Saturday, 25 October 2008

Full Circle - the Return of Tights as a Male Garment

Most people these days assume that tights (pantyhose in the US, Australia & South Africa) are a female clothing item, as in recent years, it has been the womenfolk in the main (aside from dancers, dramatists, plus some athletes etc) who have worn them. However, it was not always that way. The earliest garment that resembled tights were the leggings which were given to Roman soldiers in cooler climes, some 2,000 years ago. In more recent history, men wore close-fitting leggings or knitted 'tights' for centuries. In fact, in some European countries in the 14th to 17th century, it was actually made illegal for women to wear tights, as the men guarded jealously what they considered 'their' garment; it was considered very masculine to show a well-turned calf! It was only the advent of trousers in the 19th century which made tights as a male garment pretty much redundant. Then, in the early part of the 20th century, women started to wear tights or stockings as skirts got shorter, culminating in 1966 with the arrival of the mini skirt, and the advent of modern nylon tights (helped along the way by the appearence firstly of Rayon (sythetic silk or 'viscose') in 1894, Nylon on February 28, 1935 by Wallace Carothers at DuPont, and Lycra in 1959) which we would recognise today. Whilst it is true to say that the last century has seen tights as an almost exclusively female item, men have often worn them under trousers as long underwear, finding the lack of bulk associated with traditional 'long johns' to be an advantage. In some coutries, notably Germany and some Eastern European nations, tights were worn by boys (under shorts) until fairly recently (1960's-70's); this may be part of the reason that the same countries are responsible for the resurgance of male tights (Germany, Poland, Austria and the Czech Republic all having manufacturers today). At the end of the day, tights (generically speaking) are a garment which can be worn by anyone, regardless of gender (understand though; I am not advocating that men should wear women's tights - that is clearly crossdressing) and now that there are tights made for all ages and genders, there is no reason for men to wear women's tights. Now we can all enjoy the benefits (warmth without bulk, support, comfort etc) of tights!

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