Ain't life fadtastic? The A to Z of fads

view gallery VIEW GALLERY

From boob-tubes to Tamagotchi, human history is littered with ill-advised crazes. Rhodri Marsden looks back in wonder – and imagines what our future holds

Thank goodness that common sense deserts us from time to time. Imagine how lacking in sparkle our everyday existences would be if we didn't occasionally make absurd decisions, such as jumping in a fountain fully-clothed, belching loudly at a Christening or marrying our cousin.

Without hare-brained, impetuous plans and preposterous ideas to add some va-va-voom to our waking hours, we would all proceed in a pre-ordained, predictable fashion – in fact, our lives probably wouldn't be worth living at all. And after we'd all gone through the motions, history could be plotted on a gently sloping graph, free of kinks and looking for all the world like the performance data of a highly-efficient combustion engine.

But sometimes we're liable to happily jump on a bandwagon and collectively decide that something is a great idea, while somehow all managing to suppress any niggling thoughts in the back of our minds that it might be a load of rubbish. We invariably come to our senses after a while; we're able to look back with the benefit of hindsight and either gasp at our naivety, lack of taste or downright stupidity, before immediately plunging ourselves into some new ill-thought-out activity that will inevitably be judged by future generations as being a bit silly, too. We can't help ourselves. We're doomed to do it, through a combination of being highly suggestible and easily bored.

In 1974 and 1975, a colossal proportion of British teenage girls clad themselves in ankle-length tartan trousers and tartan scarves, and screamed at deafening volume at the Bay City Rollers, a band from Scotland who you could safely say weren't pushing back the frontiers of songwriting. But by the summer of 1977, you'd be hard pushed to find any girls who'd be prepared to admit that they'd ever had anything tartan lurking in their wardrobe. Total embarrassment and shame had descended. And if it wasn't for the video evidence, we wouldn't have known that it had happened at all. "Bye Bye Baby" is no worse or better a record today than it was when it was released, but you don't find anyone wearing a Tam o' Shanter and playing it over and over again while bawling loudly.

You see, humans are terribly fickle creatures; recipes that excite our tastebuds today might revolt us by the following Tuesday, and ornaments that our grandparents once cherished are unceremoniously jettisoned into skips if they don't coincide with our current aesthetic outlook. We live our lives amid a complex web of rapidly changing whims, desires, ethics and policies; we pick the ones we like, and they form the spirit of our age, the spirit of our society. The zeitgeist. When we're bored with those, we quietly disown them and quickly find something else. And that becomes the new zeitgeist. But what we can't ever do is get rid of the zeitgeist. It's always knocking about.

What does it comprise today? A zillion things: hatred of bankers, the word LOL, a bizarre love of competitive TV-based ballroom dancing, a disinterest in the plight of factory-farmed chickens, the Kings Of Leon. In 100 years, it might be uploading your brain to someone else's during the night as a joke so they wake up disorientated, zinc handbags and cannibalism. We have no idea. But what we can do is look back and laugh at, wince at or, very occasionally, rehabilitate things that our ancestors thought were brilliant, but then realised weren't that good after all. Eating swans. Tamagotchi. Crinolines. Shell suits. The things that just make you think: why?

Click here or on the image to the right to launch the A-Z of fads

"The Next Big Thing" by Rhodri Marsden is published by Penguin (£5.99).


To order a copy for the special price of £5.69 (free P&P) call Independent Books Direct on 08430 600 030, or visit

Suggested Topics
newsAnother week, another dress controversy on the internet
Life and Style
Scientist have developed a test which predicts whether you'll live for another ten years
Life and Style
Marie had fake ID, in the name of Johanna Koch, after she evaded capture by the Nazis in wartime Berlin
historyOne woman's secret life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
news... and what your reaction to the creatures above says about you
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebookPart of The Independent’s new eBook series The Great Composers
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Gadgets & Tech

    Ashdown Group: Systems Administrator - Lancashire - £30,000

    £28000 - £30000 per annum: Ashdown Group: 3rd Line Support Engineer / Network ...

    Recruitment Genius: Graduate Web Developer

    £26000 - £33000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Web Developer is required to ...

    Ashdown Group: PeopleSoft Developer - London - £45k

    £45000 per annum: Ashdown Group: PeopleSoft Application Support & Development ...

    Recruitment Genius: Web Hosting Support Agent

    Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: One of the North West's leading web hosting pr...

    Day In a Page

    Syrian conflict is the world's first 'climate change war', say scientists, but it won't be the last one

    Climate change key in Syrian conflict

    And it will trigger more war in future
    How I outwitted the Gestapo

    How I outwitted the Gestapo

    My life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
    The nation's favourite animal revealed

    The nation's favourite animal revealed

    Women like cuddly creatures whilst men like creepy-crawlies
    Is this the way to get young people to vote?

    Getting young people to vote

    From #VOTESELFISH to Bite the Ballot
    Poldark star Heida Reed: 'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'

    Poldark star Heida Reed

    'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'
    The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

    The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

    Netanyahu knows he can get away with anything in America, says Robert Fisk
    Families clubbing together to build their own affordable accommodation

    Do It Yourself approach to securing a new house

    Community land trusts marking a new trend for taking the initiative away from developers
    Head of WWF UK: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

    David Nussbaum: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

    The head of WWF UK remains sanguine despite the Government’s failure to live up to its pledges on the environment
    Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

    Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

    Set in a mythologised 5th-century Britain, ‘The Buried Giant’ is a strange beast
    With money, corruption and drugs, this monk fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’

    Money, corruption and drugs

    The monk who fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’
    America's first slavery museum established at Django Unchained plantation - 150 years after slavery outlawed

    150 years after it was outlawed...

    ... America's first slavery museum is established in Louisiana
    Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

    Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

    The first 'American Idol' winner on how she manages to remain her own woman – Jane Austen fascination and all
    Tony Oursler on exploring our uneasy relationship with technology with his new show

    You won't believe your eyes

    Tony Oursler's new show explores our uneasy relationship with technology. He's one of a growing number of artists with that preoccupation
    Ian Herbert: Peter Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

    Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

    The England coach leaves players to find solutions - which makes you wonder where he adds value, says Ian Herbert
    War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

    The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

    Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn