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Last Updated on December 1, 2022
The 90s were a glorious time. Cell phones were bricks carried by a select few, social media was a mere dream, and nights were spent by hours on the landline to our best friends.
The 90s years were full of fads, from butterfly clips to the ‘Carlton’ dance. Must-have toys were begged for, and consumerism was rife.
Here are the best, (or worst?) 90s fads.
Multi-colored, plastic clips with butterfly wings and glitter, in all shapes and sizes. Hair was twisted into rows, gathered into a messy bun, and dotted with multiple butterflies.
- 2. ‘The running man’
- 3. ‘The Carlton’
- 4. Denim overalls with embroidery
- 5. Mom jeans
- 6. ‘The Rachel’
- 7. Hats with fake flowers
- 8. Tamagotchis and Giga Pets
- 9. ‘Light as a feather, stiff as a board’
- 10. Rainbow socks
- 11. Tickle-Me Elmo
- 12. Silly Putty Eggs
- 13. Furbies
- 14. Trolls
- 15. My Little Pony
- 16. Puppy Surprise
- 17. Doodle Bear
- 18. Sky Dancers
- 19. Polly Pocket
- 20. Scratch and sniff stickers
- 21. Spice Girl Impulse spray
- 22. Blue mascara
- 23. Body glitter
- 24. Elastics
- 25. “Talk to the hand”
- 26. Blow-up…everything
- 27. Platforms
- 28. Ring pops
- 29. The Macarena
- 30. Huge logos
- 31. Teeny tiny shoulder bags
- 32. A surprise puppy
- 33. Pacifiers for adults
- 34. Gooey candy
- 35. Doodle bears
- 36. Gel candy
- 37. T-shirt fads
- 38. Baking fads
- 39. Workout fads
- 40. Card fads
- 41. Nail fads
- 42. Jean fads
- 43. Yoyo
- 44. Health food fads
- 45. Makeup fads
2. ‘The running man’
The dancing style that involved high knees, pumping arms, and a whole lot of energy. The dance originated in the 80s but was still groovin hard in the 90s. Janet Jackson and New Kids On The Block rocked this dance (and so did Stephanie on ‘Full House’).
3. ‘The Carlton’
Carlton Banks on ‘The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air’ has gone down in history with his nerdy, high-energy dance to Tom Jones’ “It’s not unusual”. A sweater vest and bone-colored slacks optional.
4. Denim overalls with embroidery
Overalls were huge in the 90s, but for a time, they were embroidered and patched. Peace signs, yin and yang signs, and rainbows were favorites.
5. Mom jeans
Mom jeans were the laughing stock of the 90s in the 00s (ironic considering the ultra-low boot-cut jeans we wore then!). However, they were, and still are, all the rage. The higher, the better.
6. ‘The Rachel’
Jennifer Aniston’s hair when she played Rachel in ‘Friends’ was as famous as the show itself. Women across the world flocked to the hairdresser to get those signature layers. Check out all famous (and infamous) hairstyles of the 90s.
7. Hats with fake flowers
Teen TV show ‘Blossom’ made brimmed hats with flowers a key look in the 90s. Soft-touch hats with upturned brims and big fake sunflowers pinned front and center.
8. Tamagotchis and Giga Pets
Digital pets that hat to be fed, watered, and cared for were inexplicably popular in the 90s. They taught a generation of kids to be obsessed over digital toys, with technology stuck to their palms. Sound familiar?
9. ‘Light as a feather, stiff as a board’
This was a 90s slumber party staple, with pre-teens and teens “lifting” a fellow party-goer with a mere finger each. Most of us learned it from teen witch flick ‘The Craft’.
10. Rainbow socks
Rainbow socks were a necessity in my friend group in the late 90s. They came up to the knee and were often worn with Steve Madden black slides or platform sneakers.
11. Tickle-Me Elmo
Like the Furby, the Tickle-Me Elmo doll swept the world and had parents giving in to begging and pleading. Hey, if it encourages joy and laughter, why not?
12. Silly Putty Eggs
Plastic eggs filled with colored gunk. We sure did love to play with gooey substances in the 90s, didn’t we? I guess it’s not so different from the ‘slime’ trend of recent years.
The late 90s ushered in the Furby, that annoying, demanding, infuriating little fuzzy thing so many of us begged for. It was a thrill to watch these fuzzy friends “learn” English.
