Appletinis, Madonna, and pantyhose
Some have been predicting it. Some have been dreading it. Some have done business on it. Some have been praying for it. The day has arrived:
Men in pantyhose.
I know, I know. This sounds insane, but bear with me for a minute. There is an interesting story here. It’s been all over the media – but before I give you the story they missed, take a moment to enjoy Madonna’s brand new video for her new single, “Girl Gone Wild” in which she is surrounded by guys in tights and heels:
So now that you’ve seen men rocking pantyhose and heels alongside Madonna, let’s talk about where this all came from. One of the best kept secrets in the world is the near ubiquitous fascination men have with women’s legs in fine hosiery. As it turns out, a huge number of men carry that fascination over into the world of fetish – seeing their own legs in hosiery. Itallian designer Emilio Cavalini made an observation:
“When we started our online shop we noticed that a lot of tights sized medium-large were being purchased by men … So I did a search on the Internet and discovered there is a cult following for mantyhose.”
Though the media frenzy about this happened during the first week of March 2012, men have been buying and wearing tights and pantyhose for decades. Why do you think certain sizes happen to always be in short supply at the store? The story blew up on hundreds of blogs. The mainstream media was talking about it, too. This excerpt from New York Magazine is a good example of the reporting that’s been happening:
Apparently some dudes are into wearing fancy tights these days, according to upscale hosiery retailer Emilio Cavallini, who tells WWD that purchases by men (and for men) now account for 2 to 3 percent of their annual sales. … So he decided to cater to male customers by creating unisex tights … Cavallini says he’s seen a few more daring gentlemen (European, it goes without saying) wear them with shorts. Which brings us to the inevitable question about unisex tights: To put it delicately, wouldn’t there be a problematic fit discrepancy between men and women in the groin area? Cavallini says no: “If it’s fine for Italian guys, it’s fine for the world.”
Source: “Mantyhose is Happening!” New York Magazine is-happening.html
Europeans do it better
European hosiery makers have always been very far ahead on the curve compared to American makers. They have always used better materials, far superior workmanship, and for the same or less cost than their American counterparts. They also were first to introduce hosiery for men.
Wolford was the first to introduce a “waist sock”. (Wolford is considered the finest maker of hosiery in the world. Look at any fashion spread that includes hosiery, and you will usualy see “Hosiery by Wolford” in the credits.) Their waist sock / men’s tights style isn’t available anymore. If I were a betting man, I would say that they realized most men were still buying their women’s styles, and making one specifically for men was not worth the overhead. ( Ladies, if you have not treated yourself to some of Wolford’s hosiery, you are missing out. They feel amazing AND last a very long time. Check out this working woman’s review of them. )
Americans Try Really Hard
An American hosiery seller, G. Leiberman & Sons, Ltd, came to market with a line of sheer hosiery that were designed for men (including a fly opening), and aggressively marketed as such, under the manly name “ActivSkin“. “These aren’t your grandma’s pantyhose!” was one of their early taglines. Me thinks thou doest protest too much. I’ve tried them, and they were everything that people make fun of grandma pantyhose being: thick, uncomfortable, and icky-orange brown. Here is some text and an image from the front page of their website:
“Welcome to G. Lieberman & Sons, Ltd. We are the world’s largest seller of legwear for men, under the Activskin® brand name. Why would a man wear legwear? Glad you asked! Legwear benefits include sports performance, leg health, work stamina, and leisure comfort. And mantyhose is fashionable. Check out our Comfilon® loungewear fashions, too. Welcome to the 21st century!”
Not All Europeans Have Good Taste:
E-Mancipate.net is a hosiery for men advocacy website based in London. Their stated mission:
“This website is about pantyhose for men / tights for men / mantyhose as a fashion, sport and health related garment. We provide free information to sportsmen, health professionals, fashion designers, hosiery manufacturers and retailers. We believe that although pantyhose on men are still an unusual look, wearing them is great way to decorate the male legs, to provide warmth, comfort and additional performance.”
I’m far from a fashion maven… but seriously? Doesn’t this rhetoric from ActivSkin and E-Mancipate smack of side-stepping an issue? More on that later. E-Manicipate Founder Chan Kraemer has obviously put a TON of work into this website, and I applaud that. He’s been a major player in the coverage of this story. His website is an ambitious PR project, though some of the photo sets seem horrifically detached from “fashion” or function:
…but a LOT of Europeans do, in fact, do it better:
Now let’s get on with some people who have done a nicer job of it. French hosiery maker Gerbe is known for their very fine women’s pantyhose and stockings. They branched out into the men’s category:
The German hosiery line Levee also introduced pantyhose for him and her:
The aforementioned Italian designer Emilio Cavalini is the one that caught the attention of the media with his print oriented styles:
Regardless of why the story broke now, and not a few years ago, it’s here. Thank you Madonna and Cavalini.
Those of you that are reading this blog are probably aware of my own hosiery fetish / fascination (if not, check this out). I’ve been doing this for years, and have done a bit of writing about it during that time. Last week ABC Nightline contacted me about my “fashion sense”. They also caught on to the brosiery story, and decided to do a piece on it. They liked my look and the way I pull it off; the producer I was talking to eventually felt the story had come to a stale mate. The story was not materializing in the way she thought it would.
You see, in Europe, this may have more of a fashion element to it. In the United States, this is still very much an underground fetish topic. This is why the website copy from places like ActivSkin and E-Manicpate read the way they do – emphasizing the “practical benefits” of wearing them. These products and websites are essentially tools for guys who’ve been married for 17 years, but never confessed their hosiery fetish to their wife. It’s a tool for them to say, “See honey? It’s not “cross dressing”. These are for MEN!”
Come on fellas…. let’s be honest. It’s cross dressing, and that’s why you like it. It’s whatever you want to call it, I suppose. Call it whatever you need to call it in order feel like more of a man. For the same reason that most men will choose a shot of cheap gut-rot whiskey over an appletini, I believe we see male hosiery advocates leaning on ideas like “circulation support”, “enhanced sports performance”, “work stamina”, “protection from the cold”: They cannot fully own up to the fact that they enjoy the sensation and experience of something that is traditionally associated with women.
The media and the makers of said hosiery are struggling to find a term that everyone can stomach. “guylons”, “brosiery”, “hetards”, and “mantyhose” being some top contenders. This is not really about fashion, it’s about men not being able to accept their own preferences.
How do I feel about the brosiery / e-mancipate movement? Honestly, I don’t care. If it helps some 47 year old accountant in Kansas City feel like he’s not a sissy because his pantyhose say “men” on the package, that’s fine. My message is more geared toward people who don’t yet have many people to answer to in their lives…
Be true to yourself, first and foremost, at all times. Live with no regrets. Ask no permission and make no apologies for living authentically. Take the skeletons out of the closet, and make room for all of those fabulous high heels you can’t wait to buy.