20 Gen X Trends That Have Faded into History

Written By Jill Taylor

Gen X had some pretty unique trends that influenced them. These trends in fashion, tech, and more defined their youth. Let’s look back at 20 things Gen X remembers that have disappeared.


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Before cell phones, pagers were the coolest way to stay in touch. Silicon looks back at these little devices that would beep when someone wanted to reach you, and you’d have to find a phone to call them back. Pagers were a big deal and a must-have for a lot of Gen Xers.

MTV Playing Music Videos

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MTV revolutionized music for Gen X. The channel played music videos 24/7, introducing new artists and styles. VJs became celebrities, hosting shows like Total Request Live, and watching MTV after school was a daily ritual for many.

Video Rental Stores

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Friday nights often meant trips to Blockbuster or local video stores. Browsing aisles of VHS tapes, choosing movies, and remembering to rewind were part of the experience. Streaming has turned those stores into a thing of the past, but many still remember those good old times.

Cassette Tapes

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Cassettes were the portable music choice for Gen X. Making mixtapes for friends or crushes was an art form, and Walkman players let you take your tunes anywhere. Tapes often got tangled, requiring careful repairs with a pencil. Now, they’re vintage collectibles.

Dial-Up Internet

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The screeching sound of dial-up defined the early internet for Gen X. Connecting to the web tied up phone lines and took forever and downloading a single song could take hours. Web surfing required a lot of patience back then. Today’s high-speed internet makes dial-up seem prehistoric.

Floppy Disks

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These square plastic disks were essential for storing computer data. They came in 5.25″ and 3.5″ sizes, holding a tiny amount of information by today’s standards. Carrying a stack of floppies was common for students and office workers, but USB drives and cloud storage have since replaced them.


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Before Wikipedia, encyclopedias were the go-to for information. Many homes had sets of these heavy books since door-to-door salesmen used to pitch them as essential for education. Updating meant buying new volumes or yearly addendums. Now, online sources have made them obsolete.

Acid-Washed Jeans

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These bleached, mottled jeans were a huge fashion statement. Paired with big hair and neon tops, they epitomized the ‘80s and early ‘90s style. Both guys and girls rocked the look. While denim trends come and go, acid wash remains firmly in the past.

Slap Bracelets

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These fun accessories were banned in many schools but loved by kids. A flat metal strip covered in fabric would curl around your wrist when slapped. They came in various colors and patterns but the novelty soon wore off, and safety concerns led to their decline.

Cabbage Patch Kids

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There was a massive craze about these dolls with adoption papers. Each one was supposedly unique, with its own name and birthday. Parents fought in stores to get them for Christmas. The frenzy has long since died down, but some collectors still prize vintage Cabbage Patch Kids.


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Inline skating took off in the ‘90s and rollerblades were everywhere—sidewalks, parks, and even gyms. They were a fun way to exercise and hang out with friends, and falling was just part of the learning process. While still around, they’re no longer the big trend they once were.

Beanie Babies

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Collecting these stuffed animals was a huge fad since people thought they’d be valuable investments. Some even put them in plastic cases to preserve them. The craze led to shortages and high resale prices. Now, most Beanie Babies sit forgotten in attics.

Tight Rolling Jeans

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This technique for tightly rolling up the ankles of jeans was a must-do fashion statement. It showed off your shoes and socks, and getting the perfect roll took practice. Loose jeans became more popular in the late ‘90s, and tight rolling faded away.

Troll Dolls

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These wild-haired plastic dolls were collectible toys and good luck charms that came in various sizes and colors. Some had jewels in their belly buttons. While they’ve had comebacks, the original troll doll craze was a distinct part of Gen X childhood.

Mood Rings

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Mood rings supposedly changed color based on your emotions. While not actually mood-detecting, they were fun accessories, and checking your ring’s color was a common activity. The fad eventually passed, but it left a mark on ’70s and ’80s pop culture.

Shoulder Pads

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Big shoulders were in, thanks to shoulder pads. They were sewn into women’s clothing or added separately and were meant to convey power and confidence. While subtle shoulder pads still exist, the exaggerated ‘80s look is firmly in the past.

Hypercolor T-Shirts

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Hypercolor shirts changed color with heat, reacting to body temperature and touch. They were a novelty hit, especially among teens. Breathing on the fabric to change its color was a common trick. The effect faded with washing, and so did the trend.


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Sleeping on water was considered cool and modern back then. Waterbeds were heated and came in various styles and were said to help with back pain, but leaks were a constant worry. Traditional mattresses have largely replaced them, but some still swear by waterbeds.

Film Cameras

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Before digital cameras, we captured memories through film cameras. Waiting to develop photos added excitement. Disposable cameras were popular for events, and photo albums filled shelves in many homes. While some still use film for artistic purposes, digital has taken over for most.

Phone Books

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These thick books listing everyone’s phone numbers were delivered yearly. They were essential for finding businesses or friends’ numbers, and tearing pages out for later use was common. With smartphones and online directories, phone books have become nearly extinct.

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