s, when 400,000 were sold in one year in California. Although later included in new-home construction, whirlpool baths were on a major decline trend as such.

  • 1969: Woodstock music festival
    51/ Public Domain

    1969: Woodstock music festival

    Billed as “three days of peace and music,” the Woodstock music festival featured more than 30 rock bands and was attended by more than 400,000 in upstate New York. The event is widely regarded as a key turning point in popular music history and the counterculture movement of the times.

  • 1970: The Nerf ball
    52/ JeepersMedia // Flickr

    1970: The Nerf ball

    Billed as the world's first—and safest—foam ball, the Nerf Ball sold four million units in its first year. Its popularity continued as new toys such as Nerf guns and darts continued to hit the market and remain popular today.

  • 1971: Acupuncture
    53/ marniejoyce // Flickr

    1971: Acupuncture

    President Richard Nixon visited Mainland China in 1971, returning with a new appreciation of Chinese philosophies and cures—including acupuncture. Considered by some to be healing magic, acupuncture helps reduce pain and the effects of injury or illness due to an imbalance in the body’s energy, or “chi.” The mainstream medical community sought to discredit it, but its practice is becoming even more popular today.

  • 1972: Video games
    54/ Evan-Amos // Wikicommons

    1972: Video games

    Video games got their popular start in 1972 with the introduction of the Odyssey—the first video game home console—which inspired Atari’s Pong, the first arcade video game (released later that year). With numerous advances in technology, video games are now a $100 billion global industry.

  • 1973: Streaking
    55/ A streaker arrested in London, 2007—Jonas Bengtsson

    1973: Streaking

    Another college campus fad, streaking involved young people running through public places naked. Starting at Memphis State University, it quickly spread to other college campuses especially in the Los Angeles area, with about 1,500 performing a mass streak at the University of Georgia. It spread throughout the nation until fading at the end of the 1970s.

  • 1974: Mopeds
    56/ Pixabay

    1974: Mopeds

    With the United States stuck in a fuel crisis due to an oil embargo, the fuel-efficient moped rolled into popularity in the U.S. in 1974. Half bicycle and half motorcycle, the moped could get up to 220 miles on one tank of gas. More than 250,000 Americans had bought mopeds by 1977, but their popularity waned as gas prices dropped.

  • 1975: Pet rocks
    57/ Public Domain

    1975: Pet rocks

    Conceived by Gary Dahl, pet rocks came complete with a 32-page training manual on how to care for your pet rock. About 1.5 million of the collectibles sold at $4 each. The fad died off in 1976 due to low sales.

  • 1976: Stretch Armstrong
    58/ Alex Beattie // Wikicommons

    1976: Stretch Armstrong

    One of the most popular toys of the year, Stretch Armstrong was a large, muscular action figure that owed its stretchiness to corn syrup. Marketed from 1976 to 1980, his popularity went global, with 67 different versions including popular superhero and other figures. Stretch even went on to star in movies and a TV series. His popularity leveled off, but gained additional traction by making the Must Have Toys List in 2017.

  • 1977: Disco
    59/ Joe Haupt // Flickr

    1977: Disco

    Born on Valentine’s Day in 1970, Disco kicked off when David Mancuso opened The Loft nightclub in New York City. This new breed of dance music peaked with artists like KC & The Sunshine Band, Donna Summer, and scores of others, and rocketed in popularity after the movie “Saturday Night Fever” in 1977. The number of discos soared from 1,500 to 45,000, but the fad died down by 1980.

  • 1978: Cabbage Patch Kids
    60/ William McKeehan // Flickr

    1978: Cabbage Patch Kids

    Created in 1978, Cabbage Patch Kids came with their own names and “birth certificates,” and went on to become one of the most popular toy fads of the 1980s. Their popularity lessened by the end of the decade, but they were successfully re-released in 2004.

  • 1979: Walkman
    61/ Xray40000 // Flickr

    1979: Walkman

    The original Walkman cassette player revolutionized the music listening habits of people on the go. From commuting to exercising, the Walkman personal stereo kept music in the ears of a mobile America, with hundreds of millions sold. Continual advances in technology, including iPod players and cell phones, led to the device's retirement in 2010.

