All The Useless Crap We Put Up With In The 2010s
The one thing science fiction movies always leave out of their visions of the future is fads.
Blade Runner was set literally last month (November 2019), and yet it didn’t feature a single yo-yo trick or selfie stick. Living through the real 2010s featured a lot less killer robots than we expected and a lot more useless pieces of junk that everybody had to have (and then pretended never existed).
Here’s a guide to the stuff we fiddled around with while we waited for civilisation to be destroyed.
Fidget spinners had a noble enough start, helping children with anxiety and ADHD keep their hands busy so they could better focus in the classroom. But like all good things, society had to ruin them. As their popularity exploded, it grew hard to tell if they were a symptom of the decline of western civilisation or the cause.
Even at the time nobody seemed to understand why they were so widely popular; people would talk to you in the street saying “why does everybody want to play with one of those things”, then they’d look down and see they had one in their hand spinning wildly. It's possible they were actually some kind of alien probe that, having gathered all the data they needed on human behaviour relating to inexplicable fads, vanished overnight without a trace. Unless you’re walking around barefoot in which case you still have a 40 percent chance of stepping on one.
At the start of the decade, facial hair was confined to old men and people who felt that constantly staring at women just wasn’t enough to advertise their creepiness. The only person I knew with a beard wouldn’t stop telling everybody that while only five percent of women were into beards, that five percent was really into them, which really just meant he was walking around with a ready-made excuse for going home alone 19 nights out of 20.
And then suddenly for reasons no-one has ever explained, having hair that will trap food on your face for hours after every single meal became a necessity. Even though every single Ned Kelly movie has been rubbish, looking like Ned Kelly became the coolest thing you could do. I’ve got a beard now, and it makes me look like Saddam Hussein. Thanks Obama.
What better way to make smoking cool again than by doing it through a robot?
Remote control planes have been around for decades, but it wasn’t until the 2010s that they finally achieved their destiny as the perfect tool for privacy-invading peeping toms. Supposedly they could also deliver pizza, but that seems like little more than a thin excuse to explain why they’re hovering outside your bedroom window for hours at a time.
Wheelies or Heelys or whatever you call those sneakers with wheels in the heels
A few years ago in an inner-city suburb I saw a guy in his 20s using these to barrel down the street doing maybe 30ks an hour. He made it look totally effortless and cool and I thought ‘wow, I really should get a pair of those, that looks like a great way to get around'. Then someone went past going the other way on a unicycle and I got distracted and never thought about it again.
There was no better way to advertise the fact that you have no friends close by and you don’t trust strangers with your phone. To be fair, nothing summed up the 2010s better than carrying around an large object that created great photos online but made you look like an idiot in real life, so it’s kind of surprising you don’t see these around much any more.
These were rubbish in the 90s and considering society has already invented both the backpack and the pocket there really was no justification for attaching a plastic sack to your belt in the 21st century. And yet here we are, pretending an unsightly bulge that looks like a symptom of a worrying physical ailment is in fact something it’s okay wear in public. It’s not.
Food fashions are always kind of strange (remember sundried tomatoes? What happened there?), but macarons made a lot of sense simply because they were small and delicious, which is pretty much all I want in a food. Then suddenly, after a long stretch of the decade where you couldn’t go anywhere without having them piled head-high on a table in front of you, they vanished. People always go on about how global warming and the rise of fascism is how you can tell our era is rubbish, but the way macarons just vanished from daily life is definitely up there.
The man bun
Are you a samurai? Are you assembling a band of ronin to defend a small farming village from a band of brigands? Are you legendary Japanese actor Toshiro Mifune? If not, two words: Pony Tail.
Now that watches are dead we’ve got to have something to put on our wrists, and for a year or so if you were in primary school Silly Bands were it. Seemingly a perfectly normal coloured band while they were on your wrist, once you took them off they formed the shape of… well, pretty much anything that had a distinctive outline. Kids loved them, schools banned them, and they were soon replaced by Rainbow Loom bands. Which were also brightly coloured rubber bands only woven together, which made them completely different and able to be worn by celebrities like Prince William, Harry Styles and Pope Francis.
Once a workman-like spread used largely to replicate the texture of Vegemite without the lingering sense you were eating an industrial byproduct, the humble avocado became the pampered Paris Hilton (remember her?) of foods when a pack of sneering politicians suggested young people would be able to afford homes if they simply gave up on avocado toast. On the one hand, this was great for avocados: everyone loves consuming something that tells everyone around you that you’re cashed-up. On the other hand, this was a really, really misleading guide to the amount of money required to purchase a house in Australia.
The idea of 3D TV wasn’t the stupidest thing to happen to television sets in the 10s. Remember those curved television sets that you were meant to sit 30 centimeters in front of so it would feel like the picture was all around you? Those headsets that turned your phone into virtual reality goggles? But the idea that people would want to put on glasses in their own home to watch Piranha 3DD was definitely up there.
In the real world, television is just something that’s on in the background while you check your phone before wandering off to the kitchen to see what’s in the fridge, not something you need special glasses to look at. Also, 3D glasses are amazingly easy to lose, and once people realized they couldn’t just steal new ones from their local cinema that was it.
Fedoras (on men)
There was maybe 20 seconds in the early part of the 10s where old-fashioned hats were a good look on men. This was brilliant news, because baseball caps make most men look shabby and cowboy hats really don’t work outside of Mardi Gras. Then it turned out that literally every single man wearing a fedora was a smug pretentious idiot. Did wearing the hat make these guys suddenly decide that lecturing strangers about scotch and talking down to every woman they met was a great idea? Why risk it -- time to get that baseball cap out of the dog’s basket and back on your head.