Fads seemed to have started in the early 20th century, when improved manufacturing processes finally allowed payment of more than starvation wages, and enough spare time to spend it.
(One of) The first was flagpole sitting. I think it started with one nerd without a girlfriend or a date, who couldn’t sit in his mom’s basement with a Gameboy, because they hadn’t been invented yet. He nailed a big plank to the top of a municipal flag pole, so that he could sit in a snit.
Actually, the fad was watching flagpole sitters, where entire families would get dressed up, pack a picnic lunch, and stare adoringly for hours at some jerk who raised himself above the rest of the population and did nothing constructive. I believe the record was 33 days – until Trump came along.
Soon after, the fad among fraternity boys became swallowing live goldfish, usually washed down with copious amounts of bathtub gin. Police suspect that alcohol may have been involved. During the 40s, the only fad was saving the free world from The Axis Powers – and drawing ‘Kilroy was here’.
Fads really came into their own in the 50s, when plastic made things light and cheap. First was the Hula Hoop, a barely disguised anti-obesity and fitness program. We all know how well that worked. Then along came the Frisbee. It was possible to fling garbage can lids a considerable distance, but when Wham-O made them smaller and lighter, the number of broken windows, smashed flower gardens, and homes with brightly-colored, orphaned disks on their roofs, really skyrocketed.
There was the Slinky toy, a coiled spring that was smart enough to walk down a flight of stairs all by itself. It was replaced by contestants on The Bachelor. We had mood rings. Mine was always black, and in a bad mood, and I think it rubbed off on me. Rubik’s Cubes showed us how things were always twisted and turned, and presented a different face.
Etch-A-Sketch came along, and it marked the limits of my technology. I could operate one of them, where I can’t run a Smartphone. Lava lamps showed up. I think mine sat on a fault line. There was an underwater avalanche, and it never rose to the occasion again.
Pet rocks were a thing for a while. Mine got lonely, and ran away from home to join a parking garage. Here in Canada, we had Ookpiks, an excuse to take the hides off baby seals and ship them to a factory in Calgary, where they were cut up and sewn back together to look like a small owl made by an Eskimo. Sales peaked at 2 or 3 a week and then slowed down, and the tourist industry had to find new ways to separate gullible American tourists from their money.
Tamagotchis were hot with tween girls for a while. They were supposed to show the amount of time and effort necessary to raise a child, and hopefully reduce teen pregnancies. After a few of them died of malnutrition, most young females just went back to boyfriends, who were lower maintenance.
Many fads have no staying power, and disappear quickly. I figure that the new electronic game, Pokémon Go won’t last more than a couple of weeks, when players do things like find a dead body, or get kicked out of a Holocaust Museum or a cemetery.
Selfies seems to be a fad which could have been devised by Darwin himself. Hundreds of self-important fools have removed themselves from the gene pool. Government agencies have had to put up signs that read effectively, “Not Here, Idiot!” and still many are too spaced-out to notice or heed them. Tennis elbow and golf elbow have morphed into ‘selfie elbow’, caused by holding up a huge ego cell phone at an awkward angle, to take hundreds of meaningless photos.
Sadly, one fad that doesn’t seem to disappear is, The Kardashians. We have now come full circle. Here’s a group that’s lightweight and cheap, made mostly of plastic, and they have raised themselves above the common folk, to be gazed at adoringly for hours, without actually doing anything constructive. 😯
There must be some (lots?) that I’ve missed. What do you remember, that I’ve forgotten?