  • 1980: Preppies
    62/ smittenkittenorig // Flickr

    1980: Preppies

    Written by Ivy Leaguers in 1980, the humorous “Official Preppy Handbook” popularized wealthy New England styles for prep school and university life, such as layered twin polo shirts, khaki pants and ribbon belts. High-end retailers like Brooks Brothers, Ralph Lauren, and Lacoste became synonymous with the trend, which often featured tennis and sailing motifs. Even though the initial fervor died down, certain elements remain fashion staples.

  • 1981: Rubik's Cube
    63/ Acdx // Wikicommons

    1981: Rubik's Cube

    Released in 1980, Rubik’s Cube, a 3-D combination puzzle, became an international craze in 1981. In its first three years, it sold 100 million units. It continued to sell through the 1990s, and aside from a dip in interest around the early 2000s, interest eventually renewed and it became one of the best-selling toys of all time.

  • 1982: The Commodore 64
    64/ Francesca Ussani (WMIT) // Wikicommons

    1982: The Commodore 64

    Now a mainstay in just about everyone’s hands, computers reached major breakthroughs in 1982 with the release of the Commodore 64 computer. The C64 holds the Guinness World Record as the highest-selling single computer of all time, with about 17 million sold. It was discontinued in 1994.

  • 1983: Swatches
    65/ Booksworm // Wikicommons

    1983: Swatches

    Released in its home country of Switzerland in 1983, Swatch watches (also known as Swatches) sold a million pieces that year. Made of plastic and cheaper to make than standard watches, Swatches took off internationally soon after, with millions sold in various colors and styles. Competitor watches led to its demise as a fad.

  • 1984: Transformers
    66/ Vintage Transformers Circa 1985—Joe Haupt // Flickr

    1984: Transformers

    Transformers, which are movable toys that changed from various vehicles and electronics into robotic fighting machines, made huge waves in the toy industry in 1984. It all started 1974 with the “Microman” prototype, and in following years, a roster of action figure characters soon made their way into a boom including comic books, cartoons, and other merchandise. Their popularity remains, thanks in part to the movie franchise that began in 2007.

  • 1985: Long haired metal bands
    67/ Iron Maiden performing in Paris, 2008—Metalheart // Wikicommons

    1985: Long haired metal bands

    Long-haired heavy metal rock bands gained a resurgence starting around 1985 in the wake of their 1970s predecessors. Ranging from fast-paced thrash metal bands such as Iron Maiden, Megadeth, Metallica, and Motorhead, to glammed-up acts like Poison and Mötley Crüe, were all the rage. The craze began to nosedive around 1988, making way for grittier acts like Guns ‘n Roses and the emerging grunge scene.

  • 1986: The Oprah Winfrey Show
    68/ Episode dated 25 December 1986—Harpo Studios

    1986: The Oprah Winfrey Show

    Starting with a half-hour talk show in Chicago in 1983, Oprah was convinced to sign a TV syndication deal, going live for hour-long episodes this year and crushing the competition with “The Oprah Winfrey Show.” Although the show’s run ended in 2011, Oprah remains a household word and one of the most influential women in America.

  • 1987: "The Legend of Zelda"
    69/ Ali Mohammed // Wikicommons

    1987: "The Legend of Zelda"

    One of the most popular Nintendo video games, “The Legend of Zelda,” an action adventure video-game series, kicked off in the U.S. this year after success in Japan a year earlier. Since then, 19 sequels have been introduced, with more than 70 million copies sold. It continues to evolve.

  • 1988: "A Brief History of Time"
    70/ PxHere

    1988: "A Brief History of Time"

    The late physicist Stephen Hawking released the bestseller “A Brief History of Time” in September. Using understandable language, his book looks at the great questions of our universe, as the subtitle says, “from the Big Bang to black holes.” The book went on to sell more than 10 million copies.

  • 1989: Game Boy
    71/ Evan-Amos // Wikicommons

    1989: Game Boy

    The handheld video game console Game Boy by Nintendo sold 40,000 units on the first day of its release in July in the U.S. Starting with five games included with the original console, it grew to 815 titles. It was discontinued in 2003 to make way for more advanced technology.