Did you have a troll doll with multi-colored hair stuck on the end of your pencil? Join the club! These odd little dudes were released in the late 50s but had a huge surge in the 90s.
15. My Little Pony
Little plastic ponies with pastel-toned hair and glitter designs on their haunches. While they were released in the early 80s, they had a major moment in the 90s.
16. Puppy Surprise
This always struck me as a little cheap, as you could get three, four, or five puppies inside your dog toy. We were painfully disappointed if we only got three.
17. Doodle Bear
A teddy bear that came with markers for decorating said bear. You could draw and write all over it before throwing it in the washing machine. How were we roped into such things?
18. Sky Dancers
My sister had a Sky Dancer and I was painfully jealous. They were fairy-like dolls with shimmering, pastel colors. You set them on a base, pulled the string, and watched them fly into the air.
19. Polly Pocket
Polly Pockets had us all imagining new worlds and having space all to ourselves, even if it was palm-sized and made of plastic.
20. Scratch and sniff stickers
Sticker books were filled with puffy stickers, furry stickers, holographic stickers, and stickers that smelled like chocolate or strawberries after you scratched them. Swapping stickers was a proud pastime.
21. Spice Girl Impulse spray
Depending on where you grew up, this may or may not ring a bell. The body spray was released in 1997 and was pungent indeed. If I whiffed it now I swear my entire childhood would rush back to me.
22. Blue mascara
Navy or electric blue mascara, ultra-thin eyebrows, and frosty brow bones were the height of cool beauty in the 90s. High-shine lip gloss or matte brown lipstick polished it all off.
23. Body glitter
Body glitter was a gem among 90s fads, and it was favored by all ages. Jars full of colored gel and glitter in various shapes sat on the dressers of kids, teens, and adults everywhere. Cover your limbs, face, and hair before heading out to dance The Macarena.
One of the simplest games ever. A huge ring of elastic that you would wind around two people’s legs and get another friend to jump over with various foot patterns. If you trip, hit the elastics, or break the routine? Get out, my friend.
25. “Talk to the hand”
“…cause the face don’t wanna hear it”. Remember that? It was up there with “phat”, “whatever”, and “wazzuuup”. Check our our ultimate list of 90 slang.
Platform shoes were a must-have for girls the world over. We had The Spice Girls to thank for this, with their sky-high sneakers. Platform flip-flops were also a big hit.
28. Ring pops
Candy in the form of jewelry has always had mass appeal. Candy necklaces and bracelets? Sure. Giant jewel rings made of candy, making your fingers sticky? We uttered a collective “yes”.
29. The Macarena
Having flashbacks to your school dance with everyone doing ‘The Macarena’ when that song inevitably came on? It was grating on the ears but surprisingly fun on the dance floor.
30. Huge logos
I know streetstyle is trying to convince you that it’s “cool” to deck yourself in huge, tacky logos. Yes, I’m talking about that hideous t-shirt everyone wore in 2018.
31. Teeny tiny shoulder bags
Saddle bags are not for everyone but they are teeny and sometimes not everything fits in so you need to be super sure and super organised if you are going to use one.
32. A surprise puppy
This is the decade of the puppy present. We saw it in movies (think Lady and the Tramp or Beethoven), in series, and above all in real life. The surprise puppy could come for Xmas, for your birthday (as mine did! With a huge pink bow by the way!) or in the middle of the week. It was one of the most wished-for presents for toddlers and teenagers alike.
33. Pacifiers for adults
We saw some weird things during the 90s, but wearing pacifiers is right there at the top of my list. Nothing as bizarre as seeing someone wear those little shiny plastic pacifiers hanging around their neck or as a hair decoration. There were plenty of different sizes to choose from, from tiny almost bearable ones to the ones big enough to be usable by adults. Let’s not even get started on jingly bracelets with multiple pacifiers…
34. Gooey candy
Mamba chewable candies, Soda Licious fruit snacks candy, Sour Punch Twists… Anything that was chewable and somewhat melted in your mouth was part of this huge sweet fad that swept the homes of the decade.
Push pops and Lollipops were hugely famous too, but there was no candy that could come close to the chewy goodness that was gooey candy. Especially if it was acid or fuzzy. That was like a fad inside the fad thing!
Check Out: 30+ of the Absolute Best 90s Snacks
35. Doodle bears
If you liked to draw incessantly, over your shoes, your walls, your journals, and even your classroom notebooks, chances are you also had a doodle bear.
