Best of the 80s: 80s Fads

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Best of the 80s Fads

The 80s were a fun, fabulous, and fabulously ridiculous decade. There is so much to talk about — but let’s jump into 80s fads first.

The Walkman

80s fads | Sony Walkman

By joho345 (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

The Sony Walkman was very popular, as it was an accessible way to listen to music anytime, anywhere. There were other versions of this cassette player, but having the Sony Walkman was something of a status symbol. Sony didn’t expect it to take off — but it exceeded expectations five-fold. 50,000 were sold in the first two months it was available.

Cassette Tapes

Cassette tapes were the go-to mode of music in the 80s and not only did they populate record stores (yes, record stores!), but blank cassette tapes were an insanely popular way to record your favorite songs off the radio. You had to be careful to start recording and stop recording so you didn’t get the DJ talking. Significant cassette tape collections were made possible by Columbia House, which allowed customers to order 11 (or more) cassettes for a penny (you filled out a postcard with your selections and literally taped a penny to the card), with the promise you would purchase a certain amount of cassette tapes at above-retail prices (no one did).

80s Fads | TDK Cassette Tape
Tdkc60cassette“. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons
Boom Boxes

80s Boombox | 80s Fads

These monster radios — which took eight D batteries — were heavy and cumbersome. But, man, did they pump some music. Contrary to popular belief, teenagers did not carry these around on their shoulder. Generally, you carried it to your destination and blasted music that you could hear for blocks. They were an integral part of hip hop and break dancing and, believe it or not, cities around the country began banning them in public places.

Video Games

80s Fads | Atari 2600 Video Game System
Atari2600wood4“. Licensed under Public domain via Wikimedia Commons.

The Atari 2600 game system was the must-have video game console of the early 80s. Popular games included Space Invaders, Asteroids, Breakout, and Combat. Then came the Nintendo (don’t forget blowing into the open end of the game to get it to work!) and games like Super Mario Brothers, Metroid, Contra, and Castlevania.

Video Stores

80s Fads | Video Stores
We’re not talking Blockbuster here. We’re talking about a privately owned video store that has one of each movie, and most likely less than 1,000 videos. Occasionally, you could find a “big” video store, but even then they only had a handful of new releases and a sparse collection of “older movies.” You have to remember this was new technology and it took a while to get movies on VHS. Sure, video stores lasted well beyond the 80s, but it was never like it was in the 80s.

MTV/music videos

This was quite possibly the most important of the 80s fads. It has survived that decade, but not in its true form. In the 80s, music videos were new (and generally unpolished) and, as a result, there were not many videos in the rotation. That didn’t keep teenagers from watching it around the clock (literally the , however. Who cares if you saw the same videos every hour or so?

Rubik’s Cube

Hundreds of millions of this puzzle have been sold worldwide since it was introduced as the Rubik’s Cube in 1980. “Speedcubing” (solving it quickly) became a popular competition in the 80s. A student from Los Angeles set the world record in 1982, solving the Rubik’s Cube in under 23 seconds. Personally, I never solved it.

Trivial Pursuit

Trivialpursuit Token2
Trivial Pursuit was originally a game of general knowledge and pop culture (the Genus edition). More than 20 million games were sold in North America in 1984, the height of Trivial Pursuit’s popularity. The game is played by answering questions correctly in each of the six categories and collecting wedges to fit in the playing piece (the pie).

Trapper Keepers

The Trapper Keeper was a Mead looseleaf binder with folders and pockets as well as a Velcro-close flap. They usually had a theme, such as cartoon characters, TV shows, or video games. They also had kittens or puppies. While students rarely needed a Trapper Keeper in school, they chose to carry this oversized, awkward binder, just like everyone else.

Cabbage Patch Kids

Cabbage Patch Kids were one of the most popular 80s fads when it came to toys. They are one of the longest-running doll franchises in the United States. At the height of their popularity, stories of parents physically fighting over limited Cabbage Patch dolls were common.

Care Bears

80s Fads | Care Bears
American Greetings created the Care Bears for use on greeting cards. The Care Bears, with their different colors and “tummy symbols,” took off. They were featured in three movies, their own cartoon, and an endless supply of merchandise.


There are more than 100 Smurfs, little blue characters that live in a forest. The Smurfs franchise has spawned cartoons, movies, toys, video games, dolls, cereal, and ice capades. They tend to skip. They frequently use the word “smurf,” which has a variety of meanings. There are only three female Smurfs: Smurfette, Sassette, and Nanny Smurf.

Strawberry Shortcake

Strawberry Shortcake was also created by American Greetings, for greeting cards. The line of characters were featured on stickers, dolls, TV shows, a video game, and numerous toys. Each character had scented hair as well as a fruit- or dessert-named pet.

Break Dancing

80s Fads | Break Dancing
Break dancing was most often done on cardboard. True story. This form of dancing originated in the hip hop community, or so the story goes…but it became immensely popular in all walks of life. Another true story.



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