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 90s.
Why would you have a regular lollipop when you could push one out of a plastic case like a lipstick? Such was the argument for production that confectioners had in the late 80s, before releasing the Push Pop brand. Pioneered by Topps – creators of the Ring Pop – this portable block of sugar was perfect for those who preferred to enjoy their sweets over an extended period of time – or in the classroom, when non-sticky pocket-based concealment was required at a moment’s notice.
As an almost-exclusively 90s brand, LA Gear rose to fame with US celebrity endorsements, crossing the Atlantic to find a place in the playground. While the overall brand was relatively well-received, it was the LA Lights range that attracted young teens the most. Every time a step was taken, pressure made the shoe light up. It turned heads and opened wallets, but the brand’s brief fame didn’t stave off bankruptcy in 1998.
Monster in My Pocket
Carrying the torch alongside many other monster-based plastic toy lines in the 1990s, Monster in my Pocket’s line-up offered softer and more pliable figures than its rivals. These were pushed by Pizza Hut, Shreddies and Frosties in the early 90s, backed by a range of stickers, trading cards and even a board game.
Arising from similar games played in 17th-century Japan and early 20th-century Hawaii, the Pogs brand was a modern adaptation of this simple stacking game. Schoolchildren towered their cardboard pogs – printed with the most 90s-style graphics you’ll still see to this day – and used a “slammer” to scatter the discs. Those that laid face up were theirs to keep (if traditional rules were followed). With sets dedicated to anything from Mighty Morphin Power Rangers and Jurassic Park to Christmas and Cadbury’s, they were supremely collectible – but a flash in the pan in terms of popularity.
RL Stine’s range of teen horror novels can be credited with making reading very cool in the playground for a few years in the 90s. Over 60 titles were released between 1992 and 1997, including the particularly famous Night of the Living Mummy, Say Cheese and Die, The Haunted Mask and Welcome to Camp Nightmare. Everyone had two or three; their neon, cartoonish front covers are forever burned into the minds of their readers.
While football stickers, coins and trading cards were popular throughout the decades, one sport-related item that can be solely anchored to the 90s was Corinthian’s line of football figures. Typified by their huge heads and undersized bodies, these statuettes were extremely sought-after and regularly traded. While many children of the age may not remember that goal by Les Ferdinand, they’ll never forget the plastic figure of him they had sat on their shelf at home.
Seen by many as the biggest school craze of all, Tamagotchis really hit the heights of ubiquity in the UK around 1997. These small keyring-sized gadgets allowed schoolchildren to manage the lives of a pet, from feeding and exercising them to cleaning up after they did their dirty business. The aim was to keep one alive for as long as possible; anything over a week was a stretch for most kids. Eventually banned from plenty of schools around the world, Tamagotchis would go on to inspire all kinds of modern console and mobile games; these little toys did, however, offer simplicity that is somewhat unmatched by successors.
While the popularity of the Adidas tracksuit jacket was indisputable among children of the 80s, they were not as seemingly omnipresent as those made by Kappa in the 90s. The logo – showing the silhouette of a man and a woman sat back to back – was often partially covered to highlight something rather blue, playing to the humour of the schoolchildren that wore them.
Pokémon’s huge popularity on TVs, Game Boys and N64s was not just complemented, but galvanised by, the trading card phenomenon in playgrounds. Taking on rules similar to fellow card game Magic: the Gathering yet offering the simplicity of Top Trumps, the game element itself wasn’t really played – trading was the main aim for schoolchildren, much like football stickers were in years past. Indeed, real money could be made – Pokémon cards weren’t cheap to start with, but rare cards could give a good return on investment. Nowadays, rare and pristine cards often sell for thousands of dollars.