Prior to the 1990’s, you’d be hard pressed to find any commercial hosiery makers offering tights that fit your average proportioned male of 6’/183cm. The next viable alternative would be the dance wear makers. Of course, most everyone knows the names Capezio and Danskin. But the tights they offered were made in a very limited range of colors and styles. You basically had “full fashioned” with a back seam, or standard. Colors were white, gray, tan, and black. And they all came in 100% nylon. Durable, but not all that stretchy, and not comfortable to wear under your trousers.
In the 1980’s there were two prominent dance wear brands that were available in USA stores that offered tights for men made of a Lycra blend, that being Baltogs and M.Stevens Design (Marilyn Stevens).
Their tights fit far better than the 100% nylon ones and if you have bought the tights made by M.Stevens, you experienced the benefit of Milliskin. Baltogs eventually started using Milliskin as well. This is a special Lycra based fabric that is remarkably resilient (77% nylon, 23% Lycra), yet very soft and stretchy. They provide a very comfortable form fitting experience. Milliskin is also very durable and run resistant. My first M.Stevens garment was actually a short sleeve footed unitard, which is basically like having tights and leotard all-in-one. It was a great liner to wear in cold weather, and the sleek one-piece garment has a nice feeling about it. Of course, it would present a slight inconvenience for biological relief! Over time, the seams began to separate at the crotch (the strongest stress point), but they were easy to repair. It lasted me over 10 years before the fabric began to break down and start showing an uneven appearance.
But the trouble with these dance tights for men is that because they’re made of a thicker Lycra material, there is always a seam up the legs (women’s dance tights are thinner and rarely have leg seams). Both Baltogs and M.Stevens make sturdy but traditional seams instead of flat ones. As a result, when you wear them for more than an hour, the seams make impressions on your legs. When removing the tights you’ll see noticeable lines on your legs that need about an hour or more to completely disappear. Flat seams would certainly help alleviate that and these days, the seam technology has made them very durable. I actually contacted M.Stevens about this and inquired about when they might offer flat seams in their basic dance wear tights. They appreciated the feedback but seemed (no pun intended) well set to continue doing things as they normally do.
In the UK, there is a dance wear company called “Wear Moi” that makes tights and unitards with flat seams, and with a minimal number of seams overall. They use a Lycra based material that is different from Milliskin but very similar. They are very pricey though, costing at least twice as much as M.Stevens, if not more (depending upon the style). However, in turn you gain excellent durability that makes the cost worthwhile. For USA customers, the prices are affected by the GBP-USD exchange rates.
Another dance wear maker worth considering is Yumiko. This is a company started by Japanese ballet dancer Yumiko Takeshima, who began designing her own dance wear pieces and now has several stores located in the USA, Japan, and South Korea. You can also buy Yumiko attire on-line. Although their products are predominantly for women, there are a number of styles offered for men. More notably, they have a rather innovative design for men’s tights. The leg seams are only on the inner sides, converge at the gusset, then form a seam up the rear–none in front. To help provide sufficient taper from the top, there are two short seams that come down along the outer edges of the waist. The overall design is really great, creating a fit that’s extremely comfortable. Plus, they offer a very attractive range of colors.
But Yumiko is really categorized as “designer active wear”, so they tend to cost a bit more. Their men’s footed tights are over $50 USD, but well worth it. You can buy tights made of nylon, techni, or microfiber (they’re all compromised of a polyester/elastane fiber blend). These are terrific for physical activities, fine for lounging around in as-is, but probably too thick to be worn comfortably under trousers.
Overall, I’d say that for casual wear under clothes, it’s best to avoid men’s tights made by dance wear companies. However, for casual lounging around in at home, they can be reasonably comfortable and warm. I’d try to stick with flat seams as much as possible, the fewer the better, so I tend to prefer Wear Moi or Yumiko. But Milliskin is such a terrific fabric that MStevens and Baltogs are worth owning too. If you know of others that you could recommend, please post about it. 🙂