Let’s get this right out of the way. At various periods of my life, I’ve had a pet rock (I loved it like a brother), a lava lamp, a tiny box of Mexican jumping beans, a plastic jar of Slime, sea monkeys, a black light with the obligatory panther poster, one of those creepy troll dolls and a mood ring. 

A little later on, I had a water bed that I thought made me some kind of playboy, a chamois shirt and a pair of balloon pants that I wore everywhere with high-top sneakers. Not to mention a denim coat with upturned collar and feather clip. 

I didn’t have a Farrah Fawcett poster hanging on my wall like millions of you rapscallions, but I did have a Jacquelyn Smith. 

I collected baseball cards with strips of hard bubblegum inside, played hacky sack a time or two and threw my share of Jarts.

Happy? Feel good about yourself making me admit all that? 

I succumbed to a lot of fads and trends in my day, sure, but I’m consoled, somewhat, by the fact that so did everyone else. So did you, so did your momma, so did your second cousin once removed. 


If these things weren’t so immensely, and at times inexplicably, popular in their time, they wouldn’t call them fads. Or trends. Or crazes. 

Which is my excuse for all the bandanas I wore back in the day and for the Crocs I wear still. I regret nothing. Nothing much, anyway. 

With a new year upon us, we reached out to our readers to ask them about their favorite — or least favorite — trends from years gone by. Our definition was admittedly broad, and included everything from hairstyles to footwear to trinkets and novelties. 

The response was . . . heavy. And strange. And quite a lot of fun. 

Early on, it appeared that hairstyles would be the main trend our readers wanted to talk about. 

Long-haired freaky people


“In an unending quest to banish my unruly curls, I was an early adopter of hair trends that might at last do the job,” says Maura Murphy of Lewiston. “I tried the shag, the Tennille, the Dorothy Hamill, the Lady Diana and feathered hair, until it all crashed into a mullet, which I ended up shaving on the sides, thinking that might improve it. I was always thrilled to walk out of Solange’s with the new silky hairdo of my dreams, but one wash later, my curls returned with a vengeance. Curls always get their way!” 

It wasn’t just for the ladies, either. Plenty of guys who responded reported plenty of experience with the hair styles of whatever era they happened to be in. 

Thomas J. Gurney’s mullet. Submitted photo

“When I was in junior high in 1987, all us dudes had beautifully flowing feathered hair,” said Thomas J. Gurney of Lewiston. “The look was not complete unless you had a detangler comb — the teeth of the comb were wavy — sticking out of your back pocket. If you had a regular straight comb you were considered a popcorn pimp. I layer cut it into a rat tail but I was alone on that one.” 

Gurney never did escape the allure of a good hairstyle trend and he’s frankly not ashamed to admit it. 

“Who says mullets came and went?” said Gurney, and he had a marvelous photo of his own mulletted coiffure to back up his point. 

That’s the funny thing about trends. They have a way of rising up, flaming out and then circling back just when you thought they were gone for good. 


Take the mullet, for example, in which the hair is cut short at the front and sides, but is longer at the back (but look who we’re telling). It first began to emerge in the ’60s and ’70s, but didn’t really become a bona fide phenomenon until the 1990s — thank you very much, Billy Ray Cyrus. 

After much ridicule, the mullet seemed to fade from modern culture but, much like Billy Ray himself, it just wouldn’t stay gone. 

“I have a shaggy mullet now,” said a young lady named Alex Lynn of Auburn. “They’re going strong. They’ve been trending on TikTok and Instagram for the past year or so, since quarantine. Especially the wolf cut, long mullets and shaggy mullets. All of my layers are like three inches long.” 

Hair styles are forever changing and they have a way of defining decades. In the ’70s, it was long, flowing hair for both men and women. In the ’80s, the bigger the hair, the better. The ’90s, it was the Rachel cut. For women. We think. 

And hair spray. So much hair spray. 

“Hair teased up to make you a foot taller,” is the way Priscilla Pierre of Turner remembers those bygone days. 


