I was more a ’90s kid than ’80s kid, but plenty of huge ’80s trends played into my childhood years.
I was born in 1979, so I only remember a portion of the ’80s. But, even in that fleeting time, I still had time to get down with plenty of the fads from that decade. Here are 11 that I’m looking back on fondly…
1 | Garbage Pail Kids
I loved these things. In fact, they were the first cards I collected. Which was strangely out of character, because I’ve never been that into gross-out humor. I collected them obsessively, peaking around the third edition of the Kids. Fortunately, my parents had enough sense not to let me go see the Garbage Pail Kids movie. I feel my life is completely fine without it.
2 | Nintendo
Oh man did I buy into this one. I wanted a Nintendo more than anything. I loved going to my friends’ houses to play Super Mario Bros. And even to play with the Nintendo Robot. And, fortunately, I did get a Nintendo before the ’80s were over. How much did I love it? Twenty years later, it’s still in my bedroom at my parents’ home… still works great (although some blowing on the games is, naturally, required)… and I still have the original Mario/Duck Hunt game that came packaged with it.
3 | Swatch watch
I loved my Swatch watch with the rubber guard covering the watch face. Then I played with the rubber cover incessantly and snapped it. But it was a good run.
4 | Hypercolor shirts
I absolutely lusted after one of these. I thought it was so cool — a shirt that changes colors when someone touches it! Of course, after I finally whined my way into one (after several, several years), I learned that it wasn’t so responsive to touch… but quite responsive to my personal body heat and sweat. And that’s when young Sam began regularly using deodorant.
5 | He-Man
He-Man was my first bona fide obsession. I knew everything about the show. I loved the toys. And the people at Mattel would be happy to hear that, because now, in retrospect, it’s abundantly clear that the show was nothing more than one long toy commercial.
6 | WWF wresting
I didn’t get into wrestling until the very late ’80s… around the time when Hulk Hogan had just won the title back from Randy Savage. But I really fell in love. My dad and I would go to Cleveland’s Richfield Coliseum to watch the shows when the WWF came to town. I bought a Bret “Hitman” Hart tank top and his trademark wrap-around sunglasses. I subscribed to the magazine. When friends would sleep over, we’d rent old WWF tapes (Coliseum Home Video, of course) and catch up on what happened at WrestleManias and SummerSlams past. And, the ultimate sign: I would even go on the crude, crude, crude early version of the Internet (USENET) to read and post on a BBS about pro wrestling.And, like many, many others, my interest in wrestling faded around ’92 or ’93… was re-energized around ’95 or ’96… and then finally burnt out around ’02.
7 | California Raisins
I’m not sure why these things appealed to me… objectively speaking, they’re kind of boring and creepy. But I really got into the California Raisins, and even collected enough proofs-of-purchase from Raisin Bran to get a cassette mailed to me called California Raisins Sing the Hit Songs. It featured their classic renditions of I Heard it Through the Grapevine, La Bamba, Lean On Me and many, many others. The sad part: My parents weren’t that into music, so, for me, I actually heard those songs for the first time as the Raisins sang them. Fortunately I never got into an argument where I would say, “Who the hell is Marvin Gaye? I Heard it Through the Grapevine was originally performed by A.C., Beebop, Stretch and Red. Ever heard of them?”
8 | Zubaz pants
It’s very tragic in retrospect, but I went through a pretty bold phase of wearing Zubaz (or, more accurately, cheap imitation) pants. Complete with neon colored zebra striping and all the bagginess that I could handle. It might be the single worst fashion decision of my life.
9 | Slap bracelets
We didn’t care that, allegedly, kids all over the country were accidentally getting their wrists slit by these things. We bought them, slapped them and then burned out on them in a few weeks. Like true heroes.
10 | ALF
Best show of the ’80s. No doubt about it. Yo!
11 | Some of the music
So a few pieces of music worked their way to me (besides the aforementioned California Raisins). Not to much classic ’80s music… I discovered all of that later in life… but I did get my hands on the soundtrack to the movie Cocktail… and New Kids on the Block’s Hangin’ Tough. And I engaged in lengthy debates about why they decided to make Hangin’ Tough and You Got It (The Right Stuff) sound nearly identical.