Pantyhose are sheer
Sheer (textile)
Sheer fabric is fabric which is made using thin thread and/or low density of knit and which results in a semi-transparent and flimsy cloth. Some fabrics become transparent when wet....

, close-fitting legwear, covering 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, and they provided a convenient alternative to stocking
A stocking, , is a close-fitting, variously elastic garment covering the foot and lower part of the leg. Stockings vary in color, design and transparency...

s. People of both sexes often find pantyhose to be comfortable for wearing during frigid weather or while horseback riding.

Like stockings or knee highs
Knee highs
Knee highs are hosiery that covers the feet and legs up to the knee. Typically worn by women in western and other societies, they are sometimes worn with modern semi-formal dress. Unlike ordinary socks, they are generally made of nylon or other stocking materials.Knee highs became popular during...

, pantyhose are usually made of nylon
Nylon is a generic designation for a family of synthetic polymers known generically as polyamides, first produced on February 28, 1935, by Wallace Carothers at DuPont's research facility at the DuPont Experimental Station...

, or of other fabric
A fabric is a textile material, short for "textile fabric".Fabric may also refer to:*Fabric , the spatial and geometric configuration of elements within a rock*Fabric , a nightclub in London, England...

s blended with nylon. Pantyhose are designed to:
  • be attractive in appearance
  • ease the chafing between the foot and the footwear
    Footwear consists of garments worn on the feet, for fashion, protection against the environment, and adornment. Being barefoot is commonly associated with poverty, but some cultures chose not to wear footwear at least in some situations....

    , or between the thighs
  • keep the legs and feet warm
  • hide physical imperfections such as blemishes, bruises, scars, hair, or varicose veins
    Varicose veins
    Varicose veins are veins that have become enlarged and tortuous. The term commonly refers to the veins on the leg, although varicose veins can occur elsewhere. Veins have leaflet valves to prevent blood from flowing backwards . Leg muscles pump the veins to return blood to the heart, against the...

Besides being worn as fashion, in Western society pantyhose is sometimes worn by women when formal dress is required. For example, the dress code of some companies and schools 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
Panties are a form of underwear, usually light and snug-fitting, designed to be worn by women or girls in the area directly below the waist. Typical components include an elastic waistband, a crotch panel to cover the genital area , and a pair of leg openings which, like the waistband, are often...

(an American English
American English
American English is a set of dialects of the English language used mostly in the United States. Approximately two-thirds of the world's native speakers of English live in the United States....

 term) with sheer nylon hosiery
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...

. In British English
British English
British English, or English , is the broad term used to distinguish the forms of the English language used in the United Kingdom from forms used elsewhere...

, 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 alternately to opaque legwear typically made of a stretchy material like spandex
Spandex or elastane is a synthetic fibre known for its exceptional elasticity. It is strong, but less durable than natural Latex, its major non-synthetic competitor. It is a polyurethane-polyurea copolymer that was co-invented in 1959 by chemists C. L. Sandquist and Joseph Shivers at DuPont's...

. Opaque tights are worn by both sexes for athletic activities or as utility clothing, and can also be referred to as "leggings
Leggings are a type of fitted clothing covering the legs, which can be worn by both men and women.Originally leggings were two separate garments, one for each leg....

", a term that also includes other garments.


In the 1920s, the fashionable hemline
The hemline is the line formed by the lower edge of a garment, such as a skirt, dress or coat, measured from the floor.The hemline is perhaps the most variable style line in fashion, changing shape and ranging in height from hip-high to floor-length...

 for women rose enough to show the legs, and sheer hosiery that covered the legs was only available as stockings. They were first made of silk
Silk is a natural protein fiber, some forms of which can be woven into textiles. The best-known type of silk is obtained from the cocoons of the larvae of the mulberry silkworm Bombyx mori reared in captivity...

 or rayon
Rayon is a manufactured regenerated cellulose fiber. Because it is produced from naturally occurring polymers, it is neither a truly synthetic fiber nor a natural fiber; it is a semi-synthetic or artificial fiber. Rayon is known by the names viscose rayon and art silk in the textile industry...

 (then known as "artificial silk"), and after 1940 with nylon, which had been invented by Du Pont in 1938. During the 1940s and 1950s, play and film producers were having stockings sewn to the briefs of their actresses and dancers. This fact has been stated by actress-dancer Ann Miller
Ann Miller
Johnnie Lucille Collier, better known as Ann Miller was an American singer, dancer and actress.-Early life:...

