Monday, December 11, 2023

College students adore popular plushies

By Bryn Fawn

Squishmallows are the ever-growing craze of the past half-decade. With simplistic-but-cute round designs, going as small as 3.5 inches and as large as 24 inches and soft and squishy textures, there’s a lot to love.

The official Squishmallow Instagram account announced the “Official Original Squishmallow Day’’ to occur annually March 7.  The holiday is intended for squish-lovers worldwide to celebrate and express their appreciation for the adorable plushies. 

The day selected was specifically when the first-ever Squishmallow was made, Cam the Cat. Cam the Cat is a calico cat, with a light tan body and brown and black splotches. Cam also shares a closed smile expression embroidered in the fabric. 

That’s one of the appeals to the line, or a detail enjoyed by many. Each plush is given  their own name and small bio, which shares their personality and aspirations. They range from wannabe-pilots, bakers or mathematicians. Squishmallows have branched out beyond animals as well, having made Disney characters or holiday symbols into egg-shaped plushies. 

Another appeal is the plush material. The texture of these toys are very sensory-friendly, allowing those with sensory issues, such as individuals with autism, to enjoy them. Many adults with disabilities, and of course children, have one of these plushies due to their texture and softness. 

Squishmallows held a 12 hour long livestream on Instagram March 7 to celebrate. They also announced collaborations, such as claiming a free axolotl in Roblox, a popular computer game. The company held giveaways and also made an official Snapchat filter. Fans could also now purchase merchandise inspired by the toy line, such as t-shirts. 

Kai Hemmingway, a junior TV video production major, is a Squishmallow fan. Hemingway owns many, and their favorite is their bull named Shep because they “love cows.”

“I think they’re very popular especially with the younger generations like Generation Z and younger,” Hemmingway said. “They’re a good price, very soft, very cute and have so many options that they can fit everyone.”

Hemingway said that the current culture of hunting for more “rare” variants is a drawback.

“Resellers are probably the worst part about being a collector,” Hemmingway said. Resellers are individuals who purposely buy many of a popular variant and resell them online for an insurmountable upcharge.

Hemingway explained that the toys can be “addicting.”

“Once you buy one Squishmallow it almost becomes an addiction,” Hemingway claimed. “I bought my first one at my old job and I’ve been collecting ever since. I probably have above 50 split between my dorm and my house.”

Hemingway shared how the toys have assisted them.

“I know they’ve helped me calm down during meltdowns before,” Hemingway said. “They have a great texture and offer great comfort. I think they greatly benefit neurodivergent people.”

Joshua Simmons, a junior anthropology major, has also been delighted by the plushies.

“I like how they’re basically pillows with character,” Simmons said. “I do have a few favorites that I either have had since the beginning of my squish endeavor, or that I got as gifts.” 

However, Simmons shared how over time the culture surrounding the toy line has created issues.

“They suffer from every modern day ‘collectible,’” Simmons shared. “They’re over-produced and over-consumed.”

Jacob Brant, a Plattsburgh local, has sour feelings for the toy line.

“I don’t like them,” Brant said. “I think they’re overpriced and I don’t like the style of them. They’re also relatively cheaply made. I have a couple [stuffed animals] that have lasted 20 plus years, despite being either cheap or handmade without a lot of skill.”

Simmons now no longer enjoys the plushies.

“They are the bane of my existence,” Simmons said. “The Squishmallow community is absolutely feral.”

Brant stressed that while they will not judge others for their purchasing history, checking the past of the company of the product is always a good idea.

“At the end of the day I don’t really care about what stuffed animals people prefer, even if I find these ones unappealing,” Brant said. “I will say the same thing I say to most people purchasing anything: if possible, double check what company is doing what with your money and decide if buying that product is right for you.”

Squishmallows are mass-produced, which means they contribute to our carbon footprint. The factories create greenhouse gasses and plenty of waste that ends up in landfills. Smaller businesses, such as those that make stuffed animals by hand, are a more ecologically mindful solution.

“I know a lot of advertising for them leans into targeting people with anxiety or texture preferences that affect day-to-day life, but like most corporations I’d have to blame [the toys’s popularity] on a combination of advertisements, good product placement, and sheer luck,” Brant said.

In the end, their popularity is undeniable. Most stores now sell Squishmallows and thousands of Americans enjoy their softness everyday. It is only likely that their popularity will continue to grow, and more events may take place next March.

“Everyone loves stuffed animals, especially when you can find them literally everywhere,” Simmons said. “They’re unique, not just plain teddy bears, but fun random animals and objects and other things. They also have a modern beanie baby feel, with names and descriptions.”

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