What happened to icicle lights?
December 6, 2014 6:18 PM   Subscribe

For a while in the 90s, icicle lights were super popular Christmas decorations. Not the kind with dangly strings of little light bulbs, but ones that actually looked like lighted icicles. I haven't seen them in years - not in stores, not on anyone's houses. Where did they go?

Was there a massive recall? Were they obnoxiously inconvenient in some way (difficult to hang, too bulky to store, useless if a bulb burned out)? Or did they just suddenly become super uncool?

It looks like you can still buy a version of them on Amazon, but I don't know how similar they are to the 90s lights. (There are also a couple negative reviews mentioning that the wind flips the lights up on to the roof; maybe that's part of the reason? But I grew up in an area with mild winters where wind wouldn't be a problem, and I don't see them there anymore either.)

It seems weird that they were ubiquitous for a couple years and then totally disappeared. I figured that some people would have hung onto them and continued to put them up, even if they were out of style, but it's been at least ten or fifteen years since I've seen any. What's the story?
posted by Metroid Baby to Grab Bag (11 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Just a guess, but since it's hard enough to untangle regular strings of lights, trying to deal with strands that are made of random lengths of dangles is probably more trouble than most people are willing to deal with more than once. I see houses with them, though, so maybe it's just where you are.
posted by sageleaf at 7:11 PM on December 6, 2014 [1 favorite]

Maybe they warmed up? I have no idea but here are a few options that you might like.

(Though you do you want them? Or do you just want to know why you can't find them? Gemmy is the brand name that keeps popping up, and lights seem to be LED these days.)

At Home Depot

Another Home Depot

At Target

In color!
posted by bluedaisy at 8:04 PM on December 6, 2014

Target still sells icicle lights -- I definitely saw them at the store with all the other lights. They also have them online apparently. I can also confirm seeing at least a few houses with them.

I think generally lights have skewed toward ease of use -- last year, we bought several light "nets" that you can throw over your lawn bushes in like 60 seconds. It beats stringing them around through a bush by hand and it looking uneven. How easy is it to string pointy lights around the edge of your roof? Around your roof is literally the only place you can hang icicle lights. No one in my family has ever hung any lights around the roof because of how hard and dangerous it would be to do.
posted by AppleTurnover at 8:05 PM on December 6, 2014

we bought the ones in the top link on bluedaisy's post last year at home depot! maybe they just get sold out where you are? they are kind of a hassle to put up, and you definitely can't leave them up year round.
posted by euphoria066 at 8:06 PM on December 6, 2014

Response by poster: Oh, just to be clear, I'm not looking to buy any (I'm an apartment dweller and lazy). I'm just wondering why I never see them anymore. The Gemmy lights are similar, but the old icicle lights that I remember were more closely spaced, and people would hang them up all around the edges of their roofs.

I see the dangly-string kind regularly, but not the icicle-shaped ones, not even in the town where I used to see them in the 90s.
posted by Metroid Baby at 8:52 PM on December 6, 2014

The many houses I've gone past in my part of town would beg to differ with your assertion but I think the answer you're looking for is a pretty simple combination of two factors:

1. Christmas paraphernalia is big business. Companies and our consumer culture are always pushing new ways to express old sentiments. Taste in Christmas decor changes just like taste in fashion or music or hairstyles. It's just that because Christmas is always tinged with tradition it's a little more subtle in its changes.

2. Things are almost always now manufactured with inbuilt obsolescence. The idea of stuff not being made like it used to be? Totally true, particularly with seasonal decor. So your old uncle's jalapeno christmas lights with a fraying plug might still work just fine, but something you bought five years ago and stored in a damp basement? Dead.

So basically, people bought icicle lights when they were cool and if they took good care of them they might still use them, but if they didn't they're probably in the trash. When they went to buy replacements, their taste had changed and they've gotten something else, as encouraged by a culture that wants them to spend money in this way. Or, they found the icicle lights and thought "hell, these broke after three years, let's get these other things" that then break in another three years, conveniently when their taste has been nudged in another direction.

You'll sometimes see houses with unchanging Christmas lights for years and years (or they're just always adding on.) These are the people who know what they want and what they want to express. They are not the people who would want "tasteful white icicle lights", you know?
posted by Mizu at 10:16 PM on December 6, 2014 [3 favorites]

I just came home from a party that had them on the porch, and I thought "damn, I haven't seen those in years!" They were LED so they were not old.
posted by Lyn Never at 12:18 AM on December 7, 2014

Fads in lighting? I remember fake candles being really popular, either in singles or fives. Occasionally you'll still them in people's homes (my parents and in-laws still have them) but I haven't seen them for sale in 10 years.
posted by hydrobatidae at 5:28 AM on December 7, 2014

Huh, I was in Canadian Tire yesterday and they had at least six different kinds (sizes, colours etc) so maybe they are regionally available? About 20 percent of houses in my neighbourhood have them in their outdoor display.
posted by saucysault at 6:16 AM on December 7, 2014

The ones with varying-length strings of lights were what was/is normally called icicle lights around here, starting in the mid-90s with the older style, and now in LED. I remember seeing the ones you're talking about, that were more of a plastic icicle-shape over the lights, and they were a novelty that was around for a few years, and then disappeared. There were snowflake-shaped ones sold around the same time period, though I can't remember if they were made by the same company.
posted by stormyteal at 12:19 PM on December 7, 2014

Outside Christmas lights of any kind seem to be on the downswing in my neighborhood. Most of the houses have little or no external decorations. But of the houses that do, I'd guess at least a third have icicle lights. Maybe closer to half. Probably as close to ubiquitous as anything else is around here.
posted by Flexagon at 10:11 AM on December 16, 2014

« Older What music is being used in this trailer?   |   Brussels strike and travel advice Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.