Toughskin Jeans

Toughskin Jeans

“The toughest of Sears tough jeans…lab tests prove it! Made out of a fabric so rugged, we made a trampoline out of it.”

Kids have the remarkable ability to destroy just about any type of clothing with ease, needing only an hour or so of vigorous play, sometimes minutes. But in the 70s, they begrudgingly met their match. Catalog moguls, Sears and Roebuck, developed a new fabric that was nearly indestructible, perking up the ears of parents everywhere. They marketed the fabric in a line of children’s clothing that every kid of the era surely remembers, either fondly or with a pained expression. That’s right, we’re talking about Toughskins jeans.

With a blend of three fibers, Daycron polyester, nylon and cotton, these jeans could withstand the rigors of play without ever becoming worse for the wear. In fact, Sears guaranteed parents that their kids would outgrow them before they ever wore out. Available in a rainbow of colors ranging from denim blue to plaids (and even magenta), these jeans hugged the body like a second skin and contained reinforced knees that could withstand just about any friction the playground had to offer. The only danger one had to be aware of was the fake leather “Toughskins” tag affixed to the back. Over time, this plastic tag would inevitably crack, creating some occasional sharp edges that could jab one’s skin as they bent down to pick something up or tie their shoes.

The seemingly bulletproof Toughskins fabric proved so durable that it was also used to make equally indestructible sneakers and jackets. Toughskins were marketed to all age groups from toddlers to teenagers; even a line of men’s work clothes was introduced for a short time.

Of course, as kids grew older, they demanded slightly more fashionable threads. Despite advertising to the contrary, teens found Toughskins jeans decidedly uncool in a world of designer jeans, and a poor sap sporting Toughskins a few years beyond their prime was sure to be the target of some serious taunting from classmates. But the little ones never worried about such a silly thing as fashion; they just wanted to play with reckless abandon. And smart parents knew that there was only one option that was tough enough to keep their clothing budget from spiraling out of control.

Toughskins were re-introduced by Sears in the 90s, allowing new generations to experience the invincible glory of these Tonka trucks of the jeans world. If you fond (or not-so-fond) memories of sporting a rugged pair of Toughskins around the playground, we’d love to hear your memories in our comments section. And if you had a magenta pair, you know we want to hear about that, as we tip our hats to this indestructible clothing from our collective childhood.

25 Responses to “Toughskin Jeans”

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  1. Gina says:

    Ugh — for a while all my parents would buy my sister and I were toughskins. I remember wearing them in the hot Texas summer– sweaty knees!

  2. Jason says:

    Growing up I always had to get the Toughskins jeans (cheap) while my friends had name brands. In the store (picture a crowded Sunday afternoon) as I had the jeans on my mom would kneel down next to me and complain about the jeans being “too tight in the seat and thighs”. Her voice carries like no other. Nuff said. That scarred me for life when it comes to shopping for pants.

    Thanks, Toughskins. No. Really. Thanks.

    • eric says:

      Well, at least they tended to last a while (small consolation, I know). Thanks for sharing that memory!

  3. Jeff says:

    Man, we had some of those growing up. My brother and I lived out on a farm and about all we did was play outside riding bikes, climbing trees, digging in the dirt, doing wagon rides down the one hill…. They were hotter than wearing black stovepipes on your legs out in thatTexas heat, but they did what they were supposed to. I blame Toughskins for the fact that I don’t grow hair on my knees!

  4. Toughskin Shame says:

    While the cool kids (parents had a little more $ than mine) were wearing Levi’s, I was still wearing Sears Toughskins. Jeans made the person in the 70s, and Toughskins was a badge of shame.

    I even got in my first fistfight over someone calling me a name (3 letters, begins with f, ends with g and does not make sense bcs I was a girl and it was about the pants, but bullies were dumber in the 70s) for wearing them. It was about 1978 or 1979.

    I did have a pair that were plaid pink, brown and cream color. My cousin had the exact same outfit and we thought they were so cool.

    The word Toughskins still makes me shudder.

    • Yobar says:

      I feel your pain. My sister torments me occasionally with a picture of her and me together in ’72 and I’m wearing green, yellow, and white plaid Toughskins. I didn’t know any better back then because I was smiling like a fool.

  5. Bee Dubb says:

    I think toughskins were all I wore in elementary school. I must have had every hue.

    But sixth grade was the STRICT cut-off date- my best friend wore them to the first day of Jr. high and I laughed at him until he cried, and he never wore them again.

    • Ed says:

      I wore Toughskins from fifth grade, all the way to senior year. I didn’t mind them at all. I liked the colors, and the matching jackets. I think they actually fit great and looked good on anybody. When I look around at the horrible stuff the kids wear now (and the adults who didn’t grow up), I can’t understand what the fuss was about. That was around the time that people were first subjected to brainwashing about “brand names'”, and Toughskins just weren’t trendy. They were kid’s clothes, and by then people were starting to dress their kids like mini-adults. I think that there were a lot of worse things to wear back then.

  6. actifzo says:

    i remember having them in odd colors, like green and purple….there was no way to deny that you were wearing toughskins. thanks, mom.

  7. Eddie says:

    they were embarrassing.

