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Children play with hula hoops. (Bec Parsons/Getty Images)
Children play with hula hoops. (Bec Parsons/Getty Images)

The retro game revival: Axe-throwing, anyone? Add to ...

Throwback games – horseshoes, lawn tennis, croquet – started to regain popularity in the late naughts. It was perhaps, ironically, fallout from the massive popularity of 2007’s Wii Fit. Exercise, suddenly, required a big-screen TV, a virtual avatar and a pricey Nintendo console.

To urban hipsters, the idea of using complex tech (let alone non-canvas running shoes) to break a sweat was almost heretical. With a mistrust of mainstream preoccupations and a thirst for more Victorian pastimes – canning vegetables, crocheting doilies, waxing mustaches – the youth of London, New York and Paris took their fitness routines in exactly the opposite direction of their virtual-reality-loving counterparts.

The first game to really have a resurgence was probably boules, a French skill-tester similar to lawn bowling and long-loved by retirees. Even Karl Lagerfeld got into the revival – in 2010, he hosted a boules tournament in St. Tropez and, with Chanel, introduced a boules set (complete with old-time wicker basket).

Then bocce, boules’ Italian counterpart, bounced back. Over the past few years, New York has spent hundreds of thousands of dollars refurbishing the city’s once-abandoned bocce courts to meet spiking demand.

Even axe throwing – think darts for Vikings – is having a moment. In Toronto, the Backyard Axe Throwing League hosts regular tournaments and has more than 130 members.

This summer, though, it’s all about the hula hoop. Partially because it’s an incredibly easy pastime to pick up (a cheap plastic hoop and moderately flexible hips is all it takes), but also because its 1950s innocence makes hipsters squeal with nostalgic delight.


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