Review: We Love Colors — Men’s Performance Tights


Earlier in my blog, I wrote a short piece about the hosiery retailer We Love Colors.  They have a section for men that includes tights, gloves, socks, and shoe laces (tights are listed first).  You can buy full nylon tights (regular or plus sizes) or performance tights for men, with or without feet.  This review is about their men’s performance footed tights.

The website title is “Men’s Performance Tights“, and the description says “Our high performance dance tights for men are built to last performance after performance, without running or snagging. These thick and comfy performance spandex tights for men are available in all of our 55 distinct colors. With no fly opening. 77% nylon 23% Lycra.”   These are available in four styles:  footed or footless, and solid or splash colors.

We Love Colors - prod314I3L
Image from We Love Colors (click on it for larger view)

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Don’t call it “Mantyhose!”

Wolford For Men

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.

Levee WO-MAN pantyhose

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.

Levee Dynamic Life
Flash Point: the fireman who boldly wears pantyhose, with female approval

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.

Trivia:  In what science fiction movie did the lead character use the catch phrase “keep your pantyhose on”?  For the answer, click here: [français or english].

Highly popular “We Love Colors” hosiery website sells to men too

If you search on the internet for tights with the keyword “color”, you’re bound to run into We Love Colors.  This is a American family run hosiery retailer based in Florida that has been in business on-line since 2003.  Their primary fashion statement is simply colors–a huge range of them, for socks, leggings, tights, and active wear, and for women, men, and children.  They are frequently featured in fashion and clothing style magazines, as well as a big hit with the younger female fashion crowd.

On their website, they have a link for “Men”, and curiously enough the topmost entry is “tights“.  Socks are at the bottom of the list!  I think that’s a first.  So, I took a look around their website and found that they offer a few tights styles for men, with the benefit of their enormous color range.  For footed tights, you essentially have two choices:  basic solid color nylon and “performance”.

The basic nylon is essentially just the women’s plus size nylon tights.  The size chart is exactly the same.  This means that for the taller athletic male, you’re left with basically one choice:  3X.  That’s because 2X may support up to 220lbs, but is capped at 5’9″.  In going to 3X, you gain a height maximum of 6′, but then the max weight is 260lbs.  So, they won’t provide a very snug fit for someone with a more slender build.

Their other offering is “performance” dance tights, made of thicker heavier nylon/lycra.  Lycra is important for good fit, much better than just plain 100% nylon.  The size chart on “performance” is much more in line with what the taller athletic male would look for.  The large size supports weight from 180-210lbs, and height is 5’11″ to 6’4″.  Now you’re talking!  The male models shown on their web page look very much like my physical profile.  If you look closely, you will notice a seam pattern on these tights.  There is an angular seam construction at the feet, and a leg seam runs from the feet up the inside of the legs to the crotch.  You can get a clear view of this in their example photo.  The seam construction is remarkably similar to dance tights by M.Stevens (a very popular dance wear maker), as one of the foot seams runs a few inches up the outside of the calf (a signature of their design).  Price wise, you are paying about as much as you would for men’s ballet tights in size XL, but with a tremendous advantage of a large color range.  UPDATE: They are indeed by MStevens!

To get nylon/lycra tights with seam free legs, you’ll find these on the pages for women’s tights.  But for the taller male, you’ll find the largest regular size falls a little short.  Only two sizes are offered, and M/L has a size range of 5’5″-5’11″ and weight of 135-168lbs.   Moving to the plus size, you’re again faced with more weight accommodated for the height.  However, a representative from their company told me the fabric is very stretchy, so they may be just fine.  I’ll have to try them at some point.

From reviews I’ve read, many women are giving a big thumbs up to We Love Colors for the fit, quality, and color range of their tights.  What I would like to see the company do is to extend the nylon/lycra blended tights range a little, adding the large size from their performance tights line for us taller men.  So what the heck, I’ll point them to my little write-up here and see if I can get them to muster up some consideration.  :-)

UPDATE:  I got a pair of their performance dance tights and posted a review, here.

Tights made for men and tights made for women

As most of you know, centuries ago, tights were invented by men and for wearing only by men.  It would be much later on when fashion trends would change and tights for fashion would be sent to the closet (they would continue to be worn by both men and women in ballet and in costumes, though).  Then, in the 20th century they came back out of the closet, but this time only on women’s legs as fashion limits were pulled back on full length dresses and skirts.  Tights, stockings, and pantyhose were all tailor made for the various proportions of women, and so they became strongly identified as a woman’s garment.  For a man to wear tights as fashion would instantly be considered silly and effeminate.