They came out in 1995 and were made out of cotton fabric. Supposedly, you could wash it after doodling all over it and if it was within 48hrs, it would all be washed away. You had to remember to put the bear in a pillowcase though, or things might go… awry. Don’t ask, RIP my doodle bear.
36. Gel candy
Haribo’s Gummi bears, Shark Bites, Jelly Babies… They are all part of the gummy or jelly sweets universe that is formed by gelatin-based chewable sweets. The amazing invention was a huge fad of the decade. Without a doubt, most kids preferred these types of sweets to the classics of the previous decade! Of course, most parents thought these jelly candies were beyond bad which only made them more popular with the kids!
37. T-shirt fads
Thinking back on it, wearing t-shirts was one of the biggest fads of the 90s. However, there were a ton of different trends inside of it: wearing your favorite band’s t-shirt, donning a fashion brand logo, sporting a retro cartoon, layering a white t-shirt under a cropped tank top/vest, wearing a net t-shirt, or even using a nylon see-through t-shirt… Oh, and wearing a printed t-shirt under a flannel shirt! Plenty to choose from.
38. Baking fads
If I think back to the baking fads of the 90s, the first thing that comes to mind is the Funfetti cake that was filled with colorful sprinkles, and in a close second comes the M&M’s filled chocolate cake that would spurt its filling as soon as it was cut. Mini everything was also huge when it came to birthdays: mini pizzas, mini bagels, mini chicken pot pies, you name it!
You’ll Love This: 55 of the Best 90s Cake Ideas for any Birthday Celebration
39. Workout fads
Step aerobics was the most popular workout fad of the decade, no doubt. Bouncing up and down, kicking your legs, and pumping your arms to the very upbeat music was all kinds of exhausting and hot. Tae Bo was also huge. In fact, my aunt was a huge fan! It was basically a combo of martial arts and kickboxing wrapped up in hardcore cardio and blaring music. Not for the faint of heart!
40. Card fads
The Pokémon trading cards game was amazingly popular during the 90s. I don’t know about you but I was very invested in Pokémon as a whole at the time. I knew all the Pokémons by heart (when they were still only 151) and I watched the episodes religiously. So, when it was time to “catch them all” by getting the cards, it was no surprise that I was all in!
41. Nail fads
Cher from Clueless wore her nails in a perfect thin french manicure and that was all the inspiration that most girls needed! French manicure was one of the easiest styles to pull, together with all white nails.
Chunky glitter, marbled psychedelic designs, and metallic nails were some of the most popular and fun nail art trends during the decade. Vampy shades like burgundy, plum, oxblood, and black on the other hand, were the preferred choices of the grunge scene and they were considered super badass.
42. Jean fads
Before skinny jeans were even in the picture, flared and wide-leg jeans were everywhere. An oversized and loose silhouette was preferred, making high-waisted ample jeans absolutely mainstream.
Straight legs were usually paired with band t-shirts and worn or torn wide jeans donned with tight tank tops that exaggerated a tiny waist. Jeans were a staple in every closet and Levi’s, Lee’s, and other preferred jean brands were everywhere.
Despite yoyo’s being ancient (they can be traced back to nearly 500 B.C.), doing yoyo tricks was definitely a thing of the 90s! If you could throw a yoyo, you were practicing your moves and showing them to your pals during break time.
There were a ton of fancy yoyo designs like the ones that could change forms mid-air as you twirled them or the ones that had fancy strings. Still, any good old yoyo was enough to play around and share in the fun.
44. Health food fads
The 90s were definitely the decade of consuming low-fat and non-fat foods, especially dessert items. Despite being advertised as healthy food options, most of these products were anything but, and they used chemicals of dubious nature (that would in some cases be banned years later) to replace more natural and calorie heavy ingredients.
It was all part of the athletic craze that focused on weight loss and calorie counting. A deeply rooted belief that eating fats made you fat ruled how people ate and related to their food.
45. Makeup fads
It was the time of all-over shimmering sparkles, matte skin, pencil-thin brows, overlined lips, and blue/pastel eyeshadow. The most popular lipstick color of the decade was without doubt the brick lip. A weird shade between brown, bronze, and brick that was worn by Drew Barrymore, Winona Ryder, and your neighbor. From the street to the red carpet, it was impossible to escape its reach.