The 21 Most Ridiculous Fads of the 2010s
From the Mannequin Challenge to cronuts, these were the decade's biggest pop culture crazes.
The 2010s were a historic decade, to be sure. We elected our country's first black president, same-sex marriage became legal, and we all wasted a lot of time playing Pokémon Go. Sure, the latter isn't quite as important as the two aforementioned achievements, but it is one of those monumental pop culture crazes that—along with many other fads of the 2010s—will end up defining the decade, albeit in a wholly different cultural context.
Every decade has its trends. In the 1950s, it was poodle skirts and drive-in movie theaters. Children of the '80s were all about Cabbage Patch Kids and Rubik's Cubes. And in the 2010s, there was no shortage of strange things we latched on to, from slime to fidget spinners, and the Cinnamon Challenge to Tebowing. Here are 21 of the biggest wacky fads that nobody could get enough of in the 2010s.
The ALS Ice Bucket Challenge
In the summer of 2014, the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge inspired millions of people around the world, including more than a few celebrities, to dump buckets of ice-cold water on their heads. Why? For charity, of course. The philanthropic challenge ended up raising $115 million for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) research, which helped lead to the discovery of a new ALS gene. If the 2010s taught us nothing else, they at least taught us that some silly internet crazes are for the greater good.
New York City's Dominque Ansel Bakery gave us the cronut in 2013—and the world was forever changed. The doughnut-croissant hybrid was so tasty that one New York magazine writer suggested that "it may very well change your life." That's a lot to ask of a pastry, but people certainly felt it was worth a shot. The lines to buy a $5 cronut were hours long in 2013 and now, six years later, New Yorkers and visitors alike still wait for a taste of the dessert, which has since been duplicated all over the country.
Adults and kids alike were mesmerized by this wildly popular game, which involved chasing down the fictional Pokémon creatures in the real world. Granted, there were some seriously unfortunate events connected with the game, which launched in 2016, but it also brought a lot of people together in a positive way, as Forbes noted. Plus, the quest of finding those little make-believe characters in the wild inspired players to get outside, move around, and use their brains a little bit. We can't say that for all video games, that's for sure!
This dance trend has nothing to do with dental hygiene, but it went viral nevertheless. After a dancer named "The Backpack Kid" performed the move on Saturday Night Live during Katy Perry's performance of "Swish Swish" in 2017, viewers were trying their hands (and arms) at flossing the next day. It even ended up becoming the most popular victory dance on the video game Fortnight—and soon enough, people of all ages were flossing… just not the way their dentists hoped.
Words with Friends
This multiplayer word game was pretty hard to resist in the 2010s—so hard, in fact, that Alec Baldwin got kicked off a plane in 2011 for allegedly refusing to put his Words with Friends game on hold for takeoff. By 2017, there were about 17 million users who couldn't get enough of the competition the game created between friends. It's truly the Scrabble of the 21st century.
If you've ever seen a kid suddenly start zooming down a sidewalk, as if by magic, you've seen Heelys in action. These shoes may look like a normal pairs of sneakers, but wait… there's a wheel hidden in the heel! For most of the 2010s, it seemed like every kid, and some adults, had a pair of these roller shoes—you know, for the times when walking isn't going to cut it and your roller blades are still boxed up in the basement because it's not 1993.
"Harlem Shake" Videos
This infectious YouTube craze had one person in a group of people wearing a mask and dancing by themselves, before a cut to the entire group dancing ridiculously to the 2012 Baauer hit "Harlem Shake." There were some truly inspired moments, from university swim teams boogying in their speedos to soldiers busting a move in the snow. By early 2013, roughly 4,000 "Harlem Shake" videos were being uploaded every day, or one every 21.6 seconds, according to the BBC.
The Mannequin Challenge
Of course, the "Harlem Shake" and the ALS ice bucket challenge were hardly the only viral video trends of the 2010s. There was also the Mannequin Challenge, which saw people remain perfectly still, like mannequins, for as long as possible as the camera moved around them. We've witnessed a lot of seemingly pointless online challenges over the years, but this one—which hit its stride in November 2016—inspired some really remarkable creativity. And even more amazing, all that footage has been used by scientists to train neural networks to understand 3D scenes. See? Not all fads are for naught.
Rainbow Loom Bracelets
These colorful accessories are a perfect example of a simple concept—a device that creates jewelry out of tiny rubber bands—that blossomed into a global phenomenon. Malaysian-born immigrant Cheong Choon Ng explained in a YouTube interview that he'd only invented the toy to impress his daughters, but he wound up wowing far more than just his own offspring. In 2014, the rubber band jewelry could be seen on everyone from the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge to the Pope.