Or are they bygone at all? Take a hairstyle from the past hundred years and it’s a good bet someone out there is still working it. 

“I still puff my hair up with Aqua Net if I’m going out,” said Bonne Waisanen of Auburn. “You know, to Cumby’s

Mark LaFlamme’s feathered hair and denim coat. Submitted photo

or Applebee’s.” 

“I’m rocking a fresh shag right now,” said Sunny Nadeau of Auburn. “I will never get out of the ’80s!” 

Personally, I will admit to sporting feathered hair in the ’80s — what my crueler friends might have called “The Shaun Cassidy” a time or two — but that’s as much as I indulged in the matter of hair fads. You know, until Billy Idol made spiked hair a thing and I had to be a part of THAT! 

The clothes make the man. Unfortunately. 


Clothes? You want to talk clothing trends over the decades? From WBLM belts and chamois shirts to those inexplicable pre-torn jeans and shirts with turned up collars, we’re going to get into it, oh yes. Clothing trends change almost too quick to keep up with, but there have been some standouts over the years.  

And by the by, anyone who claims I used to wear bell bottom jeans is a liar. Hated the things. They kept getting caught in my bicycle chain and I couldn’t have that. 

Jeannette B. Cunningham of Lewiston starts us right off with an unpleasant memory from the 1980s. 

“Half shirts,” she says. “For men.”

“Acid-washed jeans, leg warmers, high-top sneakers, off the shoulder shirts and hair crimpers, to name a few,” is what Lori A. Hallett of Auburn remembers about the same decade. 

“Shoulder pads in women’s clothes,” offered Pamela Penney of Poland, and here I will give you a moment to titter at the memory. “Think back to ‘Dallas’ and ‘Dynasty’ TV shows — we had muscles on our shoulders!” 


And on our feet? Crocs. So many people wanted to talk about Crocs, which yours truly wears without shame. 

As trends go, these versatile foam clogs are relatively recent. They first came on the scene in the first years of the 21st century and they took the world by storm.  

By ugly, blocky, weirdly colored storm. 

Very few items on our list have generated so much division among the people. Some people despise Crocs and will wretch with disgust any time they see them. Others love the footwear and will wear them proudly out in public. 

The fact is, the Croc craze never really went away. 

“Crocs in every color of the rainbow, including ‘rainbow’ colored Crocs, are still worn by about 25% of the people I know,” said Jennifer Earle Auburn. “They are a huge wardrobe staple amongst the millennials!” 


Jimi Cutting of Lewiston fondly remembers a day when all any guy needed for a wardrobe was a denim jacket worn over a zip-up hoodie. 

Sandy Rozanski of Auburn recalls bell bottom pants and Levi button-fly jeans, which she still has. 

Several people mentioned “Chucks,” which just confused me all over the place. Apparently “Chucks” are Converse sneakers and you will forgive me for not knowing that. 

Linda Doucette Scott’s Fonzie socks. Submitted photo

Linda Doucette Scott of Lewiston liked to pair her Chucks with Fonzie socks or . . . we’ll just let her tell it. 

“(I) had the pair of purple Donny Osmond socks, also,” she said. “I thought I was so cool wearing these with a pair of cutoff jean shorts and my Chucks — yeah, I’ve been wearing Chucks since the ’70s.” 

C.J. Tolini of Sabattus was one of several people to cast a vote for saddle shoes, which were extremely popular in the 1940s. And the 1950s. And the 1960s. You kind of see where this is going, right? 


Shoes of all kinds have served as emblems of high fashion over the decades, from the saddle shoe Tolini speaks so fondly of to high top sneakers, penny loafers, boat shoes, jelly shoes and the aforementioned Crocs. 

Plus about about a zillion other forms of footwear. 

“As a teen in the 1970s, platform shoes were all the rage,” said Tracy Clark Gosselin of Lisbon. “Horribly uncomfortable things, but they were COOL, so we sucked up the pain and wore them anyway.” 

