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All about hosiery

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Advertisement for a hosiery factory. Demonstrates both handmade construction and factory production with nineteenth-century technology. Published 1886.

Hosiery, also referred to as legwear, describes garments worn directly on the feet and legs. The term originated as the collective term for products of which a maker or seller is termed a hosier; and those products are also known generically as hose. The term is also used for all types of knitted fabric, and its thickness and weight is defined by denier or opacity. Lower denier measurements of 5 to 15 describe a hose which may be sheer in appearance, whereas styles of 40 and above are dense, with little to no light able to come through on 100 denier items.

The first references to hosiery can be found in works of Hesiod, where Romans are said to have used leather or cloth in forms of strips to cover their lower body parts. Even the Egyptians are speculated to have used hosiery as socks have been found in certain tombs.

Roller derby athletes shortly after a bout in Boise, Idaho wearing fishnet and patterned pantyhose

Most hosiery garments are made by knitting methods. Modern hosiery is usually tight-fitting by virtue of stretchy fabrics and meshes. Older forms include binding to achieve a tight fit. Due to its close fit, most hosiery can be worn as an undergarment, but it is more commonly worn as a combined under/outer garment.

In 2011, the hosiery and sock mills market was over $1.2 billion in the United States.


  • Bodystockings
  • Compression stockings, aka support stockings
  • Hold-ups (British English), Stay-ups (British English) or Thigh-high stockings (American English)
  • Knee highs
  • Leggings
  • Socks, tube socks (American English), knee highs and over-the-knees
  • Stockings, held by a suspender belt, also known as "sussies"
  • Tights (British English) or Pantyhose (American English)
  • Toe socks
  • Legwarmers

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