A Brief History of the Word ‘Rad’

Aaron Gilbreath
13 min readJan 4, 2020

\’ra-di-kəl\

Dong a backside grind on the Wild mini ramp in 1987, Goleta, California. Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

Hearing teenagers in purple flannels call their soy mochas “rad” perfectly illustrates the mechanisms behind the regurgitating cow stomach that is American pop culture. Not that that’s a bad thing — “nothing new under the sun” and all yields innovative hybrids — but the feedback loop of fashion really strikes a nerve when what was new in your youth becomes another generation’s vintage…

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Aaron Gilbreath

Essayist, Journalist, Burritoist. Longreads Editor. Writing: Harper’s, NYT, Slate, Paris Review, VQR, Oxford American, Kenyon Review. 3 nonfiction books.