Featured retailer: Shapings

Shapings.com is an on-line business that started out in 1995 as a physical store located in Ontario Canada, founded by Nicole Safko.  They added Internet sales to their business in the fall of 2000.  Shapings sells a wide variety of shapewear, bras (store only), girdles, panties, fine hosiery, and corsets.  They have become one of the worlds largest retailers of fine European pantyhose, stockings and fashion hosiery, with 99% of all items in stock ready to be shipped to customers all around the globe.

I had an opportunity to interview with Robert Safko, the director of Shapings.com.  Here’s what he had to say:

T4M: How much of your business is from buyers in the USA, and do you know how most customers find out about your website?
Robert: Our US customer base is roughly 55% of our sales.  Being online for over 11 years now, the search engines do rank us quite high for specific search criteria.   We have many repeat customers from the US and with many other sites linking to us.

T4M: Do you get many inquiries from male customers about tights?  Are inquiries worldwide, or concentrated from certain countries?
Robert: Yes, we do receive inquiries from all around the world from men.  At least 1 inquiry per day asking about tights for themselves and what we can offer them to suit their needs.

T4M: You feature tights made specifically for men, but do you find men buying women’s tights as well?
Robert: Quite honestly, the male market is on the decline.  This is quite disappointing, as many manufacturers have had requests from men to make a male specific tight/pantyhose that men can call their own.  But for some unknown reason, now that there have been many options available over the past 10 years, men have not really embraced this market as predicted.  For example, Gerbe of France, being one of the very best hosiery manufacturers in the world, invested in a full male line using their high quality yarns.  This was quite the step forward for the male hosiery market and made tights for men a serious item, not some kind of fetish novelty.  Just recently, Gerbe has discontinued the full men’s line due to lack of sales.  This could have been due to their relatively high price, yet Gerbe has been selling to women for decades with the same price point.  Because of the many styles that women have to choose from, men do purchase women’s tights all the time.  It appears that there just isn’t enough of a Men’s selection for the needs of a hosiery product for men, be it support, warmth or enjoyment.

T4M: What tights brands/styles are popular with men who are buying for themselves?
Robert:  This is hard to say.  We don’t know for sure if our males customers are buying the hose for themselves or for a female, unless they talk with us or send an email stating that it is for themselves.  There are very few brands made for men with a limited amount of styles and all brands feature different styles. So when you put them together, it makes up a well rounded selection for many tastes and functions, and thus making sales evenly spread throughout these styles/brands.  Men are quite private when it comes to buying tights for themselves, so we can’t answer this question accurately.

T4M: What tights are proving to be popular for women who are buying from the USA?  Do they tend to favor any particular brands?
Robert: Again, without interviewing each internet customer we can’t know for sure how many men or women are buying them specifically for themselves.  Sometimes this brands sells well, then the next month another brand sells well.  It makes for a very difficult buying forecast.

T4M: What are some upcoming hosiery brands that you plan to add to your product offerings?
Robert:  At this point we can’t say due to competition privacy but we do have a new Italian brand that we are meeting with.

T4M: What qualities do you feel make it attractive for USA customers to buy from Shapings?
Robert: We feature great pricing for imported hosiery, quick turn around time for order dispatching, shipping based on current postal pricing, a wide range of sizing and colours and bulk discounts.   This goes for any country, not just for the US and no plan is set in place to determine a US marketing strategy.  Our company is 100% Canadian, but we ship globally.

Here are Shapings.com we make sure the products we sell are of fine quality.  We just don’t put any product on our site just to sell it–it has to be good enough for our standards.  Forget the marketing; we concentrate on what is in the package and if it’s worth the cost.  Our high resolution photos help the customer with the finish and look of the product, as this is what people need to see when purchasing hosiery, especially when you can’t feel the yarn first hand.

T4M: What are your thoughts about the emerging awareness of men wearing fashion tights?
Robert: Personally I feel this is a fashion statement that only can be brought to the mainstream by major designers with a celebrity endorsing it.  Women are followers in this manner.  So, if Prince William starts wearing tights with his kilt, then you will see it in male magazines as the new fashion and men will be confident knowing that a famous male is sporting tights.  For now, it would only work in certain cities that is known for it’s fashion forwardness.  The awareness is only with certain websites experimenting with it, but if you ask anyone on the street, they won’t know of this fashion concept.  If a man was wearing tights be it fashion or basic, the same person won’t look at the fashion, they will only see a guy in a pair of tights and wonder why he is “cross dressing”.

Men must be prepared for comments or stares when wearing a fashion tight, as do women in the case of eye catching hosiery, as most people will notice the fashion dressed leg over any other piece of clothing, no matter what high fashion brand you are wearing on top.  Tights/pantyhose will always be the eye catcher.  It would have to come down to many men sporting this fashion before it becomes a daily sighting, but most men are just too afraid to step out and be centered out or stared at.  Men are placed in a society of conformity and if you step outside of that conformity you become a spectacle, where as women are free to express any fashion without suspicion or prejudice.

Robert, thank you very much for your insightful and candid responses.  I hope our readership enjoys it and takes a moment to browse the vast hosiery selection at Shapings.com.  Good luck with your business in 2012!

