Mullets, Pokemon, leg warmers and 29 other fads we should be mortified by

Before mocking fidget spinners, cast your mind back to the crazes you got caught up in – embarrassing, isn’t it?


Aren’t children funny with their foolish fads? From Furbies to fidget spinners they are so easily led. Unlike us adults who could never be suckered into buying into the next big thing.

If only that were true. It’s not though is it? Fads can strike at any age and in case you don’t believe us, we thought we’d put together a list to prove it.

1. Does anyone remember bulletproof coffee? Probably not but it is a fad which dates all the way back to 2014. It saw otherwise sensible human beings stir butter into their coffee with a view to making themselves thinner and mentally sharper. Did it work? Of course it didn’t.

2. The world is full of diet fads but few have matched Fletcherism in the stupidity stakes. This highly lucrative health plan developed by a man called Horace Fletcher in the late 19th century encouraged people to chew every mouthful of every meal exactly 32 times. No more. No less. Do that, he said, and people would lose weight and stay healthy. His theory was – obviously – nonsense. Some people probably did lose weight but that was because with all that chewing they got bored eating.

3. Luigi Cornaro was the first person to make money from a food fad book with the publication in 1558 of the Art of Living Long. His secret was to eat just 400g of food a day. Well, that was his starting secret and the one that made his name. Eventually he cut his food intake to a solitary egg a day. Oh, and he also allowed himself a litre of wine which must have taken the edge off his hunger of an evening, although his liver probably didn’t thank him for it. It did work – at least for him – as history tells us he lived until he was 99.

4. The Atkins Diet didn’t really work. But that didn’t stop tens of millions of people all over the word binning bread and other carbs and adopting a protein heavy diet in 2002. Robert Atkins actually conceived his diet in the early 1970s but it wasn’t until he got a little help from his Friends – mainly Rachel, in the always-on TV series – that it really took off. By 2004, 10 per cent of Americans were gorging on protein-rich food with significant numbers in Ireland similarly in thrall to the diet. It got so bad that producers of carbohydrate-heavy foods started to worry about their futures. They needn’t have. They were grand and most people got sense in the end.

5. Fingerless gloves were a big thing in the mid-1980s thanks to Charles Dickens – or at least the makers of the film Oliver – army surplus stores (where the cool kids went in search of bargains before Penney’s laid waste to all that) and Madonna. The gloves were useless and ugly but teenagers loved them. They threatened to make a comeback with the advent of the touchscreen smartphone but commonsense prevailed.

6. Jogging was huge in the 1980s. Everyone was at it. But then jogging ran off into the mists of history to be quietly replaced by running. No one jogs anymore. Everyone runs. There’s no difference between running and jogging except the former sounds more youthful and sporty.

7. It’s hard to believe now that legwarmers were once a thing. The three Fs of Fame, Flashdance and Fonda (Jane, not Henry) were to blame.

8. During the boom years Irish people could not get enough decking and people were falling over themselves to install the wooden platforms that were entirely unsuited to Irish weather. For the sake of full disclosure, this newspaper was – at least in part – to blame for the fad and wrote a seemingly endless stream of articles in praise of decking. We would like to apologise to anyone who is looking sadly out at an unpainted and rotting wooden mess in their back garden right now.

9. Whoever thought that getting a full Irish breakfast and wedging it into a baguette was a good idea? Irish builders, that’s who.

10. The EL James series of steamy books, focussing on the relationship between Anastasia Steele and Christian Grey, unleashed itself on the world with 50 Shades of Grey, the fastest-selling paperback of all time. It is not selling quite so many copies these days and rivals the Da Vinci Code as the most commonly-found piece of fiction in charity shops.

11. The ghetto blaster was always an utterly impractical way of listening to music on the hoof. But that did not stop people in the 1980s taking the massive radio and tape-recorder combos, which weighed more than baby elephants, to beaches and parks all over the country where they played Hall and Oates at impolite volumes. They’d never make a comeback you might think. But you’d be wrong. Rather than simply saying I can’t go for that, the kids of today seem to be buying massive speakers and connecting them to their phones using Bluetooth and doing what the kids of yesterday did too.

12. The hula hoop was invented in 1957 and almost overnight became one of the biggest fads of all time. Within months, the simple plastic hoop had sold more than 25 million units in the US alone meaning that every child owned at least one – even allowing for the fact that some adults would have unwisely had one too. During the 1960s, more than 100 million of the things were sold all over the world. It hasn’t gone away either and parents continue to buy them for their offspring either because they remember how much fun they had with them or because they are pretty cheap and pleasingly low-tech.

13. Lance Armstrong may not have been the first to champion the idea of plastic wrist bands for charity but he was certainly the most prominent. Launched in 2004 by the Live Strong Foundation, yellow bands were a must-have fashion accessory for a bit. They were endorsed by all manner of celebrities and a rainbow of rivals followed in their tracks. For about 18 months people were happy to wear their hearts on their arms, if not their sleeves. They are still used by some groups as a way of fundraising but the popularity of the charitable wristband is nothing like it once was.

14. The music business has seen more trends come and go over the past half century than almost any thing else – and we are talking about technology not artists. Vinyl was replaced by cassettes which were killed by CDs and then came illegal downloads from the likes of Napster. MP3 players were briefly the next big thing before phones and streaming services did for them. Weirdly we are now back to vinyl again.