  • 1990: "Beverly Hills 90210"
    72/ Jason Priestly and Jennie Garth in "Beverly Hills 90210"—90210 Productions

    1990: "Beverly Hills 90210"

    A soap opera depicting affluent teens at an upscale California high school,Beverly Hills 90210” kicked off this year and ran for 10 years as a popular teenage TV fad. Covering issues such as drug use, teen suicide, and abortion, the program started off slowly before taking off the following year, when it became one of Fox's top shows. Dolls, books, fashions and fan clubs followed the series until it was replaced in 2010.

  • 1991: Hypercolor sportswear
    73/ Piercetheorganist // Wikicommons

    1991: Hypercolor sportswear

    Popular with middle- and high-school youngsters, Hypercolor T-shirts, shorts, pants, sweatshirts, and other clothing were touchable, heat-sensitive outerwear that changed color with the heat of the body wearing them, or the hands touching them. Originally made in the late 1980s by Generra, the fad took off in 1991, with the company selling $50 million between February and May. The company, and its concept, went bankrupt a year later.

  • 1992: "The Addams Family" pinball machine
    74/ Stéfan Le Dû // Wikicommons

    1992: "The Addams Family" pinball machine

    Officially the best selling pinball machine of all time, “The Addams Family” pinball machine was released this year, based on the 1991 hit movie of the same name (which was inspired by the classic TV show). More than 20,000 machines have been sold so far, and its popularity stems primarily from a huge number of scoring modes and dialogue recorded by the film’s stars.

  • 1993: Beanie Babies
    75/ Dominique Godbout // Flickr

    1993: Beanie Babies

    Ty Warner, Inc. introduced a line of small bean bag animals called Beanie Babies in 1993. Soon what started as a few types of critters evolved into a line of hundreds as the demand increased. The company stopped production in 1999, and the brand has become a punchline due to the Babies’ market saturation and overhyped resale value.

  • 1994: Gift cards
    76/ 401(K) 2012 // Flickr

    1994: Gift cards

    First sold and displayed by Blockbuster, plastic gift cards have become the go-to gift for those who need a quick way to buy and give presents. Much more than a passing fad, gift cards remain the present of choice for two out of every three people. In 2012, 1,500 Starbucks gift cards were sold every minute, and in 2015, the coffee franchise had sold $16 billion worth. Overall market values are projected to top $1.5 trillion by 2023.

  • 1995: Pogs
    77/ WikiFido // WIkicommons

    1995: Pogs

    Stack them, slam them, flip them: The game of pogs required stacking cardboard discs, or pogs, which were then slammed with metal bottle caps. Those that flip over were won by the successful attacker. Also known as the milk-cap game, pogs are modeled after Hawaiian milk bottle caps. Their worldwide popularity spread as many designs became collectible, branded with popular characters from The Simpsons, Star Wars and more. The fad died out on its own soon after.

  • 1996: The Macarena
    78/ Volunteers doing the macarena at the Atlanta 1996 Paralympic Games—Australian Paralympic Committee// Wikicommons

    1996: The Macarena

    Screaming teenagers would leap to their feet to dance to The Macarena in 1996. Written by the Spanish group Los del Rio and translated to English by the Bayside Boys, “Macarena” smashed records by remaining atop the Billboard Hot 100 chart for 14 weeks.

  • 1997: Tamagotchi
    79/ The Pink Princess // Flickr

    1997: Tamagotchi

    This egg-shaped, computer virtual pet on a keychain was introduced to children in the U.S. and elsewhere this year. The pets have meters for hunger, happiness and discipline to display how healthy and well-behaved they are, determined by the actions of their owner to play with, feed and tidy up after them. They could even “suffer” and “die” if neglected by their owners. Its popularity faded, but it was reintroduced for its 20th anniversary.

  • 1998: Furby
    80/ Pixabay

    1998: Furby

    Released in 1996, Furby is a singing electronic robot toy resembling wide-eyed owls that later came in dozens of configurations. They were the first robotic toy that could be trained in 24 different languages and respond to human interaction. About 27 million were sold over the year following their launch, with 40 million sold during its three years of original production. Its popularity continues, with new releases kicking off in 2012 and well into 2015.

