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.
Got, got, need, got, need, need, need, seriously need, got, etc. Panini, and later Merlin in the 90s, cashed in on the growing access to televised football. As many of us know, the foil “shiny” was the true currency of the playground among boys; its value was denoted in “normal” stickers, which varied from school to school (usually between two and five – ten, if it was special).
Ranking high on the list of classic playground crazes is Hungary’s most famous export alongside the ballpoint pen, strudel and Franz Liszt. This colourful 3x3x3 block was responsible for countless challenges, frustrations and smashed Rubik’s Cubes, due to said frustrations and challenges.
Just when you thought that the BMX or Chopper couldn’t be cooler, Spokey Dokes took all things two-wheeled into the stratosphere of wonderment. These simple round plastic beads snapped onto wheel spokes and, during a slow-speed ride, would have time to slide up and down the spoke to make a noise that could take adults back to memories of school 30 years ago. For others, though, they were as visually ugly as they were annoying – these brightly-coloured menaces were also available with glow-in-the-dark properties.
Casio’s empire of digital watches brought in a whole new audience of maths-hating schoolchildren in the 1980s with the introduction of miniaturised calculator technology. Featuring buttons that only tiny fingers could accurately press, these watches certainly bailed out many a child in a pop quiz. Technology later developed to include TV remotes in them, causing havoc for any impromptu video in class – or leading to an argument during an episode of Knightmare or Fun House between siblings after school.
Once solely worn by professional dancers, leg warmers exploded in popularity in schools after the release of Flashdance and Fame in the 80s. Seemingly omnipresent on the lower legs of girls around the country, these footless wonders were originally designed to stop muscle injuries and cramping; they’ve made many comebacks since their initial release due to their remarkable retro-vintage value.
My Little Pony
As another toy from the Hasbro empire that went on to inspire a complementary TV series to push the product, the first generation of My Little Pony was perhaps the biggest. These pastel-coloured hairy equines struck at the very heart of the girls’ market, and its makers went on to successfully re-release the toy line in recent years. This even led to a male market emerging – so-called “bronies” (though let’s not get into that).
Nike Air Max
Nike’s Air Max line of trainers launched in 1987 and their popularity among young and old hasn’t really declined since then, hitting its high in the UK around 1989. As one of the few means of showing one’s affluence and style in the playground, Nike Air Max offered classic bubble soles that purportedly made you run faster and jump higher. Many pairs also succumbed to tacks, pins and other sharp objects, either by accident or after being laid as a trap by less agreeable youngsters in the yard.