Long before internet memes and viral videos held such powerful sway over pop culture, fads were sweeping across America in the 1950s thanks to the proliferation of television, booming movie industry, growing fascination with celebrities, close-knit suburban communities, and other factors.
Here’s a quick nostalgic look at 15 of the most iconic fads from the fifties:
- Car hops were THE way to get your hamburger and milkshake in the 1950s. Burger joint patrons parked outside and waitresses would glide out on roller skates to serve them.
- Hula hoops were invented in the 1950s, and somehow, even without the ability for kids to upload YouTube videos of themselves gyrating their hips, these toys quickly became a major craze across the nation.
- DA haircuts—yup, it stands for duck’s ass—had a few variations, but basically, the hair was slicked back along the sides of the head and a part was created running straight up the middle of the back of the head. Some imaginative person decided it resembled a water fowl’s backside, and the world agreed.
- Poodle skirts are undoubtedly one of the most iconic fashion fads of the fifties. Invented by fashion designer Juli Lynne Charlot, they were a particularly popular outfit element among teen girls when they attended sock hops. Which brings us to…
- Sock hops were informal dances usually held in high school gymnasiums, featuring the new Devil’s music—rock ‘n roll—sweeping the country. They got their name because the kids had to take off their shoes before twisting the night away so they wouldn’t scuff up the gym floor.
- Saddle shoes, speaking of shoes, were an enormously popular style of footwear in the ’50s. These casual Oxford shoes have a saddle-shaped decorative panel in the middle. A bit stiff and clunky, they were probably appreciated more for their appearance than the level of comfort they provide.
- Coonskin caps were a major craze among young boys in the 1950s. They were a tribute to boyhood heroes of the era like the frontiersmen Davy Crockett and Daniel Boone.
- Telephone booth stuffing was a fairly frivolous activity that was inexplicably popular during the decade. It was very much what it sounds like; college students crammed themselves into a phone booth. Everyone wanted to set a new record for how many kids could fit. This is not the same phenomenon as the mobs seen in today’s Apple stores on new iPhone release dates.
- Drive-in movies capitalized on a fortuitous merging of the booming car culture and film industry in the fifties. Though the first drive-in movie theater had opened in 1933, it wasn’t until the 1950s that they caught on among the masses.
- Letterman jackets and letter sweaters were a popular trend for high school and college girls who wanted to show off that they were dating a jock.
- Conical bras were something else ladies loved to wear, and they became strongly associated with the era’s standard of feminine beauty. Marilyn Monroe, Jayne Mansfield, and Jane Russell were largely responsible for igniting the fad. Not Madonna.
- Cateye glasses were the accessory of choice for many young women. They’re such an iconic fad from the decade that today they’re one of the most widely embraced items among people going for a retro look.
- Jell-O molds were all the rage at the time, when people took a serious interest in encapsulating various foods in gelatin. They were among the most classic desserts of the 1950s, and savory preparations were often served at parties and even sometimes at the family dinner table.
- Fuzzy dice hung from so many of the rear-view mirrors of the 1950s cars of Americans. During WWII, fighter pilots hung them in their cockpits for good luck. In the ’50s, they became one of the first items sold specifically for hanging from a car’s rear-view mirror, and they quickly became a well-entrenched fad.
- Sideburns were as hip as hip could be, thanks in large part to Elvis Presley and James Dean. They became a classic element of the greaser look of the era, along with the DA haircuts, bomber jackets, fitted T-shirts with sleeves rolled up, and the rest of the ensemble.