Reunion special: Five ways Friends changed the world
We feel a few ubiquitous elements of modern culture may not have reached quite such lofty levels of popularity without the six stars’ support.
1) Café culture
Now, before you come at us, of course tea and coffee shops have been around since time immemorial. They were just as pivotal a part of everyday life when The Bard was actually penning Macdonwald’s trials in Macbeth as a visit to Shakespeare’s cafe is today after the trial of finding parking anywhere near McDonald’s in Al Wasl. However, with the mid-‘90s coffee house explosion we can’t help but think we witnessed a bit of a chicken and egg scenario. Did Starbucks et al. naturally spring up around us and a facsimile was a convenient laidback setting for the group, or were the franchises’ popularity increased because we saw our Friends in one each week for a decade? You be the judge? A Central Perk replica even made it all the way to Dubai. Opened in Umm Suqeim in 2006 by Gunther (James Michael Tyler) himself, it ran for a good long while.
2) Flat shares
What came first: rising rent and stagnating wages or Friends? We like to think, given the show’s popularity navigated a relatively stable global financial period, it was the programme that made the idea of taking on a property with a bunch of mates a far more palatable prospect. Maybe not so much in The States, but elsewhere the idea of sharing an apartment with your chums into your 30s wasn’t much of a consideration before Chandler and Joey made it look so fun. Now it is the norm. Walking across the hall and waltzing into your neighbour’s to grab a soda, however, still very much a no-no. We’ll get there.
Or ‘Bloomie’s’, as one extra’s mum supposedly calls it, has been a New York staple luxury department store since 1861. Like Selfridges in London, it was a go-to if you happened to find yourself in the city and it enjoyed widespread recognition. Yet, we fail to believe the clamour for its Little Brown Bags would have been as fervent had Rachel Green not frequently been seen carrying one, nor taken a job at the shop to begin her fashion career. In Dubai we enjoy the only overseas outlet.
Well-documented, nobody went into a salon and asked for a ‘Ross’ or ‘Phoebe’, but the entire planet did go crazy for one specific hair cut. ‘The Rachel’ was a phenomenon in itself and had professionals brushing up on their layering skills from continent to continent from the end of season one. “I think it was the ugliest haircut I’ve ever seen,” Jennifer Aniston told Allure in 2019. Could have been worse. She could have been given ‘The Dudley Moore’.
5) Days Of Our Lives
Using a real soap opera as Joey Tribbiani’s acting career high-water mark was a touch of genius and one for which the daytime drama must be grateful. Watching in Europe, we’d never heard of DOOL, but gave it a chance after Dr. Drake Ramoray’s exploits. We can’t have been the only ones.