Do You Remember These Fads from the Past?

Remember when you were younger and everyone seemed to be obsessed with a new trend, no matter how silly it was? Whether it was a clothing style, toy or activity, these fads defined past decades. Here are some of the most popular fads America has witnessed in the last few decades.


rainbow slinky


The Slinky is a flexible, spring toy which can stretch and reform itself. Richard James first demonstrated the Slinky at a Gimbels department store. The toy was an instant hit. He sold all of his 400 units in ninety minutes. Thus began the nationwide craze for Skinkies.

Children loved how the toy seemed to walk down stairs all by itself. Or, how dropping it would make it appear as though it is levitating in the air because the top of the spring falls before the bottom. Although the toy is so simple, it provided children with hours of fun.

Leg Makeup as Pantyhose

Pantyhose were a fashion must before the 1940s. It was considered inappropriate for women to have naked legs in public. To address this, women covered up their legs with silk or nylon stockings.

Once World War II started, the government had to ration silk and nylon for war materials. That’s when women started to get creative. Women began staining their legs with leg makeup and drawing stocking seams down the back of their legs. This fad quickly ended once the war finished and women could buy real pantyhose once again.

Mexican Jumping Beans 

Children were drawn into the Mexican jumping bean fad by its mysteriousness. These magic beans jump around all on their own.

What causes these beans to jump is quite strange. These “beans” are actually seedpods with moth larvae trapped inside. The beans jump around when introduced to heat, like a person’s warm hand. This jumping motion happens when the larvae throw their bodies against the seed to avoid the heat.

Silly Putty

Silly Putty is a goopy, bouncy, moldable toy. Scientists created this toy when searching for a plastic substitute during World War II. Instead, they stumbled upon Silly Putty. The rest is history.

In 1949, orders began pouring in for the item that was originally thought to have no purpose at all. Kids loved how Silly Putty had the properties of both a solid and a liquid. Kids loved how it could even take the picture right off their comics.


little girl in poodle skirt

Poodle Skirts

The poodle skirt was a must have fashion item for girls of all ages during the ‘50s. The design was a knee-length, felt circle skirt with a poodle design transferred onto the fabric. As the trend went on, other designs such as flowers, cats, or guitars were applied.

The skirt was worn for many occasions such as the school dances, a.k.a. sock hops, or for everyday wear. This look was so popular that it is often what is first thought of when people reference the 1950s.

Drive-in Theaters

Drive-in theaters are outdoor movie theaters that you drive your car into. You are able to watch a movie projected onto a screen from the privacy and comfort of your car.

Known as a classic first date spot, drive-in movies rose to popularity during the 1950s. Drive-ins didn’t gain widespread popularity until a couple decades after it was first patented.

Drive-in theaters were enjoyable for any age group. Teenagers loved the privacy drive-ins gave them. Parents jumped at the chance to be able to take their rowdy children out to the movies for once.

Hula Hooping

Hula Hooping involves twirling a hoop around your waist, neck, or arms repeatedly. Children loved to hoop for hours since it could be done with friends or alone.

Wham-O Toy Company created this craze when they invented the first plastic hula hoop. In 1958, national marketing and giveaways encouraged purchases of 25 million plastic hula hoops in just 4 months.

Telephone Booth Stuffing

Like most fads, this one came and went in one year. Students attempted to stuff as many people as they could into one telephone booth. The fad began when 17 men crammed themselves into a seven-foot-high phone booth at UCLA. Although short-lived, telephone booth stuffing became a huge fad for university students across America.

Eventually, record holders established ground rules. They stated that the phone booth must be regular sized and at least half of the contender’s body must be in the phone booth. Some record holders stated that an actual phone call had to be placed or received for the record to count.


colorful lava lamps

Lava Lamp

The Lava Lamp is a decorative tube filled with a goopy mixture that creates cool shapes when plugged in. Edward Craven-Walker invented the lava lamp after witnessing a homemade egg timer at his local pub. From there, he experimented with different shapes and materials to achieve the best product. 

The lava lamp wowed the free spirited generation of the ‘60s. The psychedelic shapes and colors hypnotized this young crowd. This hip crowd kept it as a strong fad throughout the decade.

Fallout Shelters

During the Cold War, Americans feared the possibility of a nuclear war. In response, families across the nation built their own bomb shelters in their backyards.

These fallout shelters ranged in styles. Some were basic shelters with only a few weeks’ worth of supplies. A few were fancier buildings equipped with entertainment centers. When the threat of a nuclear holocaust faded out, this fad ended. People then converted their shelters into wine cellars or play rooms for their children.

Super Ball

This plastic toy ball may be simple, but that didn’t stop it from rocketing into popularity. People loved these balls since they were able to bounce higher than any other bouncy ball. By 1965, over 6 million Super Balls had been sold. The ball can bounce by itself for a whole minute after it is dropped. This super ball provided kids with hours of fun, until the fad ended.

Troll Dolls

The troll doll may be one of the biggest toy fads the United States has ever experienced. These dolls came in a variety of colors and had glass eyes and hair made of sheep’s wool. Although from Europe, the newly introduced toy quickly grew popular in the United States.

People desired to buy and collect every different troll doll. This propelled the craze to a level never seen before.


pet rocks

Pet Rocks

Have you ever desired a pet that you didn’t need to feed, clean, or walk? The pet rock would be the perfect pet for you. These “pets” were smooth rocks with glued on squiggly eyes that came in their own straw filled carrying boxes.  In 1975, this toy was created as joke for people who didn’t want all the work that comes along with having a pet.

Pet Rocks became so popular that the creator, Gary Dahl, sold 1.5 million of them by the time the fad ended. The Pet Rock even came with a 32-page training manual on how to train your brand new pet.

“Have a Nice Day” Smiley Faces

“Have a nice day” is an expression that perfectly summarizes the attitudes of the early ‘70s. This phrase was often combined with an iconic smiley face image. Everything from pins and shirts to coffee mugs and bumper stickers were printed with a smiley face and the phrase “Have a nice day”.

This combination seemed to perfectly symbolize the feelings of society at the time. A society who was leaving the free-loving 1960s and entering the changing 1970s.

Toga Parties

A toga party is a costume party where all attendees have to dress in a Roman or Greek themed toga. Although toga parties may seem like a yearly staple at fraternity parties now, it was once new and crazy. In 1978, after National Lampoon’s Animal House hit the theaters, every college student across the country was in a toga party craze. Students donned their best bedsheet and prepared for a night of excessive drinking. 


Streaking as a fad hit its peak in the 1970s. People across the nation ran naked through college campuses and sporting events. It was even done at the Academy Awards. Streaking was usually done because of a dare, protest or even for fun.

At the height of this trend, college campuses arranged their own streaking events. At these events, they attempted to reach the record of the most streakers at once. The current record still stands with the University of Georgia. They had 1,543 people streaking on March 7, 1974.

Today and the Future

Fads are what define the culture of past decades. Although many may seem ridiculous, they are as important to American culture as apple pie. When you witness today’s youth engaging in a strange activity, remember all the trends you participated in when you were a kid. Your parents were probably just as amused with you.