Top 25 "It" products of all time: #13 -- Hula hoops

I confess: I love to hoop. While I'm not a frequent attendee of the hoop circles held weekly in nearby Laurelhurst Park, I've watched, mesmerized, as my friends hooped circles around me -- literally. Anything that takes such generous use of a girls' hips has to be good, right?

Hula hoops are, astonishingly, an ancient device without any connection to Hawaii. In the long ago days before plastic, hoops made of rattan, reeds, and grapevines were used by the Grecians for exercise, and by the Egyptians as a toy (propelled across the ground with a straight stick). The "hula" name was acquired in the early 1700s, when European sailors first watched the hula dance and thought it was reminiscent of the motion used to twirl hoops.

But hula hoops as they appear today, in bright colors of plastic tubing, first hit the streets of America, Europe and Australia in 1957, when the Coles department store found its bamboo hoop supplier couldn't keep up. They asked a longtime Australian supplier, Toltoys, to make them plastic hoops, and a craze was born.