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Pantyhose (called tights in the United Kingdom and a few other countries) are sheer hosiery. They are close-fitting legwear, which cover the wearer's body from the waist to the feet. Mostly considered to be a woman's and girl's garment, pantyhose appeared in the 1960s as a convenient alternative to stockings and/or control panties (which, in turn, replaced girdles).
Like stockings or knee highs, pantyhose are usually made of nylon, or of other fabrics blended with nylon. Pantyhose are designed to:
Besides being worn as fashion, in Western society pantyhose are sometimes worn by women as part of formal dress. Also, the dress code of some companies and schools may require pantyhose or fashion tights to be worn when skirts or shorts are worn or as part of a uniform.
The term "pantyhose" originated in the United States to refer to the combination of panties (an American English term) with sheer nylon hosiery. In British English, these garments are called "tights", a term that refers to all such garments regardless of whether they are sheer lingerie or sturdy outerwear.
In American English the term "tights" refers to pantyhose made from thicker material, or alternatively to opaque legwear typically made of a stretchy material such as spandex. Opaque tights are worn by both sexes for athletic activities or as utility clothing, and can also be referred to as "leggings", a term that includes other garments.
The history of pantyhose, as for stockings, is tied to that of changes in styles of women's hemlines. Before the 1920s, it was generally expected that women would cover their legs in public, including their ankles, and dress and skirt hemlines were generally to the ground. The main exceptions were in sports and entertainment. In the 1920s, fashionable hemlines for women began to raise exposing the legs to just below the knees, and stockings also came into vogue to maintain leg coverage, as well as some level of warmth. The most popular stockings were sheer hosiery which were first made of silk or rayon (then known as "artificial silk"), and after 1940 of nylon, which had been invented by DuPont in 1938. During the 1940s and 1950s, stage and film producers would sew stockings to the briefs of their actresses and dancers, as testified to by actress-dancer Ann Miller. These garments were seen in popular motion pictures such as Daddy Long Legs.
In 1953, Allen Gant, Sr., of Glen Raven Knitting Mills developed a commercial equivalent to these hose that he named "Panti-Legs", but these were not brought to the open market until about 1959. During this time, Ernest G. Rice invented his own design for pantyhose (similar to those worn today), and in 1956 he submitted a patent titled "Combination Stockings and Panty". This design was adopted by other makers, and this caused disputes in American courts for many years before the patent was upheld some time after Rice's own death.
Up until this time, there was little reason for women outside show business to wear "panty hose". However, during the 1960s, improved textile manufacturing processes made them cheaper, spandex (or elastane) made them more comfortable, and the miniskirt made them a necessity to many women. In 1970, American sales of pantyhose exceeded stockings for the first time, and it has remained this way since then.
The popularity of pantyhose grew into a wardrobe staple throughout the 1970s and 1980s. From 1995 a steady decline began, levelling off in 2006 with American sales less than half of what they had once been. This decline has been attributed to bare legs in fashion, changes in workplace dress code, and the increased popularity of trousers.
While sales of traditional styles did not recover, the 2000s saw the rise of other specific styles. Fishnet hose, patterns and colours, opaque tights, low-rise pantyhose, footless shapewear, and pantyhose for men all experienced increased sales.
Pantyhose generally have a standard construction: the top of the waist is a strong elastic; the part covering the hips and the buttocks (the panty area) is composed of a thicker material than for the legs. The gusset or crotch is a stronger material, sometimes made of porous cotton, but the legs of the pantyhose are made of the thinnest usable fabrics, and it has a consistent construction down to the wearer's toes. These can be reinforced to guard against wear and tear.
Most pantyhose are composed of nylon and a mixture of spandex, which provides the elasticity and form-fitting that is characteristic of modern pantyhose. The nylon fabric is somewhat prone to tearing ("running"), and it is common for very sheer hose to "run" soon after snagging on anything that is rough or sharp.
Variations in pantyhose construction exist, such as with fishnet pantyhose. Pantyhose may be composed of other materials such as silk, cotton, or wool.
Pantyhose are available in a wide range of popular styles. The sheerness of the garment, expressed as a numerical "denier"/'dtex", ranges from three (extremely rare, very thin, barely visible) up to 15 (standard sheer), 30 (semi opaque) and finally 100 (opaque). Examples of opaque tights showing mostly 40-denier opaque tights upwards.
Control-top pantyhose, intended to boost a slimmer figure, has a reinforced panty section. The panty section may be visible when wearing high-cut skirts or shorts.
Sheer-to-waist pantyhose is sheer throughout, with the panty portion being the same thickness and colour as the leg portion, and are designed for use with high-slit gowns, miniskirts, hot pants, or lingerie. Often sheer-to-waist pantyhose will be reinforced along and on either side of the seam in the middle of the panty.
Open-crotch pantyhose, sometimes known as crotchless pantyhose, do not have a gusset. Instead, an opening is in place for hygiene or sexual-fetishism activities.
Some pantyhose have single- or double-panel gussets incorporated into them. In single there are two seams instead of the usual one, with a single one on the opposite side; with double panel gussets, there are two seams on either side.
The disadvantages or criticism of pantyhose includes:
Unlike cotton, nylon is not an absorbent material. As a result, perspiration is more likely to remain in contact with the feet, legs and genital area, thereby encouraging bacterial growth and associated odour. Some hosiery products contain silver to help to prevent odour and sweating of the feet, thus making the wearing of hosiery a more pleasant experience. Wearing natural fibre silk stockings and tights is another means of reducing perspiration.
Some people do not wear pantyhose for environmental reasons, noting that they usually cannot be recycled, and nylon pantyhose are not biodegradable. Disposing of the item contributes to overuse of landfill. Burning nylon pantyhose sometimes releases toxins into the atmosphere.
Pantyhose have been criticized for being flimsy because the thin knit fabric is prone to tearing or laddering (or "running"). The wearer can cause a run in the hose by catching a toenail in the fabric when the hose is put on, by catching it on a rough surface like a corner of a desk, or a car, and by numerous other risks. Some women apply clear nail polish or hair spray to their hose to prevent runs from growing.
PANTYHOSE FOR MEN
While usually considered to be a woman's garment, pantyhose can also be worn by men, for example for thermal protection and therapeutic relief. Race horse jockeys may wear pantyhose under their uniform to enable them to glide freely over the legs and waist when the jockey's body moves at a rapid pace. Some fishermen who surf fish from tropical beaches may wear pantyhose for protection from jellyfish, whose stingers cannot penetrate the mesh. In the late 1990s several manufacturers introduced pantyhose styles designed for men to cater to this niche market.
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