Fourteen 90’s Trends That, Thankfully, Disappeared26
By Steven Novak
Like every decade, the 1990’s introduced us to a wealth of ideas, fashions, music and games. For many of us, these discoveries played a pivotal role in the definition of who we are and where we came from. Such is the case in the KoldCast TV series, Orange Juice in Bishop’s Garden, where we follow a group of kids growing up in downtown D.C. The real world, however, isn’t as hip and forgiving. The reality of living through any decade is that there are some memories you want to keep and some that are horrible mistakes that you wish you never committed (anyone remember 1980’s Hammer Pants?). Regardless, just like those beloved stone-washed jeans you can’t seem to throw out, some of the best of the 90’s have been captured forever in photographs for future generations to ridicule. For the memories we are proud to be rid of, here’s fourteen 90’s trends that, thankfully, disapperared.
Episode 1 – Orange Crush
1. BEANIE BABIES
We all remember these annoying little things – tiny bears (and later tiny animals) that created a collecting frenzy. They hit the market in 1993 and everyone from weird housewives, to even weirder adult men, and not quite as weird children, stocked up on these fuzzy little dolls like zombies hungry for brains. The initial insanity of Beanie Babies has long since disappeared, but at one point Ty Warner Inc., the creators of the line, were estimated to be worth as much as $6 billion. It sounds insane, but it’s true.
2. SUSAN POWTER
Susan Powter didn’t go from a “fat person to a thin person.” Nope, she actually went from, as she puts it, “an unfit person to a fit person.” How did she do it? Well, she “stopped the insanity” dummy. The bald-headed, fitness guru and motivational speaker first popped onto the scene by authoring several books during the 90’s that found their way onto the bestseller list. This of course landed her television and speaking gigs galore where she yelled at all of us on the couch to “STOP THE INSANITY!”
In the late 80’s and early 90’s, for some weird reason, everyone got worked up over the idea of their clothes changing colors in different temperatures. Yeah, I don’t really get it either, but I suppose the same could be said for everything on this list. Constructed of a thermochromic (temperature-sensitive) pigment created by Matsui Shikisho Chemical of Japan, at low temperatures the shirts and jeans would appear to be blue and at high temperatures they might just turn a slightly lighter blue. Toss on a fake mustache and hypercolor wearers were the ultimate masters of disguise – and I write that with great sarcasm.
4. THE HIGH-TOP AND THE RAT-TAIL
There were a lot of awful hair trends in the 90s – far too many to name specifically over the course of this list. In my humble opinion though, two stood out as the worst of the absolute worst. Those two were the high-top and the rat-tail. Both looked stupid, and both have thankfully (with the exception of a few corny looking stragglers) faded into obscurity. As a Midwest, middle-class kid with little to no sense, I myself once sported a rather sizable rat-tail with a wispy little curl. I’m not proud of myself.
5. TRAPPER KEEPERS
Mead’s Trapper Keepers actually first bounded onto the scene in the late 70’s and had a far longer shelf life than pretty much everything else on the list. The overly bulky and complex binders were a constant accessory for just about every grade school kid through the 80’s and well into the 90’s before “streamlined” became all the rage and kids everywhere began wondering why they’d been lugging these massive things around for so long. (Maybe it was the Michael Jackson or New Kids on the Block cover that made them so hard to resist.)
Published and owned by the video game company Nintendo and created by Satoshi Tajiri, The Pokemon franchise exploded onto the scene in 1996 and reached its peak soon thereafter in the forms of a card game, a video game, a cartoon, and merchandise so vast it’s almost frightening. So big was the reach of these confusing, brightly-colored characters that they appeared on the cover of Time Magazine in 1999. Though the love of Pokemon continues to this very day on at least some level, the initial excitement has undoubtedly ebbed.
7. GRUNGE FASHION
Taking their cues from the music world, the 90’s saw the general public at-large grab hold of the “grunge” fashion movement and run with it. The term grunge comes from the U.S. slang adjective “grungy” and literally means “filthy.” While it might not have been the most visually pleasing (or smelling) of fashion trends, it was easily the most accessible. If you owned a pair of jeans and a flannel, you were in – and If your washing machine didn’t work, even better.
