The hula hoop was a pioneer, the first major fad created and fueled by a new power in America—TV ads. Here are some cool history facts about hula hoops that you may not know.
The hula hoop originated in Australia, where it was simply a bamboo exercise ring used in gym classes. In 1957 an Australian company began selling the ring in retail stores— which attracted the attention of a small California toy manufacturer named Wham-O.
Wham-O’s owners made a few wooden rings for their kids (“They just wouldn’t put the hoop down”), took them to cocktail parties (“Folks had to have a couple of drinks in them to take a whack at it”)…and then decided they had a hot item on their hands. They began producing a plastic version, naming it the Hula Hoop after the motion it resembled—the Hawaiian hula dance.
Wham-O introduced the hula hoop to the American public in January 1958, and it quickly became the biggest toy craze in history (up to that time). During the year, more than 20 million— $30 million worth—were sold. The hula hoop was the quintessential fad, but by November 1958, the Wall Street Journal was already announcing, “Hoops Have Had It.” A brief comeback occurred in 1965, when Wham-O introduced the “Shoop-Shoop”
Hula Hoop, with a ball bearing in it to make noise, but it just wasn’t the same.
- According to the British Medical Journal, the hula hoop was responsible for an increase in back, neck, and abdominal injuries.
- Indonesia banned hula hoops because they “might stimulate passion.” Japan forbade them on public streets.
- The official news agency in China called hula hoops “a nauseating craze.” In the Soviet Union, the hoop was seen as a “symbol of the emptiness of American culture.”
- Hula hoop endurance records: longest whirl—72 hours, by Kym Coberly in 1984; most hoops twirled simultaneously—105, by Jin Linlin of China, in 2007.
This story was originally published in Uncle John’s Bathroom Reader Sports Spectacular.