Waisanen, who bragged earlier about her Aqua Net fixation, recalls the rock and roll uniform of the 1980s. 

“Ripped jeans and a concert tee shirt look good on anyone, regardless of age, gender or music preference,” she said. “That look never gets old.” 

Several people spoke of the so-called “preppy” look, which spanned several decades and which, in more recent years, featured Izon shirts, tweed blazers, argyle sweater vests and other “Ivy” styles of dress. 


“Turned up shirt collars,” mused Barbara Dupee Kazimer of Lisbon. “What was that all about?” 

Votes were cast for barrettes, headbands, banana clips, feather clips and butterfly clips, and we aren’t sure if they belong in the clothing or hair category, but they sure looked . . . nice? 

“Butterfly clips that bounced on our heads,” said Jamie Bennett of Turner, of her tween years in the 1990s. “Probably wore like 20 at a time and thought I was sooo cool.” 

Don’t be embarrassed, Jamie. One of our readers admitted to sporting things like pleather pants and a Miami Vice-style jacked worn with a single white glove.  

Others based their style on “Blossom,” going for the eclectic, multi-colored, frumpy looked made popular by the main character in the early ’90s sitcom of the same name. Others did their darnedest to emulate Madonna in the ’80s. We’re talking tulle skirts worn over leggings, fishnet gloves, bangles, humongous earrings, giant hair bows, bustier tops and enough costume jewelry to sink a boat. 

In my defense, I got through that phase fairly quickly. 


There are men who succumbed to the allure of things like calculator watches, overalls, parachute pants, Ugg boots, chin-strap beards, massive belt buckles and manpris — capris-style trousers that (hee) reach down three-quarters of the leg. 

You know who you are. 

A few of our readers confessed to owning mood rings, which promised to reveal the mood of the wearer by changing colors according to body temperature. The rings became one of the biggest fashion fads of the 1970s and can still be purchased today. 

If I were wearing a mood ring right now it would be fading to light brown to mark a mood of excitement because, boy, oh boy, we’re about to talk about toys! 

Jart survivor stories: Toys and novelties that drew blood

No category dominated our query like this one. Toys and trinkets have been the center of trends as long as anybody can remember. 


Did you have a Big Wheel when you were a kid? Play-Doh? Lite-Brite? Slinky? 

Yeah, we thought so. 

But no single item was mentioned in these conversations more often than the humble 1970s era toy known as clackers. 

What are they? Also known as Clankers and Ker-Bangers, clackers were million dollar toys based on simplicity itself. Two small, hard spheres placed on the ends of a long piece of string, enabling you, the fun-loving kid, to swing those balls up and down in a way that would produce a satisfying “CLACK!” as the balls collided. 

Fun, right? 

Not so much at first. When they were first introduced in the late 1960s, clackers were made of tempered glass which would — go figure — occasionally shatter, sending glass shards into the face of you, the now-bleeding-and-screaming-kid running for his mom. 


Clackers were briefly pulled off the market and later resold with hard plastic orbs instead of glass. There’s really not much to this toy. When you get right down to it, they’re about as complex and useful as the fidget spinner of later years. 

But man, did people love their clackers. 

“If you were really good at it,” said Penny Frost of Auburn, “the marbles could clack at the bottom of your hand then up to the top in quick succession. Four of us had the clackers, which we played with often but ended up driving my Mom to her wit’s end.” 

Shari K. Gosselin’s clackers. Submitted photo

“I love my clackers,” gushed Shari K. Gosselin of Lewiston. “I still have them.” 

The toy you remember most depends on the generation you grew up in. Nobody answered our query to sing the joys of the hula hoop or the yo-yo, two toys that absolutely dominated the market in their time. 

No, our readers tend to fawn over more humble and, let’s face it, dangerous toys — toys that helped them fill long summer afternoons with occasional hemorrhaging and the constant threat of losing an eye. 


My friends, you’ll want to duck for this one. I give you Jarts, a game comprised of pointy metal projectiles designed to sail across a backyard at great velocity, piercing anything at the other end. 