15. Ouija boards were either a harmless game popular among children or a mystical door into the afterlife which cast a spell on Edgar Allan Poe, HP Lovecraft and WB Yeats to name just three of the cool kids who bought into the notion. The boards re-emerged in the 1970s after starring (okay getting a bit part) in The Exorcist. Their popularity has dwindled again and you almost never hear of kids talking to dead people of an evening any more.

16. The buying and selling of houses was perhaps the most demented – and certainly the most costly – fad to grip Irish people during the boom years. People were absolutely obsessed with houses – buying them, selling them, talking about them and, it should be said, writing about them. Its popularity kind of faded in 2008 what with all the unpleasantness. After the Great Crash we all assumed it was one crazy fad that would never, ever be repeated. Were we right? Time will tell.

17. You might still be able to get a pulled pork sandwich in some places but it is nowhere near as faddy as it was even two years ago.

18. For about 20 minutes in 1990 the world was striking poses and voguing to beat the band. Thanks to Madonna, otherwise sensible people were dancing in ways that were entirely inappropriate. The craze got so bad in Ireland for a spell that it looked like it would replace the Walls of Limerick as an Irish wedding staple. Luckily sense prevailed and the voguing stopped.

19. The Rubik’s Cube was an infuriating fad for all the simple children – children like Pricewatch – who were utterly incapable of completing the puzzle (at least until we worked out how to actually dismantle and reassemble it). It is still selling, although not in anywhere close to the numbers in its early-1980s heyday. We’ve even come across a Rubik’s Cube inspired fidget spinner which seems bonkers to us.

20. Blankets with sleeves? What’s not to love? Slankets shot to prominence in 2008 as otherwise sensible people started using new social media channels to post pictures of themselves wearing them. Thankfully the slanket quickly became an object of fun rather than comfort and it disappeared.

21. Croissants are grand. So are donuts. But cronuts? Is that really what the world needs?

22. Remember the summer of Pokémon Go? It was last summer. Even by the measure of the maddest fads, this was an absurd notion that saw adults download an app which – sort of – used augmented reality to help them hunt Pokémon and attack them with Pokéballs (remember we’re talking about adults here).

23. According to Wikipedia, Myspace was the largest social networking site in the world between 2005 and 2008 and in June 2006 it surpassed Google as the most visited website in the United States. Imagine that.

24. Set up by a British couple in 1999, FriendsReunited was the first big social media site that allowed people reconnect with and/or stalk old school friends. It was massive. Within seven years of its birth it had over 15 million members and was deemed sufficiently attractive to ITV for the company to pay £120 million for it. Almost soon as the ink was dry on the contract, the company tanked. Bebo did pretty much the same.

25. Remember when poker used to be on the telly all the time? Seems a bit mad now, right. Texas Holdem in particular took the world by storm in the late 1990s and millions tuned in weekly to watch desperately unhealthy-looking folk with names like Devilfish playing cards on Channel 4.

26. Short at the front, long at the back mullets were common 20 years ago. You still see one every now and then, usually on someone who thinks double stonewashed denim is a fabulous idea.

27. Detox diets are an absurd fad but one that has lasted far too long. We have said it before and we will say it again. There are absolutely no foods that will help you detox. It is all nonsense.

28. If you are a coeliac or have a sensitivity to gluten then you have to avoid it, end of story. If you are neither of those things then cutting gluten out of your diet will probably make no difference to your health. It will cost you money though. And it will ruin toast.

29. In the mid 1970s, US advertising executive Gary Dahl released his pet rocks into the wild. The unique selling point of his “pets” was that they never needed to be walked, fed or groomed. This was because they were inanimate rocks. Rocks he collected from a local beach and flogged for $3.95 each. The rocks made their inventor a multimillionaire in six months.

30. “I love you. You love me. We’re a happy family. With a great big hug and a kiss from me to you, won’t you say you love me too.” Oh leave it out Barney, it’s not 1992 anymore.

31. In the late 1990s the world went mad for a little talking robot called Furby. In its first Christmas, 1.8 million units of the toy sold. Fast forward just a year and 20 million were sold. They were supposed to start out speaking “Furbish” and then “learn”. This never, ever really happened and the craze died when people realised what rubbish conversationalists the furry beasts were.

32. And so to the fidget spinner. A meme-themed game “for millennials and their millennial friends” and a card-based “party game for horrible people” stood out on’s top 20 toys and games last week as the only two unconnected to fidget spinners . When the list is extended to 50, 44 are fidget spinners. By any measure it is a remarkable craze.

But where did it come from? In the run-up to last Christmas Forbes magazine described them as the “must-have office toy for 2017”. By March, videos of people doing cool things with them were all over YouTube and by the end of April, hawkers on Moore Street in Dublin were selling them by the truckload as shops struggled to keep supplies on their shelves.

The actual origin of the fidget spinner is up in the air. Many early reports suggested that Catherine Hettinger, a chemical engineer, was the inventor. According to one sad narrative she filed a patent application for a “spinning toy” in 1993 but let it lapse in 2005 because she could not afford to pay for it. However that is probably not true and according to patent lawyers quoted by Bloomberg, her device and the actual fidget spinner bear little resemblance, a fact which takes a lot of the poignant drama out of the fad

Have we missed anything? Are there any fads that you think we should have included? Feel free to get in touch to give out.

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