It's hard to say if any of the fads of the past decade will be as memorable as, say, the Hula Hoop or Frisbee. But like every decade, the 2000s (which, technically, started in 2001) had its fair share of interesting trends: from risky investment strategies to inexplicable crazes over pieces of colorful of rubber.
Here are our favorite fads of the past decade:1. McMansions
Oversized homes began looming on suburban landscapes in 2001, with 3,200-square-foot ersatz palaces becoming the norm among real estate developers. But in 2007 that trend started to fade along with the economy, and newly built homes were more modestly sized.
But bigger homes may return when the economy turns around, says the Christian Science Monitor. During recessions, the average size of new single-family homes typically shrinks, but then expands again once the economy recovers. So get ready, this is one fad we may see again.
2. House Flipping
The housing boom that started this decade was caused in part by house flippers, who would buy a home and then quickly sell it at profit. This contributed to home prices going up and, in many cases, new buyers landing mortgage loans for amounts, it turned out, greater than the worth of the properties.
A fraudulent variation on this practice, the Sarasota Herald-Tribune reported, led to $10 billion in suspicious deals in Florida alone.
House flipping continued during the recession as real estate prices dropped. Like carpetbaggers after the Civil War, house flippers then sprung up to buy foreclosed homes and quickly sell them for a profit. Foreclosed homes can still be found at 30% to 60% below market value, making this a fad that's continuing in the new decade.
3. Wristbands for a Cause
Though they're also used in corporate marketing and showing loyalty to a sports team, wristbands made a big impact by being worn for a cause, such as the yellow Livestrong wristbands in support of combatting cancer. The Lance Armstrong Foundation issued them in May 2004, and about 55 million were sold.
Various causes have embraced them as fund-raisers, producing them in various hues--such as pink for breast cancer awareness. The trendy wristbands are even sold as a way to help the unemployed find jobs.
The sweaty and sometimes uncomfortable wristbands even have a mock endorsement from Stephen Colbert, who designed one to support awareness of wrist-related injuries. Just don't call them bracelets.
Once at the top of the social networking game, MySpace is now branding itself as the "leading social entertainment destination powered by the passion of fans." But passion isn't going to pay the bills.
The strange-looking plastic shoes with wild colors and odd holes in them have been widely criticized for being downright ugly, yet millions of pairs have been sold.
Chef Mario Batali endorsed the footwear (he prefers bright orange ones) and helped kick off a buying rage in 2007. They're homely, but fans say they're comfortable, which may be enough to fuel the fad into the next decade.
6. Flash Mobs
What was supposed to be a social experiment to promote nonconformity has turned into a conformist event. It started in 2003 with an organized group, or "flash mob," shopping for a rug at a Manhattan Macy's. After more than 100 people converged on that store, the practice expanded to other stores and later to public spaces, such as London Underground stations in May 2006.
The largest flash mob was on March 22, 2008, for Worldwide Pillow Fight Day--in 25 cities. Some of the flash mob events are used to promote messages, such as dancing to create awareness of disabilities.
You know a fad has peaked when it's featured on a popular television show. Michael tried to impress Cam with his dance skills on Modern Family, showing how fun flash mobs are to watch.
A flash mob may look spontaneous, but the gathering of people in a public place to do something random for a few minutes before dispersing is anything but unrehearsed. And they're everywhere on YouTube.
7. Silly Bandz
This fad is dead, as WalletPop reported in mid-December, which followed Daily Finance's prediction in July that it only had another six months.
The colorful wristbands snap back into the shape of a unicorn, butterfly or something else when taken off, and are collected and traded. The inventor behind the craze is doing what he can to revive it, though, designing Silly Bandz watches and thicker wristbands.
8. High School Musical
The Glee TV series may have taken over the franchise on teens-who-break-out-in-song-and-dance, but Disney established it during the past decade with High School Musical and enough sequels to keep students vocalizing through four years of secondary education.
The TV films started in 2006 and a theatrical release followed in 2008. All serve as modern adaptations of Romeo and Juliet. If this fad is too sugary for you, try the South Park variation.
9. Hedge Funds
Billionaire Warren Buffett called hedge funds a fad in 2004. He didn't like them for their high fees and risky practices.
It was these risky practices that finally put an end to the fad as one fund after another melted down, following a wrong bet. Plenty of investors lost their shirts but hopefully gained some wisdom.
Long before smartphones took over the world, there were PDAs, or personal digital assistants. They kept track of our calendars, our lists of things to do, and they could sync with our email.
Palm dominated the market, but by 2005 the PDA fad was over as tech gurus realized that we needed more than overglorified organizers. Oh, how far we've come in less than five years.
What are your favorite fads of the past decade? Tell us in the comments section.
Aaron Crowe is a freelance journalist in the San Francisco Bay area.
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