. These garments were seen in popular motion pictures such as Daddy Long Legs
Daddy Long Legs (film)
Daddy Long Legs is a Hollywood musical comedy film set in France, New York City, and the fictional college town of "Walston" in Massachusetts. The film was directed by Jean Negulesco, and stars Fred Astaire, Leslie Caron, Terry Moore, Fred Clark, and Thelma Ritter, with music and lyrics by Johnny...


In 1953, Allen Gant, Sr., of Glen Raven Knitting Mills
Glen Raven, Inc.
Glen Raven, Inc. is a fabric manufacturing and marketing company. The company is headquartered in Glen Raven, North Carolina and headed by Allen Erwin Gant, Jr., the grandson of John Quinton Gant and founder of the industry advocacy group National Council of Textile Organizations...

 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 of show business to wear "panty hose". However, during the 1960s, improved textile manufacturing
Textile manufacturing
Textile manufacturing is a major industry. It is based in the conversion of three types of fibre into yarn, then fabric, then textiles. These are then fabricated into clothes or other artifacts. Cotton remains the most important natural fibre, so is treated in depth...

 processes made them cheaper, spandex (or elastane) made them more comfortable, and the miniskirt
A miniskirt, sometimes hyphenated as mini-skirt, is a skirt with a hemline well above the knees – generally no longer than below the buttocks; and a minidress is a dress with a similar meaning...

 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 ever since then.

The popularity of pantyhose grew into a wardrobe staple throughout the 1970s and 1980s. From 1995 a steady decline began, leveling 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. For example, fishnet hose, patterns and colors, opaque tights, low-rise
Low-rise (fashion)
Low-rise is a style of clothing, designed to sit low on, or below, the hips. The style can also be called lowcut, hipster, or hip-hugger. A normal Low-rise sits at least 2 to 3 inches [5–8 cms] below the navel...

 pantyhose, footless shapewear, and pantyhose for men
Pantyhose for men
In American English, the term pantyhose refers to a garment traditionally worn by women, at least since their introduction in 1959. However, some manufacturers also produce pantyhose for men .-History:...

 all experienced increased sales.


Pantyhose generally has a standard construction: the top of the waist is a strong elastic; the part covering the hips and the buttocks
The buttocks are two rounded portions of the anatomy, located on the posterior of the pelvic region of apes and humans, and many other bipeds or quadrupeds, and comprise a layer of fat superimposed on the gluteus maximus and gluteus medius muscles. Physiologically, the buttocks enable weight to...

 (the panty area) is composed of a thicker material than for the legs. The gusset
In sewing, a gusset is a triangular or rhomboid piece of fabric inserted into a seam to add breadth or reduce stress from tight-fitting clothing...

 or crotch is also a stronger material, sometimes made of porous cotton
Cotton is a soft, fluffy staple fiber that grows in a boll, or protective capsule, around the seeds of cotton plants of the genus Gossypium. The fiber is almost pure cellulose. The botanical purpose of cotton fiber is to aid in seed dispersal....

, 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 also be composed of other materials such as silk, cotton, or wool
Wool is the textile fiber obtained from sheep and certain other animals, including cashmere from goats, mohair from goats, qiviut from muskoxen, vicuña, alpaca, camel from animals in the camel family, and angora from rabbits....



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) to 15 (standard sheer) up to 30 (semi opaque) until 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. There may be visible panty lines when wearing high-cut skirts or shorts.

Sheer-to-waist pantyhose is sheer throughout, with the panty portion being the same thickness and color 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, does not have a gusset. Instead, an opening is in place for hygiene or pantyhose 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.

Health risks and benefits

Pantyhose present a number of health risks and some health benefits.
  • Because pantyhose are tight (thereby causing pressure on the opening of the urethra
    In anatomy, the urethra is a tube that connects the urinary bladder to the genitals for the removal of fluids out of the body. In males, the urethra travels through the penis, and carries semen as well as urine...

    ), and non-absorbent, they have been implicated as a contributing factor in urinary tract infections. Because of the risk of complications from UTIs, women who are prone to infections of the urinary tract, or who are pregnant, are often advised not to wear pantyhose.

  • Like nylon underwear and other synthetic materials, pantyhose trap bacteria and increase the temperature in the genital area, and so they can be the proximate cause or a contributing factor in the development of yeast infections (candidiasis
    Thrush redirects here. For the hoof infection see Thrush .Candidiasis or thrush is a fungal infection of any of the Candida species , of which Candida albicans is the most common...

    ) in wearers. Women who have experienced a yeast infection are counseled to wear undergarments of cotton or other natural fibers, and to avoid wearing synthetic undergarments.

