Faded Fads


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?

10 thoughts on “Faded Fads

  1. Jim Wheeler says:

    Mr. Dictionary says the word “fad” was first used in 1867. As you imply, though, I suspect the phenomenon goes along with leisure time. The Roman elite no doubt had fads of their own. Orgies?

    When I was a kid during WW II, a popular fad was cardboard mockups of warplanes. I would fold them according to instructions, put a coin in the nose, and whirl them at the end of a string. Another fad that comes to mind was tail fins on cars – totally useless and probably a safety hazard in some cases. Wrap-around windshields, distorted at the corners. Princess phones. Leisure suits. (gah!) Sideburns. 🙄


    • Archon's Den says:

      Ah yes, tailfins. Also inspired by, and folded to resemble WWII warplanes. Great places to conceal gas tank filler caps. Used to drive gas station attendants crazy looking for them – when we had affordable gas – and someone who would actually pump it for you. 😯 There’s one station in town which insists on still providing attendants on 50% of their pumps. Prices are competitive, and it’s always full of old folks like us. 😳


  2. Sightsnbytes says:

    apparently, the Rubics Cube is making a comeback with the young kids. Of course it isn’t quite as challenging as it used to be, with only four sets of blocks. Kids also play a digital version of the game.


    • Archon's Den says:

      I never ‘got’ the cube, and no-one ever taught me. I could get two levels, but not the third. I bought a How-To-Solve book and memorized the solution. Of course, with my shitty memory, I don’t remember breakfast.
      I’ve seen 4 X 4 versions, with 16 squares per face. About a year ago, the grandson bought the son a version like a pyramid with only three bottom edges – 4 faces, not six, with each one having 9 triangles, instead of squares. The son says it’s about as hard as the original. 😯


      • Sightsnbytes says:

        My not so genius friend Ricky surprised me by actually solving the cube once, until I noticed he peeled the stickers off and restock them in the correct sequence of colours.


      • Archon's Den says:

        This is the ‘Captain Kirk, Kobiashi Maru solution.’ Sneak in and reprogram the computer to win. You get one demerit for cheating – and two credits for creative problem-solving. 😉


      • Sightsnbytes says:

        didn’t you hear? You can’t be punished for cheating anymore. Kids who get caught cheating are rewarded for being creative in finding their answers. I had a missus cheat off me once. I wrote the entire test (multiple choice) wrong, she passed her test in, and I erased every answer and re-wrote it. She ended up getting a better mark than I did..:(


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