This trend is now changing, as tights are shifting into a more unisex role.  Certainly this is already the widely accepted case in athletics, as we see the legs of both men and women sheathed in Lycra, and nobody points to the men saying “cross-dresser!”.  But of course, running tights are made specifically for each gender, as there are different proportions to consider (very important when it comes to freedom of movement in sports).

And so… what about fashion tights made for women, worn by men?  It has been going on for years, clandestinely underneath the trousers of men.  They help keep the legs warm, increase the glide effect of pants across the leg to reduce binding, and with tighter fitting hosiery there is a circulation benefit.  For the average male up to 5’8″ and weighing 160lbs or less, the tights made for women will fit just fine.  That’s the advantage of stretchy synthetic fibers.  But for the taller male, that advantage is lost… because when moving to that higher size bracket, the “5″ or “XL”, most women are not 6′/183cm tall.  They are shorter and more rotund.  It’s the overweight problem we’ve been seeing on the news, particularly in the USA.  And so hosiery companies had to adjust.  Thus, when the taller male looks to the larger size of women’s hosiery, it’s very difficult to find tights that will fit (but they are out there in small numbers, as I’m finding).

Some people would still object to the idea of a man wearing tights that are marketed for women, regardless of the circumstances.  Now, if the tights in question are in a bright pink color or have a frilly lace waist band then sure, that’s very effeminate and a straight guy really shouldn’t wear them (just as he shouldn’t go around wearing flamboyant colored jeans).  However, right now there are hosiery makers producing tights specifically for men, tailored for the male anatomy and in conservative colors.  Many of them are seriously well made, too.  But… this is the beginning of the trend.  The choices are rather limited at this point.  What about patterns, like argyle, pinstripes, and cable-knit?  We don’t see these yet, although I imagine we will down the road (maybe in another couple of years).

The fact is that women have a 50 year head start over men on tights for fashion and comfort.  As such, there is an enormous range of colors, styles and thicknesses available to women.  Plus, due to the huge volume of sales, the price per garment is going to be lower.  The tights available for men right now are like high end women’s hosiery.  They are very good quality, but they are also relatively expensive.  Sometimes you just want to wear a less expensive pair, or different pattern/color.  The good thing is that the opaque tights made for men are very durable, more so than the ones typically made for women.  At least this is what I’ve been reading about so far, and I plan to eventually experience this first hand.

I do realize that there are some men out there who aren’t wearing tights for just comfort and warmth… and it’s unfortunate that those people make a strong negative impression for men who are wearing them only for comfort and warmth.  I expect that in time the differences will become much more clear, and that we’ll see tights for general wear begin to take on a more unisex role.  The men wearing them will feel normal and be treated by the general public as such.  I’m confident it will happen in due time, but until then I’m just thankful we’ve gotten as far as we have right now.  :-)

A Tights Company Directory

Colored Hosiery

Anyone acquainted with buying tights and/or pantyhose for themselves or another person will be aware of a few brands.  Of course, there are some that are very well known in the media for various countries (by advertising through various channels).  How many can you name off the top of your head?  For me, it would be Wolford, Falke, Donna Karan, Calvin Klein, Hanes, Hue, L’eggs and Spanx (before I started this blog, obviously!).  If you asked me how many there are worldwide, I’d say perhaps 40 to 50 at most.  Later, I discovered to find that my guesstimate was WAY off.

A UK organization endeavored to create a Tights (Pantyhose) Directory, from A to Z.  The page for letter “A” has 31 entries.  Thirty one!  There are over 370 hosiery brands worldwide.  It is quite impressive and appears comprehensive with few omissions.  You can find it here: UK Tights Directory

Pretty Polly  Stairway to heaven

Tights For Men
Of those companies, here is the small portion that produces tights specifically for men:  Adrian, Aries, Astral Legxperience, Atsugi, Collanto, Activskin (Comfilon), Comfort4Men, DoYeah, ela, Emilio Cavallini, Evona, Fibrotex, Gerbe, Legwear4Men, Levee, Lida, Shivers Wear, Polarhose, Tim Legwear, and Trumpf.

Lida Opaque Tights

Lida Man's World Opaques (photo courtesy of Shapings.com)

Getting Started

INTRODUCTION

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.

Upcoming Reviews
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.

Stay tuned!