  • The occurrence of bacterial vaginosis
    Bacterial vaginosis
    Bacterial vaginosis or less commonly vaginal bacteriosis is a disease of the vagina caused by bacteria. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention states it is not clear what role sexual activity plays in the development. However, it is known that BV is associated with having a new sex...

     has also been linked to the wearing of pantyhose, among other causes. Bacterial vaginosis can result in complications for pregnant women and has been associated with an increase in the development of pelvic inflammatory disease (PID) following surgical procedures such as a hysterectomy.

  • It is not unusual for people dressed in layers of synthetic clothing to suffer from heat exhaustion in warm environments or while exercising or working. Because pantyhose raise the temperature of the body, the elderly, menopausal women, and other wearers who have difficulties regulating body temperature (because of underlying issues such as thyroid malfunctions) may find the garment unbearably warm.

  • The warm, moist environment created by nylon pantyhose is also a predictive factor in the development of fungal infections of the skin of susceptible wearers, particularly in the feet, abdomen and genital areas. Preexisting fungal and allergic conditions, including eczema
    Eczema is a form of dermatitis, or inflammation of the epidermis . In England, an estimated 5.7 million or about one in every nine people have been diagnosed with the disease by a clinician at some point in their lives.The term eczema is broadly applied to a range of persistent skin conditions...

    , athlete's foot
    Athlete's foot
    Athlete's foot is a fungal infection of the skin that causes scaling, flaking, and itch of affected areas. It is caused by fungi in the genus Trichophyton and is typically transmitted in moist areas where people walk barefoot, such as showers or bathhouses...

    , hives and rashes are exacerbated by the wearing of pantyhose.

There are also some health benefits associated with pantyhose. In cold weather, pantyhose can help keep the wearer's legs and feet warm. In low-humidity conditions, they can help prevent the legs from becoming too dry. Support hosiery can help those who work on their feet by preventing or helping varicose veins and relieving pain in the back and legs by regulating blood circulation. Pantyhose often also help prevent chafing between the wearer's feet and their shoes, or between the thighs when walking, thus helping the wearer avoid painful skin irritation such as blisters and heat rashes.


  • 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 odor. Some hosiery products contain silver to help to prevent odor and sweating of the feet, thus making the wearing of hosiery a more pleasant experience. Wearing natural fiber silk stockings and tights is another means of reducing perspiration.

  • For people who are either very large or very thin, pantyhose can be extremely uncomfortable and unflattering. The feel of pantyhose on large-sized women has been compared to the feeling of wearing a sausage casing, and pantyhose have been criticized for having a tendency to sag at the ankles, be too short to reach the waist, or roll down from the waist after a few hours of wear.

  • Some people refuse to wear pantyhose for ethical or economic reasons. Though they can cost anywhere from $5 to $250 per pair, pantyhose are prone to tearing or laddering, especially after multiple wears. They usually cannot be recycled, and they are not biodegradable. Disposing of the item contributes to overuse of landfill
    A landfill site , is a site for the disposal of waste materials by burial and is the oldest form of waste treatment...

    . Burning pantyhose sometimes releases toxins into the atmosphere
    An atmosphere is a layer of gases that may surround a material body of sufficient mass, and that is held in place by the gravity of the body. An atmosphere may be retained for a longer duration, if the gravity is high and the atmosphere's temperature is low...


  • Pantyhose have been criticized for being flimsy. The nylon fabric of pantyhose is extremely prone to "runs". The wearer can cause a run in the hose by even such simple movements as catching the toenail of one's big toe in the fabric when the hose is put on, by catching it on a rough desk, car, and by numerous other risks. Some women apply clear nail polish
    Nail polish
    Nail polish, or nail varnish, is a lacquer applied to human fingernails or toenails to decorate and/or protect the nail plate.-History:...

    to their hose to prevent runs from growing.

Men and pantyhose

While usually considered to be a women's garment, pantyhose are more and more frequently worn by men for thermal protection and therapeutic relief. Race horse jockeys also wear pantyhose under their uniforms so they 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 also wear pantyhose to protect from jellyfish, whose stingers cannot penetrate the mesh. In the late 1990s several small manufacturers introduced pantyhose styles designed for men to cater to this niche market. The growth in the male pantyhose market (sometimes termed, "mantyhose", a term coined by the media coverage of this emerging trend), has been chronicled in a number of popular blogs that have arisen as men have become more open in their wearing of this once only feminine garment.

External links

  • Video How Pantyhose are Manufactured
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