Tuesday, January 20, 2009


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]


skinnyGLASSESgirl said...

awesome HA HA.. love the robot. the jeans are cool. i'd prob be one of those mean mom's that made their kids wear them. warehouse? Lucky girl!

Jessica R. said...

That's what the reveal of the fifth cylon should have been.

kirby- Skint But Stylish said...

Awwww... i like the plaid wearing robot

fromthepines said...

I got here from Vintage Rescue Squad and I have just finished reading all your posts. What a blast from the past! Yes, I do remember some of these books and games and I have never laughed so much and right out loud at my computer!

Keep it up,


eniksleestack said...

Thanks, for the kind comments, friends. It's the only reason I keep this blog going. Well, that and some weird form of junk-related OCD.

baikinange said...

Here's a link to a place in St. Louis that buys old store stock. Years ago I ran across a dress shop that was going out of business and they had hundreds of items of store stock with the original tags. They paid me a finder's fee of several hundred dollars for that. It might be worth it for you to contact them.


Alyssa said...

Those are absolutely hilarious!
Husky sizing does still exist, I think only because it was a term only used on boys clothing. My poor sister, built like a square, had to wear husky size boys jeans because she never fit into anything else.
The girl terminology for "husky size" was "chubbies", as sometimes seen on vintage children's patterns. This term seems to have disappeared in the late '60's.

Paper Dolls for Boys said...

Are you selling those? What an amazing find!

the Notorious O.S.C. said...

OMG! i loved my toughskins! and yeah, they were *hella* uncomfortable--but i didn't know any better. i'd climb trees (with my robot friends) fall off my skateboard, play stickball etc. and yet, they still never ripped. i guess i never thought of glass...

P. said...

Ah, memories... My brothers wore Toughskin jeans back in the day! It was either that or wear jeans patched by my mom because they were constantly wrecking 'em playing Evil Knievel! I am sure one of them had that red pair. Glad those days are over for us all!

beth said...

I'm so glad I found your blog!! It's so much fun! I wish I could scour thrift stores every day - ah, what great memories can be found there.

Really Big Junk Drawer said...

God, how great! This so reminds me of when I was growing up throughout the seventies and my sister and I would sit with my mother and try and pick out our yearly school clothes from Montgomery Wards, Sears and JcPennys. Husky! How funny. If I recall it was "Pretty Plus" Or some god awful thing like that for girls. OR WAS HUSKY also for girls in one or two of the catalogues? I remember mom saying something about HUSKY anyhow, lol. I remember my sister and I racing to the house when the big school clothes box would finally arrive in the mail! The pants in the horribly stiff "jean like" material, the puffy winter coats, the packages of monday through sunday undies! Talk about memories.

Lisanne McT said...

I had royal purple toughskins which I wore with my purple pro keds...I also had screaming lemon yellow and also green plaid!!! And and of course plain denim when i felt like dressing down. And of course this was topped off with a snorkle jacket!

love your blog!

Qweerdo said...

God, I remember those. The reinforced knees were the worst. It was like a piece of armor on your knee.

Doris the Great said...

Thank you for the laughs (and the memories)! I can remember when my brothers wore jeans just like those horrible robot jeans. The late 60's/early 70's were a nasty decade for fashion. It was a time when everyone at your school knew which of the boys were wearing the husky-size pants and which of the female teachers were wearing the full-figure undies! But even worst than the robot jeans were the plaid, double-knit polyester pants which were worn by my older brother with his striated, knit polyester turtle neck. Now that was some scary duds!!

Anonymous said...

I totally remember the robot testing commercials. Still wearing out the knees in my 40s

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Anonymous said...

id always wear the rear end out of my toughskins

Anonymous said...

Hey, What's Worse Than Wearing a Pair Of X Pocket Toughskin's,

ANSWER: Pulling Them Down For
Corporal Punishment (Spank)

jeff said...

Yep I remember wearing them. Mine were hand me downs also. You couldn't wear them out. Growing up poor I would get a pair from my cousin for the schoolyear. I always wondered why my jeans were too big around the waist or fit around the waist but were too short when I sat down. I realized later of course it was because my cousin wore HUSKY SIZE JEANS. A pair of jeans would last me along time because if it fit around your waist, you wore them when I was growing up. They didn't get worn out being washed in the washing machine then either because mine were washed out by hand and hung to dry mostly. I still remember wearing those Toughskin Jeans everyday and a plain white tee shirt to school.

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Edward said...

I would love to get my hands on some Toughskins. I collect them, and they are just about the hardest things to find in the world. Surprising, as millions were sold. Please let me know if you have or know of any that are available for sale. Thanks.

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