Retro Dee is a regular contributor to The Grooveyard’s website, writing about music, fashion and other trends of the 1950s. Check out her blog, Retro Dee’s Guide to the Best Era Ever here, and her column here every week.
Welcome to Retro Dee’s Guide to the Best Era Ever. In this post we’re going to talk about a fad synonymous with the 1950’s decade itself: The Hula Hoop!
But first, get one thing right. The Hula Hoop existed in some form or other way before the 1950’s. Twirling a hoop made of bamboo around your waist went back as far as 500 B.C.!
However, it was not until the late 1950’s that the Hula Hoop was marketed as a toy by a company called Wham-O. This was when the fad took the nation – and the world- by storm.
Wham-O was founded by two best friends in Carson, CA. Richard Knerr and Arthur “Spud” Merlin. Knerr and Merlin got the idea for the Hula Hoop from bamboo hoops that were used for exercise in Australia. Although Wham-O did not come up with the name Hula Hoop, they patented it in 1957 to use for their new toy idea.
The toy hoops were made from plastic and two colors twisted together. The Hula Hoop made it’s American debut under the Wham-O name on June 16, 1958 in a toy store in Los Angeles. By July, it had become the fad of the summer, selling for $1.98 per hoop (which equates to more than $20 in today’s money!)
Although it was marketed as a toy, the Hula Hoop was not just for children. Women and men joined in the craze too. It was featured on television shows such as “The Steve Allen Show” and “American Bandstand”.
By November, 1958, the Hula Hoop was so popular, there was a song by Teresa Brewer on Coral Records. “The Hula Hoop Song” made it to Number 38 on The Billboard Hot 100.
The Hula Hoop was also mentioned in “The Chipmunk Song” as one of the toys the Chipmunks were hoping to get for Christmas.
In 1959, the initial craze died out, however, Hula Hoops remained popular and made several comebacks for years afterwards. To this day, the Hula Hoop is popular enough that everyone at had one at some point. Hula Hoops are also available as exercise equipment, if you like that sort of torture. Weighted hula hoops are can be used for optimum fitness results.
By now it’s clear, any form it comes in, the Hula Hoop will always be around. But, perhaps, never quite as popular as it was in the Summer of 1958.
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