A light-hearted feature series looking at those crazes that used to occupy us in the playground and beyond. Inspired by the website Amazing Crazes.
This week we look at the 70s.
Let’s be honest: have Doc Martens ever been unfashionable? These boots were the shrewd parent’s choice of footwear for their youngster – they were practically designed to not only outlast the child’s change in shoe size, but often the child themselves. Paired with a cracking pair of flares, Doc Martens were iconic, and continue to have appeal to this day – luckily without the flares.
Why wear a 30″ leg when you can wear a 32″ and turn up the final two inches? Such was the mindset of the fashion-conscious playground dweller in the 70s; many young ones spent much of the decade with a light blue flourish at the end of their jeans.
Weebles wobbled but they never fell down, largely due to the combination of a constant positive curvature and mechanical equilibrium – not the fact they looked like a portly gentleman dressed like a sailor, or an old woman in her Sunday best. These toys were remarkably popular despite the fact they never really did anything – and their wobbly goodness went on to be embraced by many generations after their initial release.
Did you have a BMX? No? Then you’ve never lived. The humble steel-framed 70s BMX set the standard for uncomfortable bikes of the future. Combining pegs on the axles, a low seat and an often-chromed frame, these two-wheelers got you places faster than walking, at least – and offered the opportunity for a sly trick or two off a set of four stairs. Five, if you were really daring.
“Leadin’ the way” in the 70s toy car market and beyond was Hot Wheels, the Mattel die-cast car maker that created thousands of shiny, colourful vehicles that eventually received their own tracks and play sets. Still available in nearly every supermarket in the UK and showing no sign of becoming unpopular, Hot Wheels are still as highly chromatic as ever, and just as collectable among eagle-eyed kids and adults alike.
Plastic and hair combined to produce this irreplaceable Scandinavian import appropriated by the US and created for a mass market of schoolchildren. While many attempts were made to modernise the Troll and target a male audience, these failed – though Trolls remained popular as pencil toppers, if not only because the point of insertion was particularly hilarious for the slapstick minds of youth.
It was only a matter of time when a card game wouldn’t be associated with gambling. Top Trumps offered countless packs of stat cards that competitors in the playground would use to win an opponent’s deck gradually. Those clever enough would effectively learn a deck so they’d never lose; it only spurred people to buy new decks, thus perpetuating a phenomenon that returned to the playground on numerous occasions.
Another Mattel classic, Slime was pretty simple – it was goo. Non-toxic and strange to the touch, playgrounds around the country were taken by its ability to instil annoyance and discomfort, even in those who owned it.
Star Wars action figures
Star Wars’ release in 1977 was one that took most people by surprise – the film went on to become one of the most famous franchises in history, and children of the 70s were right at the centre of an unprecedented marketing tie-in. Kenner’s figures sold well over 300 million units in their seven years of production, and mint condition examples are highly sought-after. Now, those who once used them in the playground continue to raid their attics for an eBay super-sale.