The 1990s was both a strange and exciting decade. It gave birth to new music genres like grunge, hip hop, and rave. Brought new technologies to the masses, including cable TV and the world wide web. Popularized a variety of fashion choices including flannel shirts, overalls, mom jeans, and Doc Martens. But like most decades, the 1990s was full of silly fads. Here are some of the most popular 90s fads that were cool at the time, but definitely aren’t now.
As bulky 1990s technology, like cell phones and the Palm Pilot, became mainstream, people needed somewhere to put it all (chargers too). Out of necessity, the fanny pack, a purse that buckles on to your waist was born. Fanny Packs were very popular in the early 1990s with both men and women.
But the only people still wearing Fanny Packs today are mostly tourists. If you want to spot a fanny pack in the wild, try visiting Times Square or various landmarks in Europe.
Both grunge music and grunge fashion were huge in the 1990s. Nirvana‘s album Nevermind, and especially their song “Smells Like Teen Spirit“, single-handedly changed music forever. The song’s incredible popularity instantly destroyed the hair metal genre, made flannel shirts cool and made Seattle the new focus of the music industry. Most grunge bands didn’t make it past the 1990s, but several bands, including Pearl Jam and Alice In Chains, are still popular and touring today. Although Pearl Jam has successfully outlasted the 1990s (they even have their own satellite radio station on Sirius XM), grunge fashion has not. Save your flannel shirts for yard work.
Beanie Babies are nothing more than small stuffed animals filled with little plastic pellets, or “beans”. But Ty, Inc., the company behind Beanie Babies, created artificial demand for their products by purposely limiting supply, under delivering on store shipments and purposely discontinuing popular products. Guess what, the strategy worked. At the height of the 90s Beanie Babies craze, there was a cutthroat purchasing frenzy, fan clubs, fan websites and even dedicated magazines for collectors.
The limited supply and high demand even spawned a 3rd party market. In the 1990s, collecting Beanie Babies was seen as a practical financial investment. However, demand for the vintage plush animals has waned drastically over the years. Many recent Beanie Babies eBay auctions haven’t yielded either the buyers or the prices collectors had hoped for.
By 1997, Ty, Inc. had distributed over 200 million Beanie Babies around the world. In 2019, it was reported that H. Ty Warner, sole owner and founder of Ty Inc., was worth over $2 billion dollars.
5The Rachel Haircut
7Bleached Hair & Bleached Tips
Bleached hair was strangely popular, especially with guys in the 1990s. Using blonde hair dye to get bleached tips or spraying peroxide into your hair was very common. The fad even continued into the early 2000s. It’s almost impossible to watch an episode of MTV’s Jersey Shore without seeing someone with bleached tips.
If you weren’t into grunge or hip hop in the 1990s, then you were probably a big fan of boy bands. Backstreet Boys, New Kids on The Block, ‘N Sync, 98 Degrees, and New Edition are just a few of the annoying boy bands that topped the charts in the 90s.
In the late 1990s, an “oxygen bar” fad swept across the United States and Canada. Customers could choose an oxygen flavor (scent) and enjoy the “healing benefits” of oxygen for around $0.50 – $1.00 per minute.
Proponents of oxygen therapy claim that the treatments help improve health, remove toxins, relieve stress, boost energy levels, promote relaxation, increase concentration, ease allergies, and even cure headaches and hangovers. Popular 1990s celebrities like John Travolta, Michael Jackson, and Madonna, all reportedly owned special oxygen chambers at their homes. Actor Woody Harrelson even opened his own short-lived oxygen restaurant called O2 in West Hollywood.
10Budweiser’s Wassup Commercials
Barely making the cut for this list, Budweiser first debuted their Wassup ad campaign in late December 1999. The series of ads featured a group of friends who always answered their phones or other communications devices, like door intercoms, with the phrase “Wassup!” The memorable, but annoying commercials lasted several years before being phased out.
11Russ Troll Dolls
In addition to flannel shirts and saggy pants, overalls were also a very popular fashion trend in the 1990s. Hip hop artists would frequently only buckle one shoulder strap or wear their overalls with a belt and let the front flap hang out inside out. To make bulky overalls look sexier, women would wear half shirts and expose their midsections through the sides of the overalls. Even alternative and grunge music fans found a way to make overalls match their look.
In the early 1990s, a teacher named Blossom Galbiso at Waialua Elementary School in Oahu, Hawaii started teaching her students how to play one of her favorite games from her childhood called Milk Caps. The game was a fun way to teach her students math. But since milk is mostly sold in paper cartons today, not in glass bottles, her students looked elsewhere for caps. Their bottle cap of choice was from a Hawaiian juice called POG. Kids would collect and use the POG bottle caps to play Milk Caps and started calling the game Pogs.
As Galbiso’s students grew up and moved to other states, the game traveled with them. In just a few short years, Pogs quickly spread across the United States, Canada and then the world. But by the late-1990s the fad had crashed. Several manufacturers of Pogs, including Canada Games, went out of business as demand died off.
Similar to another popular 90s fad, Trolls, Pokemon also got the Hollywood treatment. The 2019 film, POKÉMON Detective Pikachu, stars Ryan Reynolds.
Is it cold in here or are your pants just pulled down? Probably one of the most ridiculous fashion fads of all time is sagging. Saggers would purposely pull their pants down exposing their underwear.
While walking home from high school one day, I saw some kids running away from the Police. One of them was a sagger. He barely made it a few steps when his pants fell down to his feet down causing him to trip and fall on the sidewalk. Not only did he get caught, but the Police also had to give him first aid.
How do you make an annoying some even more annoying? Attach a dance to it. In the 1990s, you couldn’t escape the reach of the Los Del Rio song “The Macarena” and its associated dance.
If sound engineers played the song at a stadium sporting event, everyone would jump to their feet and start “doing the Macarena”. Like a joke that won’t stop, decades later, the song still pops up in TV shows movies like Hotel Transylvania 3.
19Tickle Me Elmo
Tickle Me Elmo is a popular toy from the children’s TV show Sesame Street. The toy would giggle when you tickled its belly and then say Elmo‘s catchphrase “Oh boy, that tickles”. Tickle Me Elmo was one of the most popular holiday season toys during the 90s. But Elmo’s popularity has faded thanks in part to a Sesame Street sex scandal. The original voice of Elmo, Kevin Clash, was accused of sexual abuse. Clash resigned from Sesame Street following the charges.
20High-Waisted Women’s Jeans (aka Mom Jeans)
Are mom jeans 80s or 90s? Both. High-waisted women’s jeans first started becoming popular in the late 1980s. But it wasn’t until the 1990s that the style of jeans really caught on. Thanks to cameos in popular 1990s television shows like Friends and Beverly Hills 90210, the style of jeans quickly became very popular with middle-aged American women. The style of pants is comfortable and features a high waist cut above the belly button and had extra space in the leg and crotch. Most styles also featured an elastic waistband.
The term “mom jeans” didn’t completely catch on until 2003 when Saturday Night Live aired the infamous Mom Jeans parody commercial starring Tina Fey, Amy Poehler, Maya Rudolph, and Rachel Dratch. The tagline in the commercial was “For this Mother’s Day, don’t give Mom that bottle of perfume. Give her something that says, ‘I’m not a woman anymore… I’m a mom!'”