As each year passes and we get older the Christmas gifts that we yearned for as children become further and further removed from our hearts. While we grow in years, most of us tend toward the practical when giving suggestions for potential gifts. When we were kids, practical use had no impact on what we wanted. We wanted what we saw on TV; we wanted what our friends already had, and we wanted what looked like it would deliver a kick-ass time. Many different items have taken the youth by storm during Christmas season and depending on which decade you were born, the gifts could look quite different. For our purposes, we're going to stick with the 90’s, a particularly fad heavy season of products. We’ve compiled the ten most nostalgic, exciting, and influential gifts of that decade.
Thanks to Kevin McCallister sporting this piece of hardware in Home Alone 2, this item became a must for all the young guns circa 1992. The simple ability to record what you or others are saying and use the recordings like a detective collecting evidence induced feelings of importance and adulthood. A portable size, simple usage model, and the endorsement of child icon, McCauley Culkin, the Talkboy was destined for greatness.
The greatest appeal of these mini and lightly stuffed animals was their iconic heart name tags. Each beanie came equipped with a tag stating its name, DOB, and a little paragraph describing your new fuzzy friend. These became collector items, and when Micky D’s joined forces with the Beanie craze and distributed Teenie Beanie Babies in all of their Happy Meals, all hell broke loose. The craze reached a fever pitch, and the Beanies cemented themselves in the gift fad hall of fame.
Simplistic, imaginative, and an important game, playing house has been a favorite of kiddos for eons. The game started to take shape as more advanced model kitchen sets became available at toy stores but the plastic foods always left something to be desired. The Easy Bake Oven took playing house to a whole new level. Nothing could take the fantasy world of the house to a more realistic place than the ability to bake your own goods. Easy Bake provided a safe and simple oven for kids of all ages.
Fresh game systems have been a staple under Christmas trees since the 80’s. Few systems in the history of gaming have been able to sustain the type of loyalty that fans of the N64 have maintained. Many who were gifted this gaming console when they were kids still love to play today. Whether it’s NFL Blitz, Goldeneye, Ken Griffey Jr. Baseball, Super Smash Bros., or Mario Kart, the influence of this system has stood the test of time.
The creative team at Reebok struck gold when they slapped a pump button on the tongue of their high tops. Supposedly, this pump had the ability to transform someone into a basketball juggernaut in just a few pumps. In actuality, the pump didn’t enhance leaping, dribbling, or shooting ability, but it did verifiably increase the swag of those that sported them at recess. This was more than enough to give Reebok their first (and probably last) competitive product to the basketball juggernaut that is Nike and the brand of his Airness.
For the creative young offspring, Gell Roll Pens were an essential in the innovation tool belt. They separated themselves from the run of the mill crayons and markers with their unique colors and glittery finish. Established in 1984, the Gelly Roll Pens may have peaked in the 90’s, but these ink instruments are still available in a store near you.
In an attempt to substitute the need to nurture a pet, the Tamagotchi aimed to give all the satisfaction of being a caretaker and cram it into to one tiny digital image device. The devices were equipped with a need notification system that told its owners when it was hungry and when it was feeling lonely. While they enjoyed substantial success, these robotic pets could never quite replace every child’s need for canine companionship.
In a land and time far away, years before smartphones and the flash in the pan that took the world by storm, Pokemon Go, there existed Pokemon Cards. These cards were owned with pride by elementary students across the globe. Everyone was hoping for the rarest and most potent HP fueled Pokie’s (Charizard, Mewtwo, Blastoise, etc.). Having an abundance of cards and a few of the more powerful Pokie’s was a real status symbol amongst juveniles, and they continue to be sold for lucrative prices to collectors to this day.
These Mighty Morphan fighters produced the first show that I can remember receiving a ban in my household due to its dark tone (and thus became the first show I actively snuck watching). At the spry age of four, the allure of the Power Rangers was inescapable. Young men and women who wore superhero outfits fought off evil villains and enjoyed life as the popular kids as they strolled the halls of Angel Grove High were the perfect role models for the youngsters of the 90’s. When the action figures of these heroes hit the shelves of every toy store, they were immediately a must on any kids Christmas list.
Nostalgia usually induces a sense of warmth as we reflect on our youthful naïveté and the utter joy brought to us by the products we begged for come Christmas. The Furby is not one of those items. The Furbies rise to consumer stardom is perplexing. They resembled Gremlins, and their functionality was far from useful. These little creepers will go down as truly one of the most bizarre fad items of the era.
Just when fondness for baggy pants was climbing toward a plateau, JNCO took extra leg room to uncharted width. Somehow, someway, these capacious forces of denim became a cultural phenomenon. Looking back it’s hard to imagine how these became such a force in the style. They say fashion trends are cyclical, let’s hope this trend stays in the history archives.