Sears’ Toughskins – Jeans from Hell

In the 1970s, Sears Roebuck & Co took a look at their massive product offering – spanning items for home, auto, fashion, leisure, and countless other categories – and decided that there was but one retail area left for them to conquer: that of the nuke-proof childrens’ clothing market.

Specifically, Sears market researchers interviewed countless suburban moms, who decreed that the single greatest challenge faced by the nation was that of kids’ jeans that wore out too darned fast. Their solution? Create a line of jeans so ridiculously overbuilt that they could guarantee that kids would grow out of the cursed things long before they’d wear out.

Enter a sinister group of chemists, colorblind fashion school dropouts, and disgruntled Carter-era defense contractors – all hidden inside a hollowed-out volcano somewhere off the coast of Indonesia – and the world was forever changed.

The ToughskinâÂ?¢ jean had been unleashed upon millions of unsuspecting elementary school kids, who were henceforth doomed to a life of freakishly colored jean-substitutes with razor sharp, potentially lethal creases down the center of legs that didn’t bend at the knee, shattered in cold weather, gave off sparks upon striking asphalt, and featured a mock-leather “TOUGHSKINS” tag that inevitably cracked – leaving shards of unnaturally sharp plastic to jab at the wearer’s waist upon making any attempt to tie his/her shoes.

And we won’t even broach the horror of the “husky” Toughskin wearer…

This monstrous creation – made of a nearly indestructible blend of Dacron Type 59 polyester, DuPont 429 Nylon, Kevlar, titanium fiber, and approximately three strands of cotton (for softness!) – was the centerpiece of Sears’ childrens’ clothing line for nearly 15 years, and eventually spread to a line of men’s workclothes, until scores of emergency room visits by steelworkers who had inadvertently welded themselves to I-beams forced Sears to drop the line.

In the 1990s, the line was resurrected, and countless young adults across the nation began to wake in cold sweats, suffering Toughskin flashbacks, and triggering what psychologists have come to call Toughskin Syndrome – marked chiefly by a stiff-legged gait, and fear of polyester.

My own daughter is only two and a half, but I’ve already decided – she’ll never know the shame, or the pain of Toughskins. Yeah…that’s right – they still sell ’em. Go to your local Sears, and check them out. They’re softer than they used to be now, so none of these darned kids today (with their rock n’ roll, and their ice cream sodas!) will ever understand the look of fear and confusion that passes across their parent’s face upon walking through the kids’ clothing section, but hey…my fellow late 70s and early 80s veterans know the score. Sure, the incessant whining of my Generation may seem excessive, given that we didn’t have live through a Depression, a World War, Vietnam, or that whole Dick Cavett phase of American pop culture, but man…we had to deal with Toughskins, and that’s plenty enough to scar anybody.

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