The 6 Crazy and Fascinating Fads that Attracted Millions

Why do we humans embrace fads like these?

A fad is when something like a product, a practice, or an interest excites many people in a short period. It is the original version of something going viral — before the age of social media.

Fads are characterized by a white-hot enthusiasm over a new phenomenon that seemed to come out of nowhere. By the time most of us hear about it, this new thing has already become a fad. The odd thing about fads is that many times, all the excitement has absolutely nothing with its inherent qualities many of them are very low quality.

But the definition of a true fad does not end there.

To be a legitimate fad, it has to be relatively short-lived. Fads always fade into obscurity about as rapidly as they initially caught fire. And those who embraced the fad go about their lives and give it no more thought.

pet rock

Pet Rock

The Pet Rock has been the inspiration for many would-be entrepreneurs who wish to seek their fortune with a new idea. This is because of a crazy idea by an advertising executive named Gary Dahl.

Dahl invented the Pet Rock — which was nothing more than taking a rock, putting it in a box, and calling it a pet. Even though this fad from the 1970s lasted only six months, it has never been forgotten.

The rock was sold with a comprehensive ‘Pet Rock Training Manual.’ The manual provided guidance to new Pet Rock owners on how to raise and take care of their new pet. Several commands were listed in the manual that could be taught to the rock. They guaranteed that the Pet Rock would obey commands like ‘stay’ and ‘sit.’

virtual pets

Virtual Pets

Digital pets are unique because they have no physical form aside from the hardware device on which they operate. But they do mimic the needs that most pets have. The virtual pet must be fed, and it needs to be walked — things that are done with the push of a button — and if these things are forgotten, the virtual pets die.

The virtual pet became a fad in 1996 when Bandai introduced their Tamagotchi, the first of these pets. This new device was originally offered in a translucent egg shape that could fit into the palm of your hand.

The Tamagotchi was marketed as a baby alien that needed your care. The device would beep when it needed some kind of action from its caretaker — which was often a child. Whenever the unit died from improper care, kids began staging their funerals for these beloved virtual pets.

Mood Rings

Mood Rings

The Mood Ring first became a rage in the 1970s. It was designed to alert people as to what mood they are experienced. This was done by the color it displayed when worn. For instance, black meant you were stressed or anxious, blue meant you were happy, and a whole assortment of other colors identified moods from angry to sexy.

They came in a couple of forms. They were either a glass stone on a thermotropic liquid crystal sheet or a glass bubble filled with the liquid crystal. The Mood Ring has reappeared and disappeared several times since the 1970s.



Sea Monkeys were first introduced in the year 1957 by a man named Harold von Braunhut. It was originally called ‘Instant Life,’ but was later renamed as ‘Sea-Monkeys’ in May 1962⁴. These fascinating characters are sold in packets that are ready to go.

To get the process started, a water purifier pack is added to water on the first day. This pack contains eggs along with some salt. On the second day, the ‘instant life eggs’ pack is added, which contains borax, some Epsom salts, and soda ash, as well as yeast, eggs, and often a green or blue dye.

The dye enhances the spectacle by making the ‘instant life’ process more visible. The Sea-Monkeys that can be seen on day two after adding the ‘eggs package’ actually come from the eggs in the first purifier package. There is also a food package that is a combination of dried yeast and Spirulina. Finally, there’s a ‘boost’ package that contains salts, which promote sexual activity in artemia.

cabbage patch kids

Cabbage Patch Kids

Cabbage Patch Kids were first invented in 1978 and were ultimately mass-produced in the year of 1982. This was perhaps the number one fad from the 1980s. They became so popular that people engaged in fistfights and near-riots at department stores during Christmas to ensure their children got one.

Even though they were short-lived as all fads are, they were also one of the most successful toys. In 1985, they grossed over $600 million in sales. After the craze over these dolls subsided, the similar Garbage Pail Kids followed shortly afterward — designed to attract to the millions of Cabbage Patch Kid lovers.

smiley face

Smiley Buttons

The popular smiley face graphic was first introduced in the early 1970s by brothers Bernard and Murray Spain, who used the face in a campaign to market novelty items. The brother went full bored with them as they produced the popular buttons and t-shirts, coffee mugs, bumper stickers, and countless other items displaying the smiley face.

The phrase, ‘Have a Happy Day’ was often seen along with the graphic. In a matter of months, they could be seen everywhere. Their influence has also had considerable lasting power as we still see them today.