  • 1999: Latin pop
    81/ Jennifer Lopez at the GLAAD Media Awards in 2014—dvsross // Wikicommons

    1999: Latin pop

    Generally associated with singers Ricky Martin, Jennifer Lopez, Enrique Iglesias and others, Latin pop topped the charts this year with Martin’s  “Livin La Vida Loca,” which hit Billboard’s Hot 100 at #1 just a month after winning a Grammy. It stayed there for five consecutive weeks. His self-titled solo album, also released this year, sold well over 15 million copies worldwide. The YouTube video of the song has more than 190 million views. Its popularity also took off in 2017 with new artists.

  • 2000: Heelys
    82/ Dan Taylor // Wikicommons

    2000: Heelys

    Introduced in 1999, Heelys rolled into popularity in 2000, are roller shoes that allow wearers to shift their weight to the heels to roll, like skates. Their popularity rose quickly, with numerous tricks created just for the shoes. Although safety concerns and declining sales led to Heelys’ popularity fading in 2009, they are still available today.

  • 2001: McMansions
    83/ Public Domain

    2001: McMansions

    McMansions, shorthand for the oversized homes developed en-masse in the suburbs, were seen as status symbols by some but architectural abominations by others. By 2008, the crash of the housing market left many of these multi-bedroom behemoths empty or foreclosed upon. 

  • 2002: Beyblades
    84/ Public Domain

    2002: Beyblades

    A customizable twist on spinning tops, beyblades began their international climb to fame this year following an animated TV series of the same name that released a year earlier. With numerous configurations, and the stadiums needed to do battle, the toys' franchise sold 120 million tops worldwide by 2012, when interest waned.

  • 2003: Flash mobs
    85/ PBA Lille // Wikicommons

    2003: Flash mobs

    Starting in 2003 at a Macy’s in New York by Harper’s Magazine editor Bill Wasik, flash mobs appeared to be spontaneous, large gatherings of people in public places performing unusual acts such as singing a song, synchronized dancing or pretending to be tourists for a brief time before quickly dispersing. Some promoted messages of awareness for causes such as disabilities. The largest was World Pillow Fight Day in 2008, in 25 cities. Flash mobs’ popularity faded around 2012, attributed to their commercialization.

  • 2004: Wristbands for a Cause
    86/ wolfsavard // Flickr

    2004: Wristbands for a Cause

    The phenomenon of colorful silicone bracelets for charity started in 2004, when the Lance Armstrong Foundation issued yellow Livestrong wristbands in support of cancer awareness. The organization sold about 55 million bands in support of people affected by cancer. Others followed suit, selling them for fundraisers in various colors, such as pink for breast cancer awareness, and the trend continues to this day.

  • 2005: iPod Nano
    87/ Max Pixel

    2005: iPod Nano

    The first generation portable media player iPod Nano was introduced in 2005 with a media event with Steve Jobs. Nearly 40 million units were sold within the year, and sales peaked at nearly 55 million units in 2008. The seventh and last generation Nano, building on earlier technological upgrades, was released in 2012, but sales continue to decline until its discontinuation in 2017.

  • 2006: Silly Bandz
    88/ Scot Scoop // Wikicommons

    2006: Silly Bandz

    A type of rubbery bracelet sold in packs by the dozens, Silly Bandz came in shapes like animals, horseback riders and other symbols. They became a national phenomenon in 2006, and by 2008 were selling about a million packs a week. Sales slowed by 2010, effectively ending the craze.

  • 2007: Crocs
    89/ Public Domain

    2007: Crocs

    Endorsements by Chef Mario Batali helped spark a buying rage of Crocs in 2007. First introduced in 2004, the plastic, hole-pocked shoes, which come in numerous bright colors, sold about 50 million pairs in 2007 when sales reached $850 million. Economics slowed the shoes’ sales by 2008, but new and evolving designs keep the shoes popular.

  • 2008: Snuggies
    90/ OaklyOriginals // Flickr

    2008: Snuggies

    About $80 million worth of sleeved blankets called Snuggies have been sold since 2008—four million of which were sold by early 2009. Snuggies helped spawn Facebook groups, TV spoofs and YouTube videos. More than 22,500 Cleveland Cavaliers fans wore them, and 40,000 appeared at an LA Angels baseball game in 2010. But in 2018 the brand’s owners were fined $7.2 million for deception on account of a misleading “buy one, get one free” campaign.