  8. Mike says:

    My mother wanted me to outfit me in a fabric comparable only to a suit of armor, so she bought me every shade of the dreaded Toughskin label. Due to the beatings I received in school, I have no memory of ever wearing them.

  9. Michael says:

    I had to wear toughskins for many years from around ’73 to ’77. They were in dark denum blue, forest green, cardenal red, and brown. They had hidious bold white stitching with the X’s stitched on the back pockets. My assistant principal told me that the X’s were perfect targets for his paddle once when I got in trouble at school. These pants were very stiff and had the extra patches sown into the knees. My mom insisted on this because I tended to wear out clothing quickly. I remember destinctly when I was in the eigth grade being happy when toughskins came out with a version of courderoy of brown and tan color options. All the more hip kids were wearing OP and levies. Oh, the memories.

  10. Ethel says:

    As a kid, I definitely wanted to wear the name brands my friends were wearing instead of my toughskins. Flash forward, and now, (as a mom to three boys)- I’m thinking, “Yes, those are a wonderful idea…”!

    • Michael says:

      I honestly don’t remember girls wearing toughskins. Maybe out here in California it was different. The girls were wearing those tight Dittos that drove us boys crazy. Man, weren’t the seventies the best?

  11. roxanne says:

    I remember wearing these in the 70’s (hand me downs) and the really stiff ones from when I worked at Sears in the late 80’s. In order to fold them to put into bags, you had to almost break the legs!

    We never had a pair returned due to being worn out!

    • dan feldmann says:

      I bought a pair of carpenter bibs in the 90s and had to break them out when I found them in my basment. I had been wearing carharts but they don’t last and are now made in Japan.I started wearing the old ones I found in my basement they were in great shape although dirty from painting and stuff around the house. I noticed the toughskin name and decided to see if or where I could buy some and I found this web sight. I have been a residential carpenter for thirty five years and for the last ten doing mostly trim work, thats when I started wearing bibs. I wish I could have bought 1 more pair of toughskins they would have taken me to retirement and beyond.

  12. Jeff says:

    I loved Toughskins!
    Sure, my friends had Levi’s, but mom would buy us the cheaper jeans.
    Sears Toughskins were as tough as me.

    Jeff from Arlington,MA

  13. Oh The Horror says:

    A couple of guys at my HIGH SCHOOL for Dog’s sake, who has more controlling mothers than even mine, had to wear Toughskins “leisure suits” to school. Following graduation, both of them had moderate to severe mental issues.

    Coincidence? I think not.

  14. Eric says:

    I had to wear them kind of as a punishment.

  15. Ypsi says:

    OMG, Toughskins. I wore them from about 1972-1977 (2nd-7th grade). I was a girl who loved to roller skate and climb trees and I was pretty hard on my clothes. However, by the time 5th grade came around, I was turning into a tween, and wanted FADED jeans like all the other kids had. Since my mom wouldn’t budge on buying those, I attempted to fade a couple of pairs of Toughskins by soaking them in an entire bottle of bleach for hours. No result. Left them in the sun for days. No result. Dragged them behind my bike. No result. I’m sure they’re still out there somewhere.

    The joke’s on me now – I have a 6yo son who rips the knees out of every pair of pants he owns within hours. I wish I’d kept some of the less hideous pairs of Toughskins I used to have.

  16. Dave says:

    They had a sticky plastic patch inside the knee area that would stick when you sweated. This was our version of walking to school uphill through the snow for 10 miles.

    Gen X, baby!

  17. Marie Hart says:

    In the late 80’s, there was not much fashion available for boys. I loved the toughskin jeans because they had the exchange guarantee if they wore out. Well toughskins met their match with my son. He could plow through regular jeans in 2weeks. It took him awhile to get thru the toughskins though! And sears always graciously handed me a new pair. (no receipt needed)! Moms don’t know what they are missing today. If those jeans are still being made as strong and with the same guarantee , and if you have a very rambunctious boy or girl. TRY THEM!

  18. mugwump says:

    Sheesh, I loved my toughskins. I think at one point one of the knees had a hole, but there was another layer underneath so I could keep on wearing them. I actually thought I was tough that I needed them. Never once thought about the fashion issue. Finally, I think my sisters told my parents no more of those for me, but I didn’t know any better.

  19. jwingy says:

    Regardless the color, I remember the Toughskins quality of impressive stiffness that lasted about three months. Brand new, I believe they were stiff enough to break a glass pain. Toughskins were pretty popular until the designers kicked in, for a while the major competitor was Garanimals, if I’m tracking right? I wouldn’t know, Garanamals were for sissies where I grew up. lol

    Good times. Thanks for the memories.

  20. barry says:

    I was a kid in the 70’s and had light blue toughskins, the ones with the extra padding around the knees. I was so taken in by the commercials that when my mom finally bought them for me, I thought it was my sole duty on earth to prove that they insulated me from pain.

    So I would put them on, jump in the air, fold my legs under me, then land like that straight on my knees/shins in the concrete driveway. Then I would get up, hobble around wincing in obvious pain yet trying to convince myself that it didn’t hurt because I was wearing Toughskins.

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