If you have spent any time around a teenager in the last six months, you have probably seen fidget spinners. They have been popping up all over the place in recent weeks and months.
After resisting for a few months, hoping the craze would pass, I allowed one of our sons to purchase one of them at a toy and hobby shop last week. How big is the craze? We were in the shop for about 40 minutes and at least four of the fidget spinners were purchased while we were there, from four different customers.
For those of you who are not familiar with the fidget spinner, it sort of looks like a little spaceship. It has bearings in the center and can be spun easily. They are made from brass, stainless steel, titanium, copper or plastic. You can even get ones that light up when they spin. Some claim the toy helps with focusing or fidgeting, helping those with ADHD, autism or anxiety, but others say that the toy is more of a distraction. Some schools are now banning the toy because of the distraction side of it. The fidget spinner was actually invented in the 1990s, but really didn’t become popular until late 2016/early 2017.
The fidget spinner fad accelerated shortly after the fad of bottle flipping started to cool down. You may have noticed the phenomenon of bottle flipping at a recent family gathering or as you strolled past a group of teenage/elementary aged boys. If you aren’t familiar with bottle flipping, just take a bottle of water, drink 2/3 of it and give it to someone between the ages of 5 and 20. You won’t even have to say a word. They will immediately show you what that is all about.
I have caught myself several times calling the fidget spinner and bottle flipping a waste of time and irritating (which they both are). After saying these things, I am reminded of the fad items that I played with in my formable years and how I thought they were the coolest things around. In reality, they were probably just as silly.
I was born in the 1970s and consider myself a child of the 1980s. This era was packed full of fads, and I found myself attracted to many of them.
Some of the fads that I remember well are: A Rubik’s cube. The six-sided, multi-colored puzzle was invented in the 1970s, but didn’t become a huge fad until the ‘80s. I had a few of them… and I couldn’t solve any of them (without cheating). I recently read that Rubik’s cube was voted the top fad item of all time.
Hypercolor shirts. They turned colors when exposed to different colors. Their popularity was gone about as fast as they turned color. I had a couple of these in my wardrobe.
Boom boxes. I had a decent off-brand boom box. The sound quality was terrible, but it was big, loud and had two cassette decks…so I loved it.
Cabbage Patch Kids. Every girl I knew had at least one Cabbage Patch Kid back in the early 1980s, even though they were overpriced and, when it came down to it, just a doll with a name and adoption papers. I never got one, probably because my parents weren’t willing to sleep outside a Kmart for two days to get one.
Wacky Wallwalker/Creepy Crawlers. These were just a sticky piece of rubber that you would throw against a wall and it would slowly walk down. The stickiness would be gone in about 15 minutes, or 2 minutes if the floor was dirty. Zubaz pants. These were basically pajama pants with a multi-colored zebra print on them. Boys went crazy with them, including me. The fad quickly passed (presumably) after one dad in America started wearing them… and instantly made them uncool.
Sony Walkman. This was the i-Pod of the ‘80s, only it used cassette tapes. For the first time, you had a portable music system that only you could hear. And all you needed were two AA batteries.
Atari 2600. It wasn’t the first, but it the first widespread gaming system in America. My brother and I would play every day. We had about 40 games, and we would frequently trade games with other kids in the neighborhood. There was a kid on our block who used to walk from door to door carrying a briefcase of Atari games looking for a good trade. His name was Brett Carrigan. If he is reading this, I think I still have your Frogger game.
The following list includes some of the more popular fads from each era. What are some of the fads from your childhood? How many on this list did you have?
The 1920s-1940s: Betty Boop merchandise, Mahjong, Silly Putty, Slinky, zoot suits, “Kilroy was here” and cloche hats
The 1950s: Coonskin hats, hula hoop, saddle shoes, boomerangs, spud guns, 3D glasses and ant farms
The 1960s: Barbie dolls, banana seats, bellbottoms, go-go boots, black light, lava lamps, mood rings, ouija boards, Rickie Tickie stickers, sea monkeys, smiley face, tie-dye shirts, troll dolls and superballs
The 1970s: 8-track players, daisy dukes, Mexican jumping beans, pet rocks, platform shoes, wizzers and string art
The 1980s (a few more that I didn’t list above):
Care Bears, denim jackets, hacky sacks, mullets, slap braclets, koosh balls and “Baby on Board” signs
The 1990s: Beanie babies, fanny packs, Furby, Pokemon, rollerblades, ring pops, the Macerana and Tickle Me Elmo
The 2000s: Crocs, energy drinks, fantasy sports, flash mobs, Heelys, iPods/MP3 players, Razor scooters and thong underwear
Food trucks, planking, selfies, silly bandz, dabbing, bottle flipping, twerking and yoga pants.
Fads will come and go. Many on this list have gone away and come back, or never really left (just aren’t as big as they once were). What will be the next big fad? How long will it take until the fidget spinners will find their way into the garbage cans across the United States? I give them about three months, four months top. Then on to the next big thing.