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Official Article

5 Fads of the 90's

Sometimes a fad hits so hard it becomes a part of our daily life, forever cementing it's place in that time and decade. There's no reason people can't still be wearing parachute pants, except that MC Hammer's music and image has been out of vogue since 1991. We could still be enjoying Hi-C Ecto Cooler if Slimer wasn't so heavily tied to Saturday Morning Cartoons of the late 80's. Today let's explore 5 more fads that are so 90's, we'll likely never see them again.

Laser Pointers

If you weren't alive from 1995-1999, it's hard to explain how common it was to see little red dots hovering around everywhere you went. Sitting in 3rd period Algebra, as soon as the  instructor turned their back it looked like a dozen snipers were ready to claim a bounty on your math teacher. It was especially terrible at movie theaters, where 12 and 13 year olds would give Jim Carrey or Alicia Silverstone glowing red acne in the middle of a film. It was even worse before the movie started, when it appeared that a swarm of evil radioactive mosquitoes was swarming around the screen. The blame for this fad falls squarely on stores marketing laser pointers to kids in toy aisles where they had no business being on display. They were meant to be presentation tools, not playthings for mischievous middle-schoolers.

The most intense example I saw was during a KISS concert in 1998 when throughout the first few songs, you would see a laser pointer dot swirling around poor Peter Criss, stationary behind his drum kit. At one point between songs he yelled into his microphone, "Hey, knock it off with the laser pointer!"  After the next song, during which the laser pointer was especially obnoxious, the band actually stopped the show to publicly shame the guy. Paul Stanley told him he would shove the laser pointer where the sun don't shine followed by applause for KISS fighting against this annoying trend. I think troublemakers eventually got the message that it was a little too easy to be spotted and the general public had enough of their crap, so by 2000 the fad had faded.

Fanny Packs

Currently sported only by shady wheelers and dealers at Swap Meets, Fanny Packs were once a fashion accessory that meant you were up with current trends. As much a status symbol as a functional carrying case, these often neon-colored zipper pouches were worn around the waists of everyone from hyper 4th graders to muscle bound Arnold Schwarzenegger wanna-be's at the local gym. Really, how did this trend catch on? The funny thing is, I hardly remember anybody actually holding anything inside the various levels of zipper pouches. Do you?

There was even a hierarchy of fanny pack design. Commonly seen was the colored canvas style, mostly worn by blue collar families at theme parks. Paired with oversized shirts draped over spandex "biker shorts", this was a standard style of late 80's/early 90's suburban fashion. For the designer label minded shopper, the fanny pack of choice was usually a dark brown or black leather variety, presumably to match the interior of their European sports car. In the end, Fanny packs were nothing more than belts with bulges that made us feel "of the moment".


Do you know the story of POGs? A game involving milk bottle caps in Hawaii that somehow made it's way to the mainland without any major advertising. I mean think about it, how did you become aware of the game of POGs? When did you see your first slammer? It wasn't through commercials in between episodes of Animaniacs, I can tell you that much. This was a total grass roots, organic development. I remember seeing the neighbor kids stacking cardboard discs and flipping a thicker plastic "coin" on top of them and suddenly POGs existed in my mind. 

Eventually I saw ads on bottles of Hi-C to order X-Men "Hero Caps" with 4 Proofs of Purchase (which I did) and there was the occasional comic book ad, but overall it was a word of mouth movement. Suddenly tournaments were popping up, it was banned from my elementary school as gambling and even the local dry cleaner was using POGs like a circular business card. Then all at once it was gone, Tamagochi's were in and POGs were out. Unfortunately I can't see this fad making it's way back for the younger generation, just like marbles or jacks never really caught fire with kids of the 90's as they had in earlier decades.

Slap Bracelets

One part novelty toy, one part fashion accessory, the slap bracelet was the most fun you could have for $2 in the 90’s. Basically a flat strip of plastic with a colorful outer design that wrapped around your wrist upon contact, these things were the talk of the playground that had a very specific progression of use. First off you would slap it on your own wrist or ankle for about 5 minutes and when that got boring, you went looking for a “victim” to attack with a surprise slap. Even though the process was harmless, people still flinched whenever a slap bracelet was involuntarily applied to their arm, which provided a rush of malevolent glee. Next you would treat the thing like a mouse trap, dropping items of various weights on the open strip to make it grab them in its clutches.

The final stage was dissection. Kids are curious, we wanted to know what "magic" made things go, unfortunately that’s where the fun ended. I remember having this great fear that there was a coiled wire inside just waiting to rip my flesh off and always feared one of my classmates using a butchered slap bracelet as a means of torture. On the lighter side, my favorite slap bracelet design ever was Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles themed. It was basically just the movie poster and other illustrations of the Turtles inside a film strip design. I just loved the whole aesthetic. I’m sure these things still exist, but just like we’re not seeing today’s 3rd graders sporting neon friendship bracelets, slap bracelets are no longer an acceptable piece of jewelry to be seen with.


