I've commented a few times before about the sartorial splendors of the Seventies, but the thrift stores never fail to amaze and awe me by spitting up ever-more-funky cultural remnants of the the nuttiest decade ever.
Case in point: last week I came upon a mini cache of deadstock boys jeans from the era of Evel Knievel. Until then I had forgotten (willfully unremembered) the sheer ugliness and total uncomfortability of Toughskins. Fortunately my parents never forced me to wear forest green or cardinal red pants, but I've since had a flashback of wearing a pair of stiff denim monstrosities with reinforced knees and all the comfort of spun steel wool on the playground. That was right before I accidentally fell on piece of glass, ripped a hole in them, and rendered them thankfully ineligible for school wear. And that is the story I will swear to my grave. Ah, childhood.
What really caught my eye about these warehouse finds (other than their hilarious colors) was the original tags. "Husky" sizing (that can't still be the preferred term, can it?), the laundry-list claims about their indestructibility, bell-bottomed boys in innocent and yet slightly dangerous neighborhood hijinks -- that kid looks like he 20 feet in the air -- is he falling down or bouncing up?
But my absolute favorite tag was on this plaid nightmare. From a distance it seems like it just makes the same claims about wear and tear -- with a 70s kind doing the very 70s (pre-iPod, pre-Playstation, pre-fun) act of climbing a tree.
But look closer my friends. Past the claims of you-can-not-f**k-up-these-pants-even-if-a-nuclear-bomb-goes-off (by the way, what the hell was it about the 70s that was so damn dangerous to boy jeans? Other than random pieces of glass flying up out of nowhere to ruin a brand new pair of pants. I was there, it happened)
Anyhoo, that's not just a kid with a bullet shaped head and shiny silver sneakers.
It's a damn, dirty robot! Climbing a tree! With its cold steel claws and its beeping computer brain, scanning the landscape for humans to kill. Oh, and it's wearing rainbow stripe Brady Bunch bell-bottom trousers. Okay, I willing to concede that maybe he's a cyborg, but still: striped bell-bottoms?
How did this advertising campaign sell boys pants? "Hey, Moms! Your son, like this sterile iron machine, will never be able to destroy our pants!" "Does your boy remind you of the Tin Man? Now he can dress like him too!" "Robby the Robot says: Stylish jeans? That does not compute!"
It certainly doesn't promise comfort. "The Softest Jeans Your Shiny Metal Android Ass Can Buy!"
Maybe it's just a dumb kid in his Halloween costume -- right before he runs out of air and falls 3 stories to his death. At least JCPenny guarantees his 10 oz. denim pants will be ok.
Was JCPenny's hoping that 7-year-olds would select their pants based on whatever monster was illustrated wearing them? "Mom, I want the Frankenstein Flares!" The mind reels with possibilities.
Perhaps we'll never know. But one thing's for sure: these pants will outlive us all. Run for your lives! [Cue Terminator music -- or the theme to Forbidden Planet, if you prefer]