The Hula Hoop Craze

Kyra Maniac... Hula Hoop enthusiast
The popular fad of swinging your hips inside a plastic coloured ring began in the 1950s and lasted well into the 60s when it reached its zenith, though there are still dedicated hula hoop fans around today.

Hoops were nothing new and indeed kids had been rolling them around with a stick since Adam was a pup. They've been used for exercise, fun, acrobatics, sports and recreation. Way back in the 1300s doctors even prescribed them as a gentle activity for healing dislocated backs.(Wiki) It was also around this time that the term 'hula' was applied to hoops, evidently as a result of British sailors noticing the similarity between the hip swinging of a hula hooper and the exotic dancing of the Hawaiian Islands.

However it took the promotional efforts of the fabulously named Wham-O toy company in the US, who were the first to come up with the plastic version, to really turn hula hooping into a widespread fad. During the 50s and 60s it seemed everyone was doing it - kids, housewives, Dads, Grandmothers, travelling salesmen (but only if they were selling hoops).

In the first few months of the plastic hula hoops release onto a hula-ready general public (July, 1958 to be precise), millions were sold and in two years that figure stretched to an eye-bulging 100 million. The top brass at Wham-O must have thought they'd discovered a license to print money.At it's peak, the fad was driving the production of 50,000 hula hoops a day. They were cheap, colourful, fun for five minutes and everyone had to have one.

Australian Hula Hoop princesses from the 50s. Image from The Age
As the less rambunctious, laid back 70s drew near, the craze died down and the Wham-O executives retired to their yachts on the Mediterranean but it wasn't the end of hula hoops, as in recent years they've had a resurgence in the form of hoop dancing, though the craze is mild compared to the feverish hula hooping of the 50s and 60s. Modern hooping involves heavier, larger hoops, sometimes homemade from polyurethane tubing and often personalised with decorative features such as glitter, glow and LED lights, or transparent with water rolling around inside. There are hoop dancing festivals, social events and competitions. According to wikipedia:
Every year, in numerical sequence starting from 2007-07-07 and continuing through 2012-12-12 hoopers dance in every city and country to raise money and donate hoops to others who can't afford them...
Well that's good to hear - they're a fun, cheap and healthy way to get some exercise in this sit-down contemporary culture. Viva la Hula!

One is hard enough but sixty? Circus pro with her hoops