Jarts, also known as “lawn darts,” were kind of like horseshoes but with a risk of impalement built in just for kicks. 

“Because how dangerous could kids get lobbing giant, sharp darts at each other while trying to land inside the mini hula hoop-style target on the backyard lawn?” said former Sun Journal reporter Terry Karkos. “They were fun but more dangerous than the Red Ryder BB guns, in my opinion.” 

For a time in the late ’60s and early ’70s, Jarts seemed to supplant badminton as the backyard game of choice. They were banned briefly by the federal government in 1970, but came back soon after with new, clearer instructions on how to avoid maiming people during play. 

It didn’t work. 

“Ok, here’s my Jarts story,” says Kathie Dolan of New Gloucester. “I was playing them with some friends. I was standing next to the target, which is about the diameter of a hula hoop. Suddenly, someone’s young child ran towards a busy street and instinctively, I looked in that direction. At that same moment, my opponent let go of her Jart, which, supposedly she was aiming at the large target — only it wasn’t. It was headed for me and she yelled, ‘Kathie, look out!’ Well, not wanting to get it in the face, I instinctively crouched slightly, head ducked and covered with my arms, my knees about an inch or two apart. Picturing this so far? Well, with the accuracy of a guided missile, that bleepin’ Jart went just above my knees, slicing into my thighs, which still bears the scars 45 years later. She couldn’t hit a three-foot-wide circle, but a two inch gap? I believe they were banned not long after.” 


Yup, they were. In 1987, a 7-year-old girl died after she was hit in the head by a lawn dart in Riverside, California. It was reported at the time that in the previous eight years, 6,100 Americans had visited hospital emergency rooms as the result of lawn dart accidents. 

That was all for Jarts in the U.S., although we heard from one Lewiston man who still has an original Jarts kit still bearing the Bradlees’ price tag. 

For toe-stubbing, body abrading fun, few toys could match the Slip ‘N Slide, a plastic sheet unfurled across a lawn and then wet down for slippery good times. 

This one was created in 1961. It wasn’t until 1993 that safety officials issued a notice to warn of its dangers. By then, tens of millions of Slip ‘N Slides had been sold. 

And who among us doesn’t remember the story wherein the little kid who played Mikey in the Life cereal commercial died after eating a certain fizzy candy? 

That’s right, folks. We’re talking Pop Rocks here, the rather ordinary candy made extraordinary thanks to pressurized carbon dioxide making it feel like the stuff was exploding in your mouth. 


Pop Rocks were released to the public in 1976 and what followed was a sweet, sugary craze like ya read about. 

Sales of the candy went through the roof, but along with the snap, crackle and sizzle, Pop Rocks also seemed to have some magical way of stirring urban legends. In one such tale, it was rumored that eating Pop Rocks with soda would cause your stomach to explode. 

I heard this and immediately went out to try it. I lived, although I seem to recall snorting some of the fizz out my nose. “Mythbusters” eventually put this rumor to the test, but I’d like to emphasize that I tested it first. 

Next came the report — which some still believe to this day — that the kid who played Mikey in that famous commercial had died due to a Pop Rocks ingestion gone bad. He didn’t. The actor in question, John Gilchrist, is alive today, in fact. 

These rumors of Pop Rocks killing kids in droves across the country were so prevalent, General Foods had to take out full page ads and write to school principals across the country to put it all to rest. 

Pop Rocks, as it happens, can still be purchased pretty much anywhere candy is sold. But if you’re still wary and prefer safer buys, how about unpacking that giant box of Beanie Babies we know you have stashed away somewhere. You just can’t part with them, can you? 


Well, who can blame you. Beanie Babies, unleashed on the world in the early ’90s, so dominated the second half of that decade that they are considered by many to be the source of the very first viral internet sensation. So many people were collecting Beanie Babies of various types, they were considered not just toys but sound investments. 