The 70's and 80's were split between skateboarding and roller skating, but the 90's were all about Rollerblading. There's was something so edgy about rollerblading culture at first, and being associated with street hockey gave it a violent, urban edge. Suddenly everybody was tossing away their 4-wheeled shoes for in-line boots so they could go "blading", even me! I have to admit, I never perfected the "T-Stop" and had to find a patch of grass or a street sign to slow me down if I needed to avoid flying into oncoming traffic. But I still felt like a futuristic warrior suiting-up every time I tightened the straps and put on my wrist guards.

Rollerblading even inspired movies like the Corey Haim crapfest, Prayer of the Rollerboys,  another one called Airborne and major scenes in The Mighty Ducks II and Hackers. There was even a rollerblading Barbie. while Rollerblades killed the concept of roller skates, more kids are seen flying around on Razor scooters and Heely's than any type of roller footwear these days. Sure, roller hockey is still around, but you don't see the guys from One Direction sporting Rollerblades in their music videos, right? Waitaminute! One Direction has their own brand of Rollerblades? Hear ye, hear ye, I would like to officially declare the return of Rollerblading is upon us!

So what fads of the 90's do you feel define the decade? Which one of these was your favorite?

Want to get in on a current fad and tweet about the good old days? Find me on Twitter @hojukoolander.
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mickyarber Posted on Oct 23, 2015 at 04:31 PM

Great article. I was into all of them except for the roller blades.

Had a huge collection of POGs, and when my friends and I played, it was for keeps. I remember it was usually three of us, and we each would put in 2 pogs each round. Whatever you won, you kept.

I had the fanny pack, but that was around 7th grade. Everyone wore them to school for some reason.

Slap bracelets made their way through our school in around the 5th grade probably. I can remember spending a whole week's allowance on nothing but slap bracelets one time. What a waste.

Laser pointers were huge for me, mainly because they were popular when I was into buying and selling goods...mostly stuff you would find at a flea market. I'd pick up these pointers that came with 10 changeable tips for $4. I turn around and sell them for $10. It may be hard to believe, but I could sell anywhere from 25-50 of those things a week for several months in the midst of their popularity! And that was just dealing them out of my trunk. I made a lot of money with laser pointers.

And you know fanny packs were cool since Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson is sporting one in that photo.

This article may could have used a sixth item....Hackey Sack. It was every bit the fad these others were too.

Really fun read that brought back a lot of memories.

Poshy2005 Posted on Oct 14, 2015 at 05:31 AM

I still have my POGS. Never played just collected them. Great article.

jkatz Posted on Sep 24, 2015 at 02:30 AM

A bit later in the decade, but I remember frosted tips being a thing.
Speaking of fanny packs, a few weeks ago I saw a lady wearing a "Baywatch at Seaworld" one. I wish I offered to buy it off her!

pikachulover Posted on Sep 23, 2015 at 01:29 AM

Funny I was just thinking about laser pointers a few days ago. My professor had one she let somebody in the class use it as a prop for a skit we had to perform in class.

Talk about fads! I had a fanny pack that came with special pockets for troll dolls and it came with a troll. I had a few
others too. Although I don't remember using them besides the troll one to hold my other trolls.

I didn't really get into pogs until my neighbor did. I would always lose to her because she had this Nala bootleg slammer that thing was so heavy! My parents refused to buy me an adequate slammer.

I loved rollerblading or inline skating.I got rid of my old small skates years ago. I was really thinking of getting myself another pair and taking it up again.

Caps 2.0 Posted on Sep 22, 2015 at 06:44 PM

Me and my brother still have a laser pointer that we use for our cats. It's fun to play with them that way. As for fanny packs, I still regularly use them when I go on major trips, like whenever we go to Walt Disney World. I also wore one to Chiller Theatre last year, and I'll be wearing it when I attend again this year as well. I do what I feel most comfortable with. For example, it's why I still refer to things as cool when most everybody else is now saying chill instead.

Vaporman87 Posted on Sep 22, 2015 at 05:46 PM

The laser pointers and fanny packs are easily the worst offenders of this list, with special recognition as a REAL problem going to laser pointers. I'm so glad that, although they are still around, nobody seems interested in annoying others with them any more.

On the subject of skating, I too made attempts at rollerblading, but since the home I lived at during the time had very little concrete to use, I resorted to using my blades for miniature hockey matches with my brother, some sticks, a puck, and a goal. I didn't enjoy it nearly like I did the skating rink. But then again I think much of that has to do with the sense of community at the skating rink.

I recently caught a glimpse at what will surely be the next wave of skating-related hooplah:

Cruisers, by the Cardiff Skate Company. I saw these on an end cap of the toy and sport section at Target. Will they be the next big thing?

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