In current popular culture, trends and fads take hold of its participants at unprecedented speeds highly contributed to by platforms like TikTok. Along with the trends of music, dance, and fashion that commonly gain popularity on TikTok, products are often promoted as well.
Everyone has seen the round cuddly stuffed animals called Squishmallows crowding the shelves at a variety of retail stores but these cuddly creatures have only reached this heightened desirability in the past year. Oddly enough, these stuffed animals have not only reached an audience of younger children but have expanded to include teenagers and even adults.
Much of this fame is due to the power of TikTok and its ability to spark nationwide trends. Squishmallows were created by Kellytoy in 2017 and have quickly grown to include over 1,000 different character designs, each with its own unique name and personal story. The popularity of Squishmallows began to take off in late 2020 and has continued to grow in since then.
As Squishmallow demand and popularity grew, it became very difficult to find the plushies at local stores, perhaps contributing to the trend even more due to the sense of rarity that they provide in the difficulty of acquisition. Production of the Squishmallows was increased dramatically to meet the demand and it was reported that over 73 million toys had been sold by March 2021.
Some people have even accumulated their own crazy collections including several hundreds of the toys. Rare Squishmallows are even being resold on websites for hundreds of dollars, far exceeding their average retail prices.
It seems odd that of all things to go viral and become the new desirable collectible item are these simple stuffed animals, but when you think about all that has happened in the past two years it might not seem so crazy anymore.
The COVID-19 pandemic became a difficult reality for many in early 2020 when lockdowns and strict health regulations were implemented. Fear and uncertainty became a part of our everyday lives and it is human nature to seek comfort in the face of these realities. It seems to me like these Squishmallows are maybe just another way for people to find comfort in times when it may be hard to come by.
It is yet to be determined, but it seems likely that Squishmallows are going to become the Gen Z collector’s item like Beanie Babies or Hotwheels have been for previous generations. Or maybe Squishmallows will prove to be a fad that fades into obscurity and will soon appear on the shelves of secondhand stores instead of major retailers, abandoned by their admirers to make room for the next big thing.