Dorothy Rosby
Contributing columnist
I recently stumbled across an essay written by a man who was nostalgic about pantyhose. Not that he missed wearing them. He wondered why the ladies in his life no longer do. He asked women he knew and got a lot of reasons, including cost, comfort, changing fashion and that odd swishing sound they make when you walk in them.
More interesting than his essay was the passionate response to it. Some men even criticized women for being slovenly and women responded that if men missed pantyhose so much, they should just go ahead and wear them themselves.
Who knew people could get so worked up about nylons? The only thing that bothers me about their decline is that it took a man pointing it out for me to even notice. I seldom wear dresses anymore because as I’ve gotten older, I’ve gotten chillier. Sometimes it’s June before I give up my long johns and those look terrible with a skirt.
Of course, there was a time when I wore dresses and nylons with them. And as I recall, they do have some advantages, the main one being they keep your bare legs from sticking to your car seat on a hot day.
I decided to investigate because I’m naturally curious and also because I’m always looking for ways to get out of doing actual work. So I went to the great encyclopedia in the sky, the internet, where I learned that nylon stockings made their debut at the 1939 World’s Fair in New York. Women loved them, and when they went on sale the following year, they sold like toilet paper during a pandemic.
Unfortunately, shortly after that, nylon went to war—World War II that is, where it was used for parachutes, tents, flak jackets, mosquito netting and other equally stylish items.
Legend has it that when the war ended, women actually rioted to get the first post-war hosiery shipment. I just can’t see me doing that. The closest I’ve come to rioting for stockings was kicking the dresser after I ran a new pair.
In Tulsa, Oklahoma, 60 women were asked what they missed most during the war. Twenty said men and forty said nylon stockings. Unbelievable! If I had to choose between my husband and pantyhose, I’d choose my husband on most days.
Nylon stockings evolved over the years but they remained pretty much a style requirement until the early 1990s. But fashion is fickle. One fashion editor recently compared them to the dodo bird. Gone and not coming back.
I suspect pantyhose are becoming extinct because they’re way too fussy for busy modern women. If you don’t put them on right, you risk poking a hole right through them. Then you might kick your dresser too. Twist them as you’re putting them on and you’ll cut off your circulation for the rest of the day. There are even YouTube videos demonstrating the proper technique for putting on nylons. Like I said, too fussy. No one needs a YouTube video to help them put on their pants.
They’re also expensive and you have to replace them often. Or at least I did. Wearing nylons is like wearing disposable clothing. Imagine if you had to replace your socks every few times you wore them. Pretty soon you’d be wearing sandals—without socks.
Worst of all, they’re uncomfortable. Stocking manufacturers use phrases like sheer energy and all-day massage. But anytime you add a control top, you’re asking for misery. If the fellow who wrote the essay wants to understand what women endure when they wear pantyhose, he should try wearing his watch around his middle all day.
But it appears he’s right. Due to all of these issues and the changing world of fashion, the stocking industry may have finally hit a snag. They did have a good run though.
(Dorothy Rosby is the author of several humor books including Alexa’s a Spy and Other Things to Be Ticked off About, Humorous Essays on the Hassles of Our Time. Contact [email protected])