The year 2010 had its share of heroism and human uplift—the Chilean miners, the viral success of the "It Gets Better" campaign, the Saints winning the Super Bowl—but it also had a whole lot of really dumb stuff. Here we've collected 13 of the most persistent and egregious trends of 2010, all of which we'd be happy to see disappear by the new year. Read on for our takes on angry, unforgiving fashion like skinny jeans and lobster-claw shoes, the social menace that was vuvuzelas, and the slow, steady Bieberfication of the American male.
Leggings were the scourge of last year's fashion-conscious consumers, but this year, designers went too far: crossing jeans with leggings to create jeggings, a super-stretchy, skintight garment. Not only are these pants unflattering to the majority of the American populace, they're dangerous—the tightness can lead to nerve damage. But alas, they're not going anywhere: apparently, jeggings are so hot that Goldman Sachs is betting big on them. The company's back-to-school report highlighted Abercrombie & Fitch as a good investment, in large part due to the predicted strength of the jeggings market. Will Conan O'Brien's show-long appearance in male jeggings (a.k.a. meggings) cool things off, or just make the jeggings fever even hotter? (At least our runner-up for most irritating fashion trend, the angry Alexander McQueen lobster claw shoes, is not expected to be worn outside of the runway or a Lady Gaga concert.)
It's not technically a trend if it happens only once, but KFC's Double Down was enough of an outrage to make the list. The chicken "sandwich" eschewed bread in favor of, well, more chicken, encasing cheese, bacon, and special sauce between two fried chicken breasts. The fact that this sandwich, at 540 calories, is less fattening than a Big Mac (578) does not make it any less ridiculous.
Almost all the big-name Republicans considering a run for the presidency—Mike Huckabee, Newt Gingrich, John Bolton, Sarah Palin—are also on contract as commentators at Fox News, which prohibits them from appearing on other networks' news shows and raises questions about political favoritism and campaign ethics. The network promises to drop the contracts once a commentator officially declares his or her campaign, but there's a lot of murky, preannouncement politicking that could go on ahead of time. (The contract, by the way, does not prohibit Palin from appearing on her own reality show on TLC.)
This year, Washington passed a consumer-protection act that made it more difficult for banks to rack up exorbitant fees with underhanded practices. As a response, banks began finding new ways to charge exorbitant fees, raising checking and banking costs and adding more penalties for low minimum balances, for instance. They're also pushing products that can cost consumers big time. The Kardashian Kard, a prepaid debit card featuring the visages of everyone's favorite famous-for-no-reason reality stars, represented one of the worst new personal-banking trends. Consumers paid $59.95 just for the privilege of carrying a card and after six months had to pay a $7.95 monthly fee. It cost money to pay bills ($2 per item), to take money out of ATMs ($2.50 plus whatever charge the ATMs add), and to call to complain ($1.50). The Kardashians pulled the card after it had been on the market less than a month.
The nation continues to suffer through some of the worst unemployment rates in modern history, but American corporations reported record profits in the third quarter of 2010. After declaring bankruptcy in 2009, the result of years of mismanagement, GM secured a huge corporate bailout and emerged surprisingly strong this fall, when it reentered the stock market, raising $20 billion in one day. Meanwhile, BP's stock, which had bottomed out at 27.2 points during the worst of the Gulf oil spill, is on the road to recovery, trading today at about 44. Before the spill, it was going for about 60.
These plastic horns have long been a tradition of the South African soccer scene, but they garnered international infamy during the World Cup, when the buzzing sound infiltrated the airwaves and drove the rest of the world crazy. The horns weren't just annoying; people complained that the noise could damage hearing and was dangerous. To make matters worse, a study out of London found that vuvuzelas can spread germs and infections, sending little molecules of bacteria-infested saliva into the atmosphere for hours at a time.
Justin Bieber claims that his trademark shaggy, shiny bangs are a naturally occurring phenomenon—no blow-dry or styling product required. So what's Tom Brady's excuse? The New England Patriots quarterback recently adopted the Bieber do, sparking rumors that he was hiding some male pattern baldness. Even noncelebs are getting in on the act, with young men hoping that a little of the Bieber fever that so infects young women would somehow be directed toward them. Fair warning, boys: the photos you take now will haunt you well into your 40s.
Bullying is not exactly a new trend, though it was highlighted this year by the suicides of several children who killed themselves after being the targets of bullies. Because many of those taunts, teasing, and violence were directed at kids suspected of being gay or accused of "acting gay," the anti-bullying effort was often led by gay-rights advocates. But conservatives concerned about promotion of a "gay agenda" opposed many anti-bullying platforms. In some cases, critics actually accused the dead children of falling victim to their own "unhealthy lifestyles." In others, they said the focus should be on the bullies, not the bullied. Either way, it seemed counterproductive and mean-spirited.
It seemed it couldn't get worse after Jersey Shore debuted in 2009. But 2010 saw an onslaught of Jersey-themed knockoff reality shows: Jersey Couture and Jerseylicious, focused on the exploits and adventures of Jersey clothiers and hairdressers, respectively, all of whom look as if they're only a few branches away from Snooki on the family tree. But is that really all New Jersey has to offer? We're still hoping for Jersey Urban Renewal, featuring Cory Booker and other Newark politicians in endless meetings, or maybe Jerseyosopher, the postmodern socialist adventures of Cornel West at Princeton.
Expect this one to stick around for a while. We love technology (we're a website, after all), but overusing the latest tech trend to show how hip one is leaves us cold. Not everything looks cooler in the mellow hues of a Hipstamatic. Unlocking the "DMV" badge on Foursquare won't make you cooler; neither will becoming the mayor of the local Panda Express. Finally, #stopturningphrasesintowittyhashtags. Especially if you're not even on Twitter.
A stunt so ridiculous it seemed as if it must have been a viral-marketing campaign, "bro icing" appeared to be an organic fad with unknown origins. The gist: bros (and it was most often guys) surprise an unsuspecting bro with a warm bottle of Smirnoff Ice, at which point the recipient bro must get down on one knee and drink the entire bottle in one chug. Bonus points for bottles hidden in creative places (golf bags, FedEx boxes, suitcases), and for the usually unpalatable Smirnoff Ice being served as warm as possible. Luckily, though, this trend disappeared almost as fast as you can chug a Smirnoff Ice hidden in a mailbox. We're hoping that, unlike some of those pounded drinks, it won't reappear again, uglier than ever.
WikiLeaks showed that government and military secrets aren't safe from the Net. 4Chan and other vigilante Internet hackers proved that if you do something wrong—or just anger the wrong person—your home address, work information, personal history, and incriminating details can all be used against you by strangers looking for revenge. Facebook argued that while it's your user data, it has the right to use the information to make a profit. Gawker's security lapse indicated that even the most tech-savvy companies can compromise your information. And NEWSWEEK's Jessica Bennett showed that everything you do online leaves a trail, and businesses eager to track that trail will do so for the right price.
Last, but hardly least. Companies are making record profits, Congress is fighting turf wars, and 9.8 percent of Americans are still out of jobs this holiday season. We're over it.