So you may have heard something funny in the news, not too long ago. A word that is a bit funny and peculiar. It’s “mantyhose.” Weird, huh? “Pantyhose for men”. Why… why on Earth would a man want to wear pantyhose? Do they crave to wear bras, panties, and high heels too? Well, only those guys who are cross-dressers, transvestites, or transgendered perhaps. But believe it or not, there is a fairly large contingent of heterosexual men who wear pantyhose. And yes, no other form of clothing marketed exclusively to women.
The Reasons For Wearing Tights
Well, if you’ve been up to date on sports news in the last few years, then you may have heard about some men reported to be wearing pantyhose and tights underneath their uniforms in football, soccer (international football), and even jockeys who race horses. Why? Well, protection and warmth, that’s why. Yes, believe it or not, men have caught on that pantyhose provide a pleasant degree of warmth in cooler weather and also protect the lower body from pants chafing/binding. Tighter fitting full length hosiery also provides compression, which aids in circulation. Some tennis players (like Andy Murray) wear compression tights after a long and grueling tennis match, as they help soothe the leg muscles. Those people who have an issue with regulating their body temperature and during the cooler months may feel their legs becoming uncomfortably cold more than the average person. Wearing “long johns” footless thermal underwear isn’t always a good solution. First off, the thermals are bulky and don’t work well underneath normal trousers (they may be fine under wide slick ski pants though). And second, you also still need to wear socks and deal with the overlap. So, tights are a great, convenient, and relatively inexpensive solution.
Aside from warmth and protection (anti-chafing from pants), there is also an inherent convenience of wearing one item of clothing versus three (two socks and briefs). Some tights are designed such that it’s easy to wear them without a separate brief. But if one is desired, putting briefs over the tights helps provide support while avoiding the chafing that can happen when the leg opening edges rubs the sides of the groin area. Plus… the modern textiles of today create microfiber hosiery that simply feels so good against the skin. On a chilly night, one can slip on a nice pair of opaque microfiber tights and get into bed, feeling comfortable all night long.
I’ve also come to learn that some men wearing tights or pantyhose when out in the wilderness (camping and/or hunting), because it is an effective barrier against insects (especially ticks)!
So, there are plenty of positive reasons for men to wear tights.
Wearing Covertly or Overtly
So, from what I’ve described so far, it’s men wearing tights either underneath their normal clothes or in the privacy of their homes. What about overtly, in the open? Well, that’s a step much harder to take. It’s one thing for your spouse or girlfriend to know you’re sporting tights underneath your trousers but another thing entirely to expose your tights covered legs to the public. There are men doing this, and boldly with actually little reported ridicule. Check out youthful magician Christopher James, who writes about his experience with wearing tights in public. Or Steve of the Nylon Gene., the marketing and publicity director of Activskin men’s tights. And there’s the older Geraden with his time honored comprehensive blog about men wearing tights. Personally, I am not yet sold on the exposure of men’s legs in sheer hosiery. To me, “sheer hosiery” = “female legs”, so it still looks weird to see guys in shorts with sheer hose exposed below. Opaque is just fine, though. And actually, I think there’s a lot of potential with the style that only a few designers have taken a stab at so far.
Finding Tights That Fit
There are a number of hosiery brands making tights and pantyhose specifically for men, but at this point they are rather limited in terms of styles, sizing, and colors. For women, the range of tights is extraordinary, quite literally in the thousands. Also, each brand has their own target range of women’s proportions and fashion. From what I’ve learned, there is well over 350 different hosiery brands worldwide, with about 50-75 in the top tier of brand recognition. Consider that each brand has dozens of styles, you can see what I mean by “thousands!” Upon embarking on my early exploration of hosiery brands, I found that there were very few candidate local choices (offering a tall/large size within reach) available in nearby stores. The Internet has totally broken this constraint, providing access to many brands across the globe, from Europe to Australia.
I have come to discover that some hosiery brands in Germany, Italy, Spain, and Poland are creating tights with an extra large size that isn’t “plus”, but actually closer to my own size and proportions. Are there really that many women sized like this? I doubt it. Believe it or not, many hosiery companies are fully aware that a sizable number of men buy their tights and pantyhose to wear for themselves. But given how present societal fashion boundaries hold a perspective that men wearing any clothing made for women is taboo and unsavory, hosiery makers have simply created larger hosiery size suitable for taller men without calling out to the real intention. It also saves on costs for separate packaging, as I’m sure most women wouldn’t want to buy tights labeled for both men and women, preferring a stronger feminine identity.
Some women’s hosiery companies have recently branched out and decided to make hosiery styles specific for men and branded as such. Back in 1998, Wolford tried this with their “waist socks” (a clever phrase replacement for “tights”). But the implementation was flawed in several respects (first and foremost the price–$90 a pair) and so Wolford discontinued it. It was probably too early for the market to accept anyway. Today, the fashion industry is gradually opening up. The highly renowned French hosiery maker Gerbe has several styles specifically for men. Popular Italian clothing designer Emilio Cavallini now offers “unisex” tights. And a few other lesser known women’s hosiery brands have started mens styles as well, such as Collanto, Comfilon (Activskin), Adrian, Aries, and Levee. I think it’s only a matter of time before more well known hosiery brands start offering tights targeted for men as well.
At this point, my familiarity with tights is fairly limited. Initially, the two women’s brands I’d found that fit me were Donna Karan and Spanx (Sara Blakely). I have been exploring several European brands that offer sizes that should fit me well or just barely, if their sizing charts are true to form. As I try them out, I will write reviews to share my experience. The intention is to let other men know if these tights may be suitable for them, and help save all the hassle of time, energy, and money trying to find tights that fit well. The first ones should arrive in about another week. Here is a sampling of the brands I’ll be reporting on: Donna Karan, Cecilia de Rafael, Fiore, Gatta, Spanx, Voodoo, Falke, DKNY, and others.