12/7/10

Wrangler Jeans - Passive-Aggressive child abuse, fifties style.

The Law of decade Permanence states that any given decade's real identity lingers around two years into the next decade, like the way Xanadu came out in 1980, but was basically a hideous monstrosity of 70s trends and flakiness... kind of like a 70s afterbirth. So, in 1950, cowboys were all the rage, as a holdover from the forties. Davy Crockett hats hung around into the fifties a bit, but basically, I think the whole "pretending to be a cowboy" thing was in it's prime in the forties. You know, like Ralphie Parker in A Christmas Story wanted a Red Ryder BB gun. No wait. I do remember a lot of 50s TV shows with various little brothers playing cowboys. Okay, scratch that. I'll make a note to have the Retractions and Redactions squad delete that part about cowboys. But the Law of Decade Permanence still stands.

So anyway, here's an ad for Wrangler jeans pushing the whole cowboy thing. That's all well and good, but children's denim as I remember it was a punishing horror until the mid-seventies, when they figured out the technology behind soft denim.

Because kids are careless spazzes, jean companies see it as their mission to fabricate jeans that will last until the boy is of drinking age. Generally, this means making jeans out of 1/4 inch plywood, with all seams and joints held together with drywall screws... countersunk for comfort, of course.

I never had Wranglers, but I got Sears "Roebuckers" which looked exactly like the jeans in this picture. Roebuckers had the value added feature of knee reinforcements, to prevent the "fabric" from wearing through. This was applied in the form of vinyl sheets ironed into the INSIDE of the pants at the knees. This meant that you could always feel them there, protecting the denim from your presumably jagged knees. They breathed like vinyl too, so if you sat down for more than a few minutes, your knees would sweat. In short order, these vinyl reinforcements cracked and began to peel away from the fabric, creating a hundred little scratchy flaps, constantly poking and scraping at your knees. It became a TV watching task, turning your jeans inside out to peel those goddam vinyl things off, in hopes of wearing the jeans without dreaming of sawing your legs off.

Knee protectors seem like overkill, since this looks to be 14 gauge denim, which could stop a bullet, and the rifle thrown at it when you run out of bullets. I don't know who the boy is shooting at, but those bandits are screwed unless they're wearing jeans like his. If you look closely at the picture, you can see how stiff it is.

Here's a secret for rendering clothing: soft fabric has small wrinkles. Stiff fabric has big wrinkles. If you want clothes to look comfortable, paint the fabric to look as though it conforms to the shape of the body, with small creases and wrinkles at points of articulation, like elbows. Now look at the jeans in this picture. You can't see the shape of the person underneath. It's all triangular folds and panels, like the kid's wearing a denim skyscraper. His elbow is bent around five degrees, which is probably as far as he could manage without breaking his humerus. He's probably pointing the gun at the Wrangler rep who forced him into those jeans.

It's just as well that all my jeans lasted long enough for me to outgrow them. My dad saved up six pairs of my old Roebuckers and built a deck out of them.

3 comments:

Craig said...

For 35 years, my dad worked for Sears. I had Toughskin underwear, for God's sake.

Not only did they have Toughskins in 14-gauge denim, they also had them in some houndstooth check material out of which they made seat covers for Oleg Cassini-edition AMC Matadors. I had the pants and the matching sportcoat. I looked like a miniature white Huggy Bear.

On top of that, I had the ironically named "Winner II" sneakers that were supposed to be competitive with Nike Cortez athletic shoes. Only they were bright blue with orange stripes, which would cause at least two kids in my class to have epileptic seizures.

To cap off my wardrobe, I had one of those baseball windbreakers with the felt baseballs on the chest, only Sears was too cheap to pay licensing fees to real baseball teams, so they had teams like the "Beantown Red Socks" and the "Gotham Yonkees."

Phil Are Go! said...

Yep. The one thing you could say about Sears Children's fashions was that spills wipe right off. Hard to believe they had financial trouble in the nineties, huh? Should have happened in the seventies is what I mean.

Thanks Craig!

Craig said...

I actually have an idea for a book about that.

It's pretty fascinating. When my dad worked there, Sears was mind-bendingly successful. There were people there who built really great careers working for that company. People who sold washer/dryers, vacuum cleaners, shoes, were all career Sears people, who received benefits and made enough money to own homes and new cars.

I'm not sure there are more than a handful of full-time employees at any Sears store now.

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