People born between 1980 and 2000 are considered millennials. Some accuse them of killing off some iconic American brands, among other things. Then, there are some brands millennials never got a chance to experience. From the original Nintendo to Reebok Pumps, these are the products that defined the 1980s generation that millennials have no clue about.
1. Cabbage Patch Kids
- What they were: Soft toy dolls
Looking at these now, you can’t help but wonder what all the fuss was about. In the 1980s, however, these dolls were must-have Christmas gifts that caused mass pandemonium in the stores. Like Tickle Me Elmo or Beanie Babies, the demand is way down now, though some sellers are asking a pretty penny on eBay, much more than the original $25 cost.
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2. Floppy disks
- What they were: A way to save computer data
Computers now rarely come with any sort of drives. The ’80s were different. Clouds were only referenced in terms of weather, and if you said the words “flash drive” together people would probably think you were having your picture taken in a car. Internal memory wasn’t sufficient enough to store lots of data, so any work you did had to be saved on disks. First, there were thin, 5-inch floppy disks before rigid, 3.5-inch disks came along. Now, both are long extinct.
Next: The trend that mocked the Cabbage Patch Dolls craze
3. Garbage Pail Kids
- What they were: Trading cards
Seeing the crazy success of the Cabbage Patch Kids dolls we just discussed, Topps released these trading cards in 1985. Characters had names, such as Up Chuck, Itchy Richie, and Potty Scotty, and the cards that spoofed the dolls got so popular that they made a movie. These days, some eBay sellers are charging more than $3,000 for a full original set, much more than what a pack cost back in the 1980s.
Next: This was some popular footwear back in the day.
4. Jellies sandals
- What they were: Plastic sandals
These cheap plastic sandals were huge in the ’80s. Why? Who knows? It was the ’80s, and reason never really factored into it. Similar to the way some people coordinate Apple Watch bands with their outfits, these shoes were affordable enough ($10 to $20 to start) that you could own several pairs and match them to what you were wearing. Knockoffs inevitably came, but regardless of whether they were originals, this was popular footwear that everyone had to have.
Next: More dolls that kids had to have
5. My Buddy and Kid Sister Dolls
- What they were: Gender-targeted dolls
We covered Cabbage Patch Kids already, but these were other dolls aimed at getting kids to beg their parents to buy them. Their popularity died down toward the end of the ’80s but not before a catchy commercial jingle got stuck in your head.
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- What it was: 8-bit home video game console
Atari and ColecoVision had already come and gone by the time the Nintendo Entertainment System came to the United States in 1985. The first NES made people forget about its predecessors even quicker, even with a $199 price tag that was staggering for the time. Sometimes it took blowing on the cartridges to get the games to work, but that’s the price people were willing to pay to play Super Mario Bros. and Mike Tyson’s Punch-Out at home. You can buy a newly produced NES Classic pre-loaded with games, and save yourself some blowing.
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7. Reebok Pumps
- What they were: Shoes with inflatable air pockets inside
These just sneaked into the ’80s as they were released in November 1989. The thinking was the inflatable air bladder inside the shoe would provide a better fit to your foot. Whether it did is another debate. You can still buy Reebok shoes with pump technology, but the originals and their $170 price tag are long gone. Millennials will never know the late-’80s feeling of strolling into a Foot Locker in the mall, trying on a pair of original pumps, and pumping up until you lost circulation in your feet.
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8. Scholastic book order forms
- What they were: A way to order books at school
Believe it or not, teachers used to encourage kids to shop during class. It was the Scholastic Book Club order form (or Troll Carnival Book Club, which later became part of Scholastic). Basically, the teacher would pass out a flier that had all the books kids wanted to read, and the kids would put a check mark next to the ones their parents would (hopefully) order. Scholastic is still around, though the ordering process is a little different.
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9. Slap bracelets
- What they were: Trendy wrist accessories
In the literal sense, slap bracelets were cheap pieces of metal wrapped in fabric that laid flat until they were slapped on your wrist and coiled into a circle. In the figurative sense, they were must-have fashion accessories no one could live without. The original Slap Wraps, as they were known, set the stage for a glut of cheap, lower-quality imitators. They’re not quite as popular now as they were in the ’80s, but Apple apparently referenced slap bracelets in a patent application in 2013. Not bad for a product that cost a little more than $1 at the peak of its popularity.
Next: Winter wear as a fashion statement
10. Starter jackets
- What they were: Brightly colored sports gear
Starter jackets are still around, though they aren’t nearly as popular now as they were in the late 1980s. Back then, nearly every kid wanted these flashy team jackets. And the brighter they were, the better.
Next: The must-have school accessory
11. Trapper Keepers
- What they were: Fancy three-ring binders
Paying $5 for a three-ring binder these days seems absurd. Paying $5 for a three-ring binder with a fancy design and branded as a Trapper Keeper? That was totally normal in the 1980s. Trapper Keepers came with colorful designs or fancy supercars on the outside and room for folders on the inside. It was a way for students to keep all their homework organized in one place. If you want to buy a piece of history, Trapper Keepers are for sale on eBay for substantially more than $5.
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12. TV and movie theme cereal
- What they were: The first meal of the day
Specialty cereals licensed for TV shows or movies are still around, but in the 1980s almost every show or movie had a cereal. Mr. T, Rainbow Brite, Ghostbusters, E.T., G.I. Joe, Gremlins, and C-3PO all had cereals in the 1980s. It gave new meaning to dining with the stars.
Next: Playing games in public
13. Video game arcades
- What they were: Places to play games
We already covered how Nintendo changed video games with the NES. Before home gaming, though, you usually had to go to a video arcade to play your video games. With all the games in one location, you could hop between Pac-Man, Space Invaders, Millipede, Rampage, and more. The only downsides? Running out of money, and waiting in line to play the best games.
Next: Your tunes go with you.
- What they were: Mobile music players
Way before phones with Spotify, before iPods came to be, and before MiniDisc players, the Sony Walkman was the biggest thing in mobile music. These days, only Star-Lord from Guardians of the Galaxy has a Walkman, but in the 1980s everybody wanted one. With enough batteries and storage space for your cassette tapes, you could take your music library with you. Sony made billions on Walkman and tapes in 1985. When it first came out in 1979, the Walkman cost $200.
Next: A 1980s fashion trend destined to stay there
15. Z. Cavaricci pants
- What they were: Pants. They were just pants.
Fashion in the 1980s was not necessarily something to be proud of. While certain elements are back in style, Z. Cavaricci pants aren’t among them. These high-waisted, pleated pants with roughly 300 belt loops and the name printed on the fly were huge for a time. Z. Cavaricci wasn’t the only short-lived fashion trend of the decade. Special shoutout to Zubaz pants and Esprit clothing, both of which are still around but not nearly as popular as they were back then. Heck, even some are speculating Z. Cavaricci could make a comeback.
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