12 thoughts on “Featured retailer: Shapings

  1. Also, it’s interesting to note that Robert does a great deal of the photography featured on the site. He’s an impressively skilled photographer. If you visit the Shapings Facebook page, you’ll get to see some outtakes from several photo shoots.

  2. Robert was really right about getting celebrities to endorse men to wear tights, I shared that with Chan Kraemer from e-mancipate.net also. Of course but I believe getting straight male celebrities would be a better idea. Although we may see men wearing tights walking down the runway, it doesn’t really mean men would start buying them and wear. And I feel other than have that weird feeling of men buying male tights, the price for male hosiery is really high compared to femaleh hosiery and that is why most men who wear tights buy female brands… however I’m really hoping and praying that someday we men can wear tights like any other normal clothing. 🙂

    • I think the time has come where men can… as long as they are attentive to making the look appear masculine. That means opaque tights, not sheer, and shorts that are near the knee (above or below). To me, sheer brings a certain kind of attention to the leg that really belongs to women. There are sheer styles made for men, but… just because it exists doesn’t mean it is perfectly fine to be shown. Sheer hose works very well as a lightweight barrier between the pants and skin, which helps a lot for high movement activities like horseback riding or acrobatics. And as a leg liner, I think it’s fine for men. Outside that, it just doesn’t carry over well. It looks like cross-dressing, no different than a man wearing women’s high heel shoes.

      • Totally agree with you on the opaque tights and the shorts part. I totally think Sheer hose should just leave it to the ladies… unless I feel they are patterned with tattoos… giving that illusion of tattooed legs, not effeminate patterns but probably tribal or more masculine patterns. Besides I think with opaques, men don’t really need to shave their legs (not under 80den though, Hahaha!)

  3. On the subject of sheer hose for men, I feel that perhaps we may have this opinion about sheer tights not looking masculine for men simply because we are not used to seeing it. I believe it is whatever we are exposed to enough that becomes ordinary to us. just as the whole idea that women wearing pants with a zipper in the front instead of on the side or back could be thought of after enough exposure as no longer masculine as it once was. That said, it is a progression that is best accepted one step at a time.

  4. Robert makes a profound point in his final answer. Men do not generally grow up with others staring at them and their clothes, so they’re sensitive about it. Women, OTOH, don’t have much choice but to get a thick skin, unless they want to appear androgynous. So, Men, if you want to wear tights under shorts or skirts/kilts, do so… but you will be stared at and possibly smirked or leered at, on occasion. Just like women who show their legs.

  5. I think the reason why the mens market tanked is the higher standards they have. When having to pay upwards of $30-$35 for a see thru pair, the natural inclination would be to go with the thicker yarn, even if it is shiny. You may lose that sale to Platino Luxe fata, or some other non see thru brand. Also, a lot of the male style sport microfiber, which is way too hot, even in the winter time in California. A male would be more likely not to be self conscious, if wearing with bike shorts and a totally opaque brand, vs a see thru one. I would not want to be seen in public with a see thru brand, even with shaved legs. The rear seamed style seem to feature just the right amount of warmth, and tightness. Not too tight as to be constricting, but not so loose as to fall off. Most of us men just use them for waist high socks for winter under our jeans. Our favorite color is black, too bad Platino Luxe doesn’t have a greater range of colors.

  6. I think men have a higher standard. A see thru look is something I would never want to have seen. If you are a see thru hosiery manufacturer, you will probably lose the bulk of your male men to other brands that are not see thru, and then, there is the preference of style. I personally find any microfiber of any kind too hot in California, so I would recommend the glossy opaques, the kind with the backseam. Most men would hate the glossy finish too, but don’t forget the bike leggings are typically glossy. Also, see thru brands wear out a great deal faster, and if the price point is almost $30, you may as well go with the charmeuse yarn. It may look kind of gay if you are the matte hosiery male type, but you would probably have gone thru about 4-5 pairs of the see thru type before you went thru one pair of the charmeuse type which is totally opaque. The only disadvantage of the charmeuse type is that you are limited to basically 3 colors, black, gray, and brown. there are 2 brands of the charmeuse type, and one other glossy type brand, but if you are a 6 foot male, you are limited to 1 brand of this type. I believe on Shapings, the brand starts with a P. The charmeuse type does not run as hot as the microfiber, but I must warn you, it is shiny. No see thru at all!!! The first tights for men were made of a 100% nylon which wasn’t that comfortable, and most of those type were discontinued as time went on, due to demand for more comfortable fabrics. Charmeuse is a satin blend of nylon and lycra which is more densley weaved (closer together) thus giving a taffeta like texture, while plain nylon lycra opaque glossy typically have the fibers further apart, which may wear out quicker at the heels. Microfiber is a type of polyester, so now you know why it tends to run so hot. The male market probably has a lower demand, so it could explain the higher price point. I believe that if they would have gone with a pure 100% opaque type like the bike type tights, and priced their pairs no more than $30-$40, they might have had a chance. Most men like black or brown, but not peach, yellow, or the weird colors. There is a practical use for waist high hosiery, but like I said, for some reason the male market never seemed to catch on. I would recommend, please don’t be lazy and leave off wearing underwear, wear underwear!!!

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