8. AOL CHAT ROOMS
In the early days, there was no other Internet provider other than AOL worth mentioning. With almost 30 million subscribers on several continents, the company was the goliath of the online world and their chat rooms quickly became a bastion for the lonely, weird, and curious. Regrettably, since AOL’s massive merger with Time Warner in 2001, the company’s usage has steadily decreased and its chat has become a dinosaur from a bygone era. Whatever is a lonely person to do!? Enter Chat Roulette.
9. “GIRL POWER” AND THE SPICE GIRLS
Thanks in no small part to a group of leggy “friends” in goofy costumes with sassy catchphrases, and syrupy songs, “The Spice Girls” and the term “girl power” wormed its way into the public consciousness in the mid-late 90’s. Believe it or not, the phrase has actually been linked to third-wave feminism – which makes no sense at all when you think about it. Though the phrase “girl power” remains to this day, the perky group that brought it to the public consciousness has pretty much disappeared.
People love collecting stuff. Sometimes it doesn’t even matter what that “stuff” is. If there’s a lot of it, and it’s hard to get some of it, we seem to want it. There are few better examples of this obsession than the POG craze. Based loosely on a game that originated in Hawaii during the 1920’s, POGS quickly rose to fame thanks to the World POG Federation and the Canada Games Company’s idea of pairing the simple game with various popular toys, cartoon characters, movies, sports figures and anything else they thought would sell in the early 1990’s. As quickly as they burst onto the scene however, POGS faded into obscurity.
11. TICKLE ME ELMO
Talk about an unlikely gold mine. Introduced in 1996, the Tickle Me Elmo doll became an absolute must-have for pretty much every kid walking the face of the earth. With demand so high, and supplies so low, stores hiked the prices of the dolls dramatically and newspaper classifieds began offering it up for hundreds of dollars. It’s reported that a single doll fetched as much as $1,500 at one point. What did Elmo do that warranted such a response? Nothing really. He laughed when you tickled him. Though Tickle Me Cookie Monster and Tickle Me Big Bird versions were released later, none managed to drive people as bonkers as the first Elmo.
12. MOM JEANS
Few things boisterously bellow the decade of 1990’s better than the super high waists of the infamous “mom jeans.” The pants accentuated a flat curvature of the buttocks, while offering up generous room in the stomach and legs. Usually light colored and pleated on the front, they were often seen worn with blouses tucked right into the waistband. How did something so awful become so very, very popular? Why does your mom still wear them today? How can you make her stop? Only time and common sense can heal those wounds.
13. THE MACARENA
Originally recorded in 1992, Los Del Rios’ “Macarena” exploded onto the scene in 1995 and 1996, becoming the second longest running and best selling debut single of all time in the U.S. It has since been called the Greatest One-Hit Wonder ever by VH1. By 1997 it had sold more than 11 million copies, and thoroughly annoyed the ears of pretty much everyone across the globe. Without a doubt, there is nothing on the list more 90’s sounding than this monstrosity.
14. THE 8 BALL JACKET
Originally created for World War II servicemen, there was a time when the leather jacket carried with it a very macho connotation. Tough guys wore leather jackets – rebels, malcontents, people you didn’t want to mess with. The 90’s, however, stomped all over that. In the 80’s, dusty browns and blacks were replaced with brightly-colored dyes, and by the 90’s things had somehow gotten even more gaudy and someone came up with the bright idea of tossing an eight ball onto the back – the rest, as they say, is fashion history.
Episode 2 – Will You Be There Tonight?
Steven Novak is a writer, illustrator, graphic designer and admitted lifelong nerd with an embarrassingly large DVD collection. He is currently working and living in the Southern California desert. His most recent fantasy/action adventure novel, “Forts: Fathers and Sons,” is available everywhere books are sold.