With every decade come new crazy fads, and just like the 80s had their own share in providing us with something to talk about today. The 80s was when people indulged in some of the most questionable fashion trends and found it very normal. Not just fashion but even the toys from this decade were pretty crazy. With that being said, let’s start with the roller coaster of discovering the crazy fads from the 80s.
Most people today might not even know what the term “Valspeak” means, but during the 80s, it was quite a common thing. Valspeak (short for Valleyspeak) was actually the name for a social class dialect that combined the hippie lingo, surfer slang, and black street jargon all in one place. Even though Valspeak has been a thing since the 1960s, but it only got popular during the 80s.
This way of talking originated from the San Fernando Valley in California and spread nationwide by 1982. The trend actually became popular after Frank Zappa released the song “Valley Girl” with his daughter; this whole song was written in the Valspeak manner.
The people who talked in a Valspeak manner would raise the words at the end of any sentence, sounding like a question. Words like “for sure” or “totally” were elongated, and the speakers would also use many slangs such as:
- Rad meaning excellent
- Skanky meaning gross
- Geek meaning weird
- Rolf meaning vomit
The only effect Valspeak left on everyone around the world was the proliferation of the word “like.”
2. Cabbage Patch Dolls
The Christmas season toy of the 80s was these cabbage patch dolls, also known as cabbage patch kids or little people. The dolls were originally invented in the 70s by an art student named Xavier Roberts. It wasn’t until Roberts appeared in a show called “Real People” for the doll’s promotion in 1980 that the cabbage patch kids got famous.
Initially, these dolls were handmade and were sold in quite a weird way at the BabyLand General store in Cleveland, GA. The children who wanted to buy a cabbage patch kid would watch the whole birthing process of the doll and then sign the adoption papers. The store also gave a birth certificate for each doll.
Although Xavier Roberts was responsible for creating the early version of the dolls, it was licensing agent Roger L. Schlaifer that came up with the name “Cabbage Patch Kids” when he acquired licensing rights to distribute the dolls worldwide in 1982. After naming the dolls as “Cabbage Patch Kids,” Schlaifer then contacted different toy companies in the United States that may be interested in producing the dolls. While many companies declined, Coleco, who is more known for developing gaming consoles like the Telstar and the ColecoVision, were interested in becoming the licensee for Cabbage Patch Kids. The deal was done in the same year that Schlaifer acquired the license for the dolls. To learn more about Coleco as a company, you can read our article, “Learn About Coleco, A Former Giant in the Toy and Gaming Industry.”
By 1982, the company was mass-producing cabbage patch kids, and everyone was going crazy about them. The handmade dolls cost $125; however, now that they were produced in a larger amount, the prices dropped to around 20 to 40 dollars a doll.
The demand for these dolls would spike in the Christmas season, and the stores often ran out of dolls in those days. The sales went to their peak in 1985, but after that, the company couldn’t carry on with the competition with other toy manufacturers, and by 1988, they filed for bankruptcy.
Today, BabyLand General still makes dolls for the cabbage patch kids’ fans, but the crazy fad ended with the 80s.
3. The Swatch Watches
During the late 70s, the Swiss watch company introduced the Swatch watches to keep up with the competition with the other watchmakers. These watches were inexpensive, and everyone could easily afford them; this was one reason Swatch watches eventually became an 80s fad.
The watches came in various colors and designs (in terms of straps and dials) that everyone could easily find one of their likings. In 1983, the price for a Swatch watch was around $35, and by 1987, the company had sold over 10 million pieces. Some of these watches even had scented straps, making them even more attractive.
People during the 80s were so obsessed with these Swatch watches that some would even wear as many as six watches at once. Swatch watches are still manufactured; however, the designs have developed and changed a lot.
Besides Swatch watches, another type of watch that became popular in the 1980s is the calculator watch. As its name already suggests, the calculator watch is a gadget that has a built-in calculator so that the wearer can make quick calculations without the need to use a much bigger calculator. For more information on this accessory, you can read The Fascinating History of Calculator Watches.
4. Koosh Balls
Koosh Balls were literally in every playground during the 80s. The Koosh balls were made out of rubber with a soft core and came in a large variety of colors. Not just kids, but even older people would collect different colors of these balls. Even though the main aim of these Koosh balls is still unknown, we assume it was somewhat a feel-good toy or was supposed to be played with by throwing it. Whatever it was, the toys were fun but weird at the same time.
The Koosh balls were launched in 1988 by a toy company called Hasbro, and the only problem was that people would feel jealous whenever someone had a better-looking color Koosh Ball than them.
There was also a cartoon comic based on these balls called “Koosh Kins,” and the comic was published by “Archie Comics.” Hasbro still manufactures Koosh balls, and the company has expanded the product line naming it the Koosh Galaxy.
5. Crazy Hairstyles
The 1980s was an era when the craziest hairstyles of all time became a fad. Even the hair metal music genre was famous for its big hairstyles. In short, hair in the 80s was big, teased, and looked pretty crazy.
The famous hairstyles from the 80s include curls, mullet, Jheri curls, high ponytails, aqua-net bangs, big hair, punk, Mohawks, and spikes. It’s good that these crazy hairstyles ended with the 80s and haven’t made a proper comeback yet.
6. Shoulder Pads
Shoulder pads were something that we adored from the 80s. Some may call them crazy, but they actually looked good, and there’s no denial to it. The TV show Dynasty was why shoulder pads got so extremely famous. With Joan Collins slaying the shoulder pads, every Dynasty fan had to try the new fashion trend.
Shoulder pads were somewhat the most famous fads of the 80s, and mostly the middle and upper-class women had adopted this fashion trend. It was also when women had just started appearing in the workplace, and shoulder pads gave women the confidence and power dressing required for any intelligent and strong woman.
7. Hacky Sacks
Hacky Sacks! Just another memory of the 80s. These mini leather beanbags were really something. They were available in different colors with different facial expressions printed on them.
Children would collect these and play the game of catch or kick them to their friends. These leather sacks were so famous that Hacky Sack was given the status of a proper sport in the US. But we wonder how they got that status; of course, playing with a Hacky Sack must be fun but only for a while, as one can easily get tired of them.
However, the best thing to do with the Hacky Sacks was to put them on a swing and push it. Whoever had their Hacky Sack left on the swing last would win the game.
Some Other Famous Fads from The 80s
There are several more fads from the 80s that are worth mentioning, such as slap bracelets, Freezy Freakies, Parachute pants, Car surfing, jelly shoes, Yo-yos, Garbage Pail Kids, Walkman, Finger Monsters, M.U.S.C.L.E Men, Micro Machines, Rubik’s cube, Ghetto Blasters, Boglins, etc.
Popples were toys that became quite popular in the 1980s. This specific toy line was created by American Greetings, a popular producer of greeting cards, who then gave the license to manufacture the Popples toys to Mattel, one of the biggest toy companies in the world. To know more, check out The Nostalgic History of Popples, A Popular Toy Line of the 1980s.
The 80s was the decade of chaos, fashion, and weird toys. No matter how cringe-worthy these all may seem now, these fads still give us the nostalgic feeling of the long-gone classical era of the 1980s.