Beanie Babies came in a variety of personalities. There was Legs the Frog, Squealer the Pig, Flash the Dolphin, Splash the Whale, Chocolate the Moose, Patti the Platypus and Spot the Dog, to name just a few. 

Few people owned just one Beanie Baby. If you were in on these things, chances are you were all the WAY in. 

“I was teaching when they were all the rage,” said Laura Davis Rinck, “and I remember this one kid who carried his Beanie Babies around in this massive duffel bag.” 

And if you weren’t getting punched in the jaw by some old lady after Beanie Babies in the store, you were probably getting kneed in the gut by someone out to snatch up the Cabbage Patch Kids doll on the shelf. 

How big was the Cabbage Patch hysteria of the 1980s? Life-changing big. 


“My girls are pushing 40,” said Kathy Cosgrove Peters of Sumner, “but when they were toddlers, Cabbage Patch were all the rage. I can’t tell you how many stores I went to looking for those elusive dolls. I worked at IP at the time and my boss came out on the floor to get me for a phone call. I was shaking in my shoes! You would only get a phone call at work if it was bad news, right? Wrong! My sister, that lived near Boston, called to tell me they had Cabbage Patch dolls at some store near her and should she grab me two? Oh my God! I was so freaking excited!” 

Fads that won’t quit

Other readers stayed out of those frays but reported strong affection for smaller, simpler fads. Silly putty, anyone? Sea monkeys? Mexican jumping beans? 

A lot of folks admitted to owning at least one troll doll over the years and they can hardly be blamed. As fads go, these little dolls with their big eyes and stick up hair just refused to go away. 

Created in 1959, troll dolls were one of the biggest fads in the 1960s in the U.S., but they also saw major resurgences in the 1970s and again in the 1990s. You can still find them in most dollar stores. Start building your own troll doll army today! 

There were a few nods to Rubik’s Cube, the 3D combination puzzle that swept the world in the 1980s and which seemed to separate the geniuses from the dullards among us. 


Guess into which camp I fell? 

Love was expressed for an array of toys that seemed like marvels in their own time but which are now comically antiquated. The pogo stick, for instance. The Big Wheel, the Sit ‘n Spin. 

The Slinky? Everyone had one, and we mean that almost literally. This glorified spring (“A spring, a spring! A marvelous thing!”) was created in the 1940s and over the next six decades an estimated 300 million were sold and they’re STILL on store shelves. 

The humble Etch A Sketch, introduced in 1960, was likewise ubiquitous in its time, with more than 100 million sold. Some people have created bona fide works of art with their Etch A Sketch. I was not one of these people. 

Sea monkeys, marketed in the 1960s and ’70s, were basically brine shrimp yet clever packaging helped convince millions of people that this was some exotic species of distinctly humanoid creatures, each with its own distinct personality. Why, they would practically become part of the family, if you believed the illustration on the box. 

Sea monkeys endured through several decades and can still be found in random stores. Still just shrimp, though. 


Mexican jumping beans? I was absolutely enthralled by these things as a kid and I marveled over how a seemingly inanimate object could manage to twitch with seemingly sentiment life. 

As far as I was concerned, it was pure magic. No one ever told me there was a moth larva inside or that it was the larva’s bids for freedom that caused all the jumping.  

These so-called magic beans first began being hawked as novelties in the 1940s, but the peak of their popularity stretched between 1962 and 1994, with one retailer alone reporting shipping 3 to 5 million of the things each year, according to a report by the LA Times. You can still buy Mexican jumping beans online, I’m told. Not that I’m going to order any. Probably. 

We fully understand that we’ve probably missed a whole lot of fads here. Frankly, we bit off more than we could chew taking on this story. If you’re infuriated because we didn’t pay homage to classic games like Twister, Lite-Brite or Operation, and didn’t even mention toys like Stretch Armstrong, G.I. Joe or Rock ‘Em Sock ‘Em Robots, have mercy on us. 

We’ll make you a nice mix tape and split a four-pack of Zima. That should make you feel better. 

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