20 Things Every “Cool Kid” Growing Up in the 1970s Owned
How cool were you in the "Me" decade?
The 1970s were simultaneously the most awesome time to grow up and the most horrifying. Kids got a lot of freedom during the so-called “Me” decade, so it was easy to forge a personal identity. But at the same time, it’s amazing any of us survived. A ’70s kid could have asked their parents, “Hey, can I buy some fireworks and set them off in the park with some kids you’ve never met?” And most ’70s parents would’ve responded, “Sure, whatever.” To paraphrase Charles Dickens (who admittedly wasn’t talking about the ’70s but might as well have been), “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.”
But being a cool kid in the ’70s wasn’t just about having way too much freedom. You also needed the right accessories. Here are 20 things any kid growing up in the disco era needed if they ever hoped to be taken seriously.
Star Wars toys
Every ’70s kid owned at least a few of these hugely popular Kenner action figures. But occasionally you’d meet somebody who took the toys to another level of obsessiveness—maybe they had the limited edition early release Boba Fett, available only by mailing in proof-of-purchase cutouts to the company, or the R5-D4, a minor robot in the Star Wars universe that only die-hards remember, and you were like, “Whoa… I will never be that cool.” Even Mark Hamill Cracked Some Hilarious Jokes About His Retro Star Wars Figures.
We’re honestly perplexed why tube socks—particularly tube socks with colorful stripes on top that stretched all the way up to your knees—were considered attractive. According to Smithsonian, ’70s stars like Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, “Dr. J.” Erving, and Farrah Fawcett were responsible for bringing this look en vogue.
A chopper bike with a banana seat
You didn’t even have to pop a wheelie when you owned a chopper bike. All you had to do was sit there, tapping your fingers on the handlebars like you were revving a throttle, and you looked like Evel Knievel getting ready to jump over a canyon.
This elastic hero was like a stress ball for prepubescents. Just how much torture could Armstrong endure at your hands? Plenty of kids were willing to find out, pulling his limbs like they were trying to get a confession. The secret to Stretch’s durability—the goo inside his body that made him so elastic—was nothing but plain ol’ corn syrup.
Parents thought it was perfectly safe to let kids make their own artsy crafts by putting plastic in the oven. Yes, that actually happened.
This wildly popular foam ball was sold to kids (or rather, their parents) as the “world’s first official indoor ball,” which made it sound completely accident-proof. “You can’t damage lamps or break windows,” the ads promised. “You can’t hurt babies or old people.” Yes, this was the ’70s, when “our product probably won’t kill anyone” was considered a marketing strategy. And for the record, you could totally damage a lamp with one of these things.
A subscription to Tiger Beat magazine
It was the New Yorker of the teen world, the only place to get the most up-to-the-date gossip on heartthrobs like David Cassidy, Shaun Cassidy, and Leif Garrett. As it turns out, there weren’t that many newsworthy stories to report on teen idols—there are only so many ways to write about how Scott Baio kisses, or whether Donny Osmond is dreamy or super dreamy— but this magazine had the type of subscription numbers publications these days can only dream about.
A Pet Rock
It was a rock with googly-eyes. That’s it. But during the ’70s, advertising executive Gary Dahl sold several million of these things—which, it should be noted, are available all over the planet for free, if you just look at the ground for a few seconds. Yes, it was truly the Tide Pod Challenge of its time, only with fewer hospital visits.
The thing about superhero costumes is that most of them really do look like long underwear. What is Superman wearing exactly? Underwear. That simple fact gave rise to one of the most questionable fashion trends of the 20th century: Underwear that looks like superhero costumes. Honestly, they should probably make a comeback.
Created by an Italian bootmaker obsessed with the moon landing, these boots, which were clearly designed to make us all feel like NASA astronauts, were the most iconic footwear trend of the ’70s. Moon boots were so popular that in 2000, the Louvre Museum even included them in their collection of the 20th century’s most significant design symbols.
Six Million Dollar Man dolls
These 12-inch Steve Austin dolls had some of the most innovative features in modern toy technology. A real bionic eye that you could actually look through! Peel-away skin that would reveal his inner bionics! And, most impressively, the “bionic grip” on his right hand, which allowed Steve to clamp down on almost anything. Nothing was cooler than owning this doll.
Everything about these wide-legged pants is confusing. Were we trying to make our calves look especially muscular? Did somebody think, “If only there was a way to combine super-tight pants with a tripping hazard?” A lot of misguided adults thought bell bottoms looked stylish in the ’70s, and cool kids have historically always been eager to imitate adults’ worst instincts. So obviously, we all had these things.
A Goody Super Comb
The original “unbreakable” super comb was so big and clunky it almost looked like a weapon. But it could comb through anything, even the most stubborn of knots. But perhaps more important than hair maintenance, this comb was the ultimate fashion accessory. Putting a Good Super Comb in your back pocket let all your peers know you were essentially the Shaft of your school.
David Bowie’s Diamond Dogs album on vinyl
It didn’t matter if you were a Bowie fan or not. Merely possessing this iconic LP, with its cover image of Bowie looking like the sexiest and scariest creature to ever exist, increased your coolness ratio by several percentage points. And if you knew all the lyrics to “Rebel Rebel” or “Diamond Dogs,” even better.
$20 in quarters
Because you never know when you’re going to run into a Ms. Pac-Man or a Space Invaders or a Dig-Dug machine. Having quarters on hand ensured you would never be at the rear of a gaggle of kids, craning your neck to watch someone else dominate at Asteroids.
No one was more envied than kids who could grow a glorious afro. Those who sported them liked to imagine they made them look like Sly Stone or Diana Ross. Sometimes, it worked. Other times, they just made you look like Bob Ross.
Long before Transformers, all the cool kids were into Micronauts. We didn’t know much about these characters— unlike Star Wars, it was up to you to give them identities—but the general idea was that they were robots from another planet, and had interchangeable parts that you could mix and match. It made an X-Wing fighter toy seem downright uninspired.
If they were good enough for John McEnroe, they were good enough for a 15-year-old kid in gym class. Even if you weren’t especially athletic, wearing one of these things would instantly make you look like you were part of an intense training montage, Rocky II style.
Why have regular lip gloss when you could have lip gloss that tastes like strawberries, lemons, or green apples? And who could forget those branded flavors like Dr. Pepper, 7-Up, Good & Plenty Licorice, and Orange Crush? These were the Kylie Lip Kits of their time, and stunningly, they’re still around. But if you’re into a more adult look now, check out these 10 Liquid Lipstick Essentials You Need to Know.
Introduced by Hasbro in 1973, these insanely creepy dolls brought fake-parenting to the next level. Not only could the pseudo-infants eat and drink (they had a mechanical mouth that slurped down a disgusting baby food mixture), they could also—how do we put this delicately?—poop in their diapers. And kids loved it! For more nostalgia, check out the 20 Slang Terms From the 1970s No One Uses Anymore.
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