Ed Pfeifer: The ’80s, legwarmers and quality engineering | TribLIVE.com
More Lifestyles

Ed Pfeifer: The ’80s, legwarmers and quality engineering

Back in the 1980s, leg warmers were all the rage. I can’t imagine anyone actually thought they looked good so I surmise their popularity was simply a function of a public clambering for warm legs. The unfortunate truth, though, is that leg warmers were gimmicky. Like everything gimmicky, they went the way of the rotary phone and now occupy a mere paragraph in the pop-culture history book.

Believe it or not, I never wore leg warmers back then. My family home in the ’80s, though, was quite drafty so while leg warmers weren’t my thing, having warm legs was. That’s why I was so happy the day my dad brought home a Pelonis brand ceramic disc heater from our hardware store. It was brown in color and decidedly unsexy, but, dad marveled at it like it was the “leg lamp” in the movie “A Christmas Story,” and so did I.

It was a tiny thing of about 8-inches-cubed and weighed almost nothing. It made no noise, belched no fumes and despite the dragon-breath heat of the original Pelonis, it was remarkably cool to the touch which added to its mysticism. It was cheap, too, at only $89.99. All of those things combined may make any sensible consumer wonder, openly, if the Pelonis was a fad not unlike the much maligned leg warmer.

Fast forward to the present day and there is a tiny electric heating device positioned at my feet as I type these words. It is black-on-black with softened edges and a relaxed posture. It’s nicely appointed with a temperature dial depicting a range of heat from spring-day-warm, to pizza-oven-hot, and is equipped with a high/low switch to control the fan.

What is interesting and somewhat surprising about the hot box I use nowadays is that, just like the ole’ Pelonis heater which adorned my family’s coffee table during the Reagan administration, it uses ceramic disc technology. Even more astonishing though is that, in this the age of here-today-gone-tomorrow brand names, my current heater is a Pelonis.

As you might imagine, the new model with its fancy dials and state-of-the-art aerodynamics does not have the same price as its simple, brown forebear. But, the good news is that, despite inflation, which would have turned the $89.99 original cost into about $200 present day, a brand new Pelonis ceramic disc heater has plummeted in cost to a mere $25.

As it turns out, after more than 30 years of technological advances, market pressures and a complete upheaval of the retail channel, Pelonis brand heaters live on. They still really work, are still uncomplicated and still deliver true economic value.

It’s great, I think, how quality engineering and solid technology have staying power. Also great, in my opinion, is the fact that while consumers world-wide are still loving ceramic disc heaters, leg warmers have rightly remained buried in the 1980s.


TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.