Women have recognized the benefits of legwear, such as tights or pantyhose, for decades. They provide extra warmth, they smooth over any unsightly bumps or bulges, and they give you another opportunity to accessorize your look. Well, now men are joining the party as well.
Mantyhose – stockings that are specifically designed and marketed to men, as well as unisex versions – are growing in popularity. Often they are worn by men who work outside, such as landscapers, to guard against the cold. They also serve as a compression tool for those with circulatory problems, and are said to help revitalize muscles if you are standing on your feet all day.
Mantyhose have been popular in Europe – that bastion of progressive, gender-neutral fashion – for years, but have only recently gained traction in the U.S. Francesco Cavallini, vice-president of luxe hosiery company Emilio Cavallini, tells Women’s Wear Daily that men are a growing niche market: “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.”
Indeed, there is an online community of mantyhose enthusiasts, and many congregate at the site e-MANcipate.com. Its founder, Chan Kraemer, writes in a post, “We believe that pantyhose for men can be an everyday clothing item, and that it can be fashionable as well.”
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Most men buying into the trend wear their tights much as you would wear long johns – beneath the pants, as an extra layer. However, those with sartorial boldness might try pairing them with shorts.
For those concerned about fit issues that might be inherent to this unisex garment, Cavallini says, “The mantyhose are extremely elastic and stretchable and can fit men comfortably at the top. If it’s fine for Italian guys, it’s fine for the world.”
Mantyhose are part of a larger trend of shapewear for men, which has gained steam as men have come to learn that a control top can provide benefits for them, too. Spanx now offers options for male customers in the form of Manx, and numerous other companies have sprouted up to market smoothing undershirts and man girdles.
There is of course a long history of men in tights – think medieval jesters, Henry VII, and Robin Hood. And one of the truisms of fashion is that most trends are not really new, just recycled. So ladies, when you catch a glimpse of a construction worker’s stockings beneath his jeans, refrain from hooting. Before we know it, men will be showing off their gams just as often as women.