Follow the Leader – Part II


Speaking of fads. They continued right on into high school and beyond.

One of the earliest high school fads I can remember were sock hops. Basically a sock hop was a dance where you took your shoes off. The moral of the story is that you were not allowed to wear shoes on the gym floor. So a convenient fad was born. Usually the music was played on a phonograph, giving rise to the first DJ's. Occasionally, a live band would play. As I recall, we always had a band at the Sadie Hawkins Day sock hop. This was an occasion when the girl could ask the guy to go. Most often the girls really didn't need us guys, since we seldom danced anyway. And when we did, we barely moved. A good male dancer was in heavy demand. That left me out.

When the Beatles came onto the American scene, I think I was a sophomore in high school. "I Want to Hold Your Hand" was their first U.S. hit. Wow, the sparks were flying, as were the new fads. The most relevant made its presence felt rather quickly. The guys’ hair began to get longer. The barbers took a real beating. We went from flat tops and hollywoods to ear length and longer, almost overnight. This drove our parents, and the coaches, nuts. Long hair was evil, coinciding with the music, which they also thought was devil inspired. Another Beatles emulating fad were collarless jackets. Mind you, we didn't dress up a whole lot back then, but you had to have a Nehru jacket. The Beatles wore Nehru jackets for their historic Shea Stadium performance in 1965. The jacket was inspired by a South Asian achkan or sherwani, worn by Nehru, Prime Minister of India from 1947-65. Anyway, all us young guys had to have one. And I might add, for no good reason, since we seldom got dressed up. But it was a fad.

Then there was the lava lamp and the black light. These were primarily hippie related paraphernalia, among other things that were in that same category. I'm not sure when either were invented, but both were used extensively, in what might best be described as a psychedelic frenzy. The lava lamp acted as kind of a pseudo-hallucinogenic, replacing the popular recreational drug at the time, LSD. Black lights were used to illuminate mainly posters that were painted with fluorescent colors. In almost all of our bedrooms, you could find black lights performing their magic.

A lot of fads had to do with cars. The popularity of certain models would rise and fall as fast as the temperature. Some of the must–have models I recall: a 56, 57, or 58 Chevy, a 62-63 Chevy Super Sport, a Plymouth Barracuda, a 65-66 Ford Mustang, or a 55, 56, 57 Thunderbird. This was a fad that cost our parents dearly, since we usually wrecked one car within six months of getting our license. Luckily, no one in our group was ever badly hurt. Others were not so fortunate.

After getting a car, it became a matter of getting accessories. Fender skirts, detailing, fancy interior, chrome on the engine. You name it, we did it. It became a heads-up competition to see who could swindle the most money out of their parents for the most popular accessories. When all else failed, we would actually work, most often for local farmers, bailing hay or cutting weeds out of beans for a buck or two an hour. I did have one accessory on a 57 Chevy that was hard to beat. The previous owner had hooked up a vacuum that would suck ashes and butts into a jar in the engine compartment. It was quite a concoction that netted me many a roach.

One of the funnier things I ever did, which was after high school, was get an Afro. An Afro was a hairstyle emulating primarily some of the early African-American rock stars, one of the best known being Jimi Hendrix. It was funny because I'm a white guy with straight hair, so it required a trip to the beauty shop for a permanent. A permanent is something of an ordeal. It is not for the faint-of-heart, or the sane. The women at the beauty shop got a kick out of it, as do my children. As the picture illustrates, it didn't do much for me.

So, that's a sampling of some of the fads I remember. Some came and went fairly quickly. Others hang around forever, rising in popularity from time to time. It's fun to think about some of the crazy things we did. We were trying to be cool, hip, noticed. Those needs seem to endure over time, although it is much harder for kids to be different today. As for us boomers, well, you kind of eventually lose interest in being different. The only hip you get is a replacement, and the last thing you want is for anyone to notice you have grown old.