Essence magazine once called 2010 "The Year of the 'Side-Shave' Hairstyle." They almost nailed it. In actuality, it turned out to be the decade of the side-shave, with everyone from Skrillex to Rihanna helping to make it one of the most unlikely hairstyle fads since the mullet. Everybody had their reasons for sporting the trendy 'do—even Kelly Clarkson (above), who got the side-shave in 2015 after her son was born. "I went to my hair girl and I was like, 'I need something different, I need something to make me feel less like a mom'," the singer told PopCrush. And the side-shave it was!
From Forbes calling them "the must-have office toy for 2017" to The New York Times declaring that fidget spinners were the "Hula Hoop for Generation Z," it was a good decade for the toy designed to help with concentration. And if you have $17,000 lying around, you could get the most expensive fidget spinner in the world, which has a 100-gram gold-coated exterior.
The Cinnamon Challenge
Of all the internet challenges, this was one of the most horrifying. And yes, we remember the Tide Pod Challenge. At least with the Tide Pods, people were reasonably aware that they were ingesting poison; it is laundry detergent, after all. But how harmful could it be to swallow a spoonful of ground cinnamon in 60 seconds without water? It turns out, unfortunately, the answer is "extremely harmful." After some tragic results and dozens of ER visits, one doctorwarned,"Don't even think of doing it."
NFL quarterback Tim Tebow described his signature move as when you "get down on a knee and start praying, even if everyone else around you is doing something completely different." And it caught on in a big way, with thousands sharing photos and videos online of their own spontaneous kneeling moments. It got so huge that Tebow decided to trademark the word (and the move),"Tebowing."
There are currently 13 million posts under the slime hashtag on Instagram. Homemade slime became such a hot topic in the 2010s that Karina Garcia, also known as the "slime queen," was profiled by The New York Times in 2017. In the article, she explained her secrets to making up to $200,000 every month with her slime-recipe videos. Clearly, the rest of us are in the wrong industry.
The "Gangnam Style" Dance
South Korean artist Psy released the super-catchy song "Gangnam Style" in 2012 and it became the first YouTube video to reach a billion views (it currently has just shy of 3.5 billion). It inspired countless wedding-goers to bust out the horse-riding dance move that the song was known for, no matter how ridiculous they looked while doing it.
It's quite possible that Gwyneth Paltrow is behind the inexplicable popularity of avocado toast. In her 2013 cookbook, It's All Good, she described the fashionable food item as "the holy trinity of Vegenaise, avocado, and salt that makes this like a favorite pair of jeans—so reliable and easy and always just what you want." Ever since, it's become a staple of diners who fancy themselves foodies. In a 2017 article, Bon Appetit magazine noted that avocado toast "signifies everything good, bad, elitist, humble, annoying, and yes, delicious about eating in America right now" in an article titled, "Why Are We Still Talking About Avocado Toast?" (And now we'll leave you to ponder that very question.)
Dyed Gray Hair
L'Oréal Paris picked silver (otherwise known as "Granny Gray") as their hair color of the year in 2019—and they weren't the only ones dubbing the hue desirable. Outlets from Allure to The Wall Street Journal declared that gray was in in the 2010s, and even CNN giddily reported that "gray hair is increasingly framing the faces of people barely out of college." We're still not sure why today's youth is rushing the process, but we'll take it.
The "What Color Is This Dress?" Debate
It all started in early 2015, when somebody posted a photo of a dress to Tumblr and challenged people to determine whether it was blue and black or white and gold. It was so obviously blue and black (at least to this author's eyes), but everybody saw something different. Years later, the world is still talking about it, and still trying to figure out what the heck was going on!
Our problem isn't with twerking in general. It's that people saw Miley Cyrus twerk during the 2013 MTV Video Music Awards and then thought, "Hmm, that looks like fun. Maybe I should do that during my sister's wedding reception." No, just… please no.
Historian Alun Withey told The Times in 2016 that "the hipster beard, or lumberjack beard, is going to be the defining facial hair of this generation." And he had a point. I mean, has there been another decade in which beard oil was more ubiquitous in bathrooms nationwide? There have been attempts to stop the furry facial fad, like a 2015 report about beards being full of fecal bacteria, but it didn't seem to make much of a difference. Just a few months later, a survey of New York men from the grooming brand Braun found that 77 percent of respondents without beards said they would grow one if they could.
In 2009, FarmVille had more active users than Twitter, according to AdWeek, which may be hard to believe for a game that simply had users pretending to farm. But its ubiquity only continued into the 2010s. Chances are you know at least one relative who spent the last decade inviting you to play the game on Facebook again and again. After all, it was "FarmVille [that] introduced those who weren't teenagers to a social media site they could get behind," Social Media Week pointed out.