  • 2009: Hipsters
    91/ PxHere

    2009: Hipsters

    Urban dictionary defines Hipsters as a “subculture of American consumer for whom the idea behind the marketing holds more value than the product being marketed.” In other words, Hipsters want to be deeper than just the mainstream—but may end up coming off as pretentious. The trend peaked in 2009, when Time Magazine and the New York Times, among other publications, satirized and discredited the fad. They claim it thrived in New York City Neighborhoods like the Lower East Side and Williamsburg, but spread across the nation. While the word isn’t as popular today, "Hipster" is still used to jokingly describe young adults who try way too hard to be above society.

  • 2010: Angry Birds
    92/ Viriyincy // Flickr

    2010: Angry Birds

    Considered the #1 paid iPhone video game of the new decade, Angry Birds involves flinging birds to attack greedy green pigs that have stolen the birds’ eggs. By October, the game had sold 12 million copies on Apple’s App Store, generating numerous spinoffs and other merchandise since its inception in 2009. Globally, the game has been downloaded 2.5 billion times. Revenues from the game declined in 2014 when merchandise sales fell, and a 2016 movie adaptation landed poorly with critics and audiences alike.

  • 2011: Fifty Shades of Grey
    93/ JeepersMedia // Flickr

    2011: Fifty Shades of Grey

    The R-rated romance Fifty Shades of Grey became the fastest-selling novel of all time in 2011, and has since spread to a series of books and movies that have triggered widespread controversy over its content and implications.

  • 2012: Grumpy Cat
    94/ memebinge // Flickr

    2012: Grumpy Cat

    A cat named Tardar Sauce with dwarfism and a grumpy facial expression became an internet sensation in 2012. It all started when the owner’s brother posted a photo of her on Reddit, which led to a barrage of memes—soon enough, Grumpy Cat had an agent, books, t-shirts, mugs, calendars and TV and movie appearances.

  • 2013: Cronuts
    95/ cumi&ciki // Wikicommons

    2013: Cronuts

    A cross between a croissant and a cream-filled donut, the cronut was created by New York baker Dominique Ansel in 2013. He only made about 300 a day; customers camped out overnight to get the treats, which garnered up to $100 on the black market.

     

  • 2014: Ice Bucket Challenge
    96/ Radio and TV personality John Maino performs the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge—Chris Rand // Wikicommons

    2014: Ice Bucket Challenge

    The Ice Bucket Challenge for ALS (Lou Gehrig's Disease) raised over $115 million during the summer of 2014 for research and patient services. The fundraiser involved pouring buckets of ice water over someone’s (or your own) head. Former Boston College baseball player Pete Frates, who was diagnosed with ALS, challenged friends Tom Brady and Matt Ryan to participate, and it soon spread to become a worldwide phenomenon—with 17 million people participating.

  • 2015: Man buns
    97/ Pixabay

    2015: Man buns

    Aman bun” is what it sounds like—a men’s hairstyle involving hair tied up on the top of the head. Theories credit their rise in popularity to celebrity usage, with the likes of Joakim Noah, Chris Hemsworth, Leonardo DiCaprio, and Orlando Bloom all sporting the look.

  • 2016: Pokemon GO
    98/ edowoo // Flickr

    2016: Pokemon GO

    The hottest mobile game of 2016 involves using your mobile device’s GPS to locate, capture and do battle with virtual creatures called Pokémon. Released in July this year, Pokémon Go went on to be a global phenomenon, becoming one of the most profitable and most-used apps of the year, with downloads topping 750 million just a year after its release.

  • 2017: Eating Tide pods
    99/ JeepersMedia // Flickr

    2017: Eating Tide pods

    The dangerous fad of eating Tide Pods, small, colorful detergent pods that almost resemble candy, went viral on Twitter and YouTube at the end of this year. Starting as a joke, some individuals went as far as to consume them, but by early 2018 it became clear that eating caustic chemicals was no laughing matter.

  • 2018: Sister Jean merchandise
    100/ Kevin C. Cox // Getty Images

    2018: Sister Jean merchandise

    When Loyola University of Chicago made the NCAA Basketball Tournament Final Four in March, merchandisers were selling thousands of Sister Jean shirts, scarves, and bobbleheads to honor their 98-year-old basketball team chaplain. She’s the face of the best-selling bobblehead of all time, with more than 13,000 sold by Good Friday.

2018 All rights reserved.