Monday, May 23, 2011

The Pump, Koosh Balls, and Other Random Stuff from the 1990's

Last week my friend revealed a childhood story that had been haunting her for years. Twenty years before, she had been dissed and dismissed by her fellow classmates for not wearing the right clothes. Champion sweatshirts were in, and she didn’t have any.

So she begged her mom over and over again, but still nothing. She pointed out that Sally from down the block had 5 of these sweatshirts. Why couldn’t she have one?

So on Christmas day, a package awaited her from under the tree. She frantically opened it up, eyes wide, and smile bright. When she unraveled the gift, it wasn’t a champion sweatshirt at all. It was a pair of champion socks.

She feigned excitement but wore her socks proudly often pointing out the champion symbol to her friends as a means of acceptance. But it didn’t really work. To this day, she still remembers pining for that sweatshirt.

I had a similar story revolving around a special pair of sneakers: The Pump. This lead to a discussion about the forgotten decade: the 1990’s.  These are the clothes, toys, and random items that I remember:  

Koosh Balls

These light and fluffy creations were fun to throw around, and just plain snuggle with. Despite their exceptional kooshiness, they somehow just vanished.

Diablo Juggling

At summer camp, there was always one kid who could perform amazing tricks with this thing. We’d watch him in awe, and then deal with our jealousy by making fun of him. After 1999, I never saw diablo juggling or that kid ever again. 


Girls will have more to say about this, but the 1990’s were all about the scrunchie. They tied up your hair and you could also fling them at people. Apparently, most women wouldn’t be caught wearing one today, but I still think they’re cool.

Snap Bracelets

These things were brilliant. In one moment they looked like simple bookmarks, but when slapped on a wrist, BAM, they were bracelets. Hours of fun could be had snapping bracelets onto each other. Now, they’re nowhere to be found.

Champion Sweatshirts

Like my friend’s story, these shirts were the craze in the 90’s. Their bold colors and comfiness were bound to gain you popularity amongst all of your high school classmates, even the bitchy judgmental ones. The coolest people wore them a few sizes too large to they could be extra baggy and thus cool.

The Pump

I begged my parents for the pump, but never got it. I settled for pumping up other kid’s shoes. We all cheered in unison when the air was released from the pump. It was a life changing experience. Even the deaf kid at my school with no friends was suddenly super popular when he showed up wearing a brand new pair of pumps.  He would point to his shoes, and although he had trouble speaking, there were two words he could clearly utter: “The pump!”


These soccer shorts tore through my camp and school in the early 90’s. The key was to wear them properly, with your boxers creeping out underneath. I remember the day when I combined my Simpsons boxers with some hand me down Umbros from my brother. I felt like a King. Sure, the shorts were short, rode up, and often revealed too much, but it was worth it.

Coed Naked T-Shirts/ Big Johnson T-Shirts

I was shocked when I described these shirts to some under 30 youngens, and they never heard of them. Co-ed naked shirts combined sports with sexual innuendos; it was brilliant. Some examples:

Coed Naked Tennis: “It’s in. It’s out. It’s over.”

Coed Naked Lacrosse: “Rough, tuff, and in the buff!”

And one cannot forget about Big Johnson T-shirts. My friends and I often bought these inexplicably dirty shirts at crappy beach shops during camp. We’d wear them once only to be told never to wear them again because they were inappropriate. But we thought they were classy!

Slogans included:

Big Johnson Bar & Casino: “Liquor up front, poker in the rear.”

Big Johnson Motorcycles: “You’ll never have to ride a hog when you have a Big Johnson.”

Big Johnson Quarters Tournament: “Hit the rim and slip it in.”

Hypercolor T-Shirts

Tell me this: who wouldn’t want a t-shirt that changed colors when you touched it? I am flabbergasted (and I rarely use this word) that these shirts ever went out of style…they were the coolest. And it always gave girls a reason to touch you. I really need these shirts to make a comeback. 


These insanely overpriced pants were boss in the late 80’s and early 90’s. They rode up, had a tight waist, were pleated, and had AC Slater written all over them.


These pants gained you immediate popularity especially when you showed the label near the zipper. My friend Randy outgrew his pair of Girbauds and gave them to me. I’ll never forget the first day I wore them. Kids spoke to me that I had never heard from before.  Girls smiled. It was a wonderful time. But eventually, I outgrew them too, and couldn’t afford to buy another pair.  


I wore my Skidz proudly in the early 90’s. My pair was green and yellow, and plain hideous. But they felt like pajamas so that made it okay.

Game Hats

There was nothing fancy about these ball caps, but they used to be hot. These hats were usually found on the heads of cool high school kids and douche bag fraternity guys. The brim was arched and pushed down just enough so you couldn’t see while wearing the hat.

The school logo or mascot name appeared on the front in capital letters. And underneath in small letters was the entire school name. The most risqué version was the University of South Carolina because on top it read in bold letters the team mascot, COCKS.  

Casio Digital Watch

The Casio digital watch was like the iphone of the early 1990’s except it couldn’t make phone calls, go on the internet, have apps, etc. But it did have a mean stopwatch, told the time, was waterproof, and some even had a calculator. Pretty sick!

TI-82 Calculators

In the early 1990’s, I was in middle school and these things ruled our world. They were supposed to be used to graph in math class, but the genius kids learned how to program games, and even used them to cheat on tests (not that I ever did that.) It looked like we were studying a lot, but really we were just playing lots of homemade video games like Snake. The kids nowadays have better technology to play with, but twenty years ago, they were a way of life.  


Anonymous said...

This listing is great, thanks for putting it together.

Baturay said...

Some of the stuff is actually from early 80s. The Casio watch, for instance. I think it was from 1984.

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