Back in 1998, Wolford did a first and produced tights for men, cleverly called “Waist Socks”. They were a matte opaque tight that was crafted for the male anatomy, including a fold-over open fly for convenience. I never tried them, but reviews I read said they were well made for the most part. The main detraction was the purchase price, at $100 USD! Wolford treated this as a high luxury item, probably bought by high flying CEO metro-sexuals that wanted to dabble on the leading edge of fashion. Sales were briefly brisk, then fell away. Wolford discontinued them. If you were lucky, you might have found them on discount, but not a steep one. I honestly had to wonder where they all went, unless perhaps Wolford made a limited first run as an experiment, able to clear out excess inventory without much effort. Curiously enough, Wolford no longer makes any mention of “Waist Socks” in their history, and they’ve long since pulled any images that were on their website. I guess they were embarrassed by the lack of success in it?
It would take a number of years later before fashion tights specifically made for the male would appear again. Hosiery makers Levee from Germany and Gerbe from France were some of the first daring to take the chance. Gerbe calls them “Men’s Tights”, and Levee simply puts WO-MAN on their packaging, striving for a unisex appeal by coloring “WO” as blue and “MAN” as either black or white. The intent is that they are unisex support pantyhose, with strong reinforcement that serves both male and female. On the fashion, the term “mantyhose” has been coined, although I don’t think any hosiery maker is using this on any specific product. It’s an obvious play on “pantyhose”, suggesting that these are for men instead of women. It’s also easy to say.
The problem I have with this is that it overtly tacks a forced gender identity on the product. Doing so emphasizes that there’s already a feminine identity to “pantyhose”. In essence, “we’re overcoming the feminine identity to pantyhose and trying to suit them for men.” It also sounds comical… to me, anyway. So, my preference would be to avoid the use.
“Tights” are a synonym for pantyhose, especially in the UK. They can apply to the sheer or opaque styles, but are more commonly associated with the sheer appearance. But at least the good thing in Europe is that fewer people have hangups about gender identity or perception. What about “leggings”? That seems fairly neutral enough, although as a product you’re bound to find more hits on women’s clothing with the word. I prefer “liners”. Just as you have glove liners, you can have “leg liners”, as you are actually lining the leg.
In any case, it’s true that “the word is not the thing”. I won’t get too hung up on it, except that I simply don’t care for “mantyhose.” That’s all I have to say about that as I think I’ve made my point.
The one thing I’ve had difficulty understanding is the production of sheer tights for men. They do indeed look like pantyhose, and in fact they really are. Does a man look good in them? Well, if he’s truly fit and muscular, with shaved legs, then yes he probably does. But most men do not look like that. Outside of cross dressers and swimmers, few men shave their legs. There’s something so unappealing to me about seeing legs in pantyhose with hair visibly all mashed around underneath. And if presenting beefy proportions, it would also be unappealing. So… to me, it would seem that producing opaque tights is preferable to sheer or semi-sheer pantyhose. What I did learn from a commenter is that if sheer tights are created with a matte finish, they do a better job of hiding the skin (and hair) underneath.
What about in warmer weather, when a man is still needing compression on the legs for relief? Opaque tights would probably be uncomfortably warm. But a lower denier yarn can be used with a tight enough weave to be less sheer in appearance while being able to wick away moisture and heat, leaving the legs actually feeling cool.
So there they are. Sheer pantyhose for men. Levee has several styles available, ranging from 15 [very sheer] to 40 denier [semi-sheer]. Their advertising emphasizes that the man is masculine, despite the pantyhose, and is teamed up with one or more women by his side, or a woman in a passionate embrace with him while both are wearing pantyhose (photo). He is fit, muscular, and is of strong sexual prowess… with pantyhose on. I know, it looks a bit strange, but in time I think it will change.
Rather than casting an opinion without experience, I had to find out for myself the experience of wearing the sheer style. With some restraint that was admittedly difficult to overcome, I bought a pair of Fiore Paula 40 Denier microfiber tights (pantyhose) in a mocha color that is close to a medium skin tone. I chose these for the lower price and convenience in combining with another item ordered. And… I was actually surprised that they not only fit very snug but are comfortable (thanks to the microfiber). Pants seem to glide even easier over the legs than with opaque matte tights. And the lighter denier seems to have more stretch, meaning there is less adjustment necessary after wearing for a long while. So, maybe they’re not so bad after all. ;-) I’ll write a review of the Fiore tights soon. UPDATE: You can find the review HERE.