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Stockings First Appeared in 1589 And Were Worn By Men

Each year on May 15th, we recognize the stylish variety and color available on National Nylon Stocking Day.

Many may not remember ever hearing the term “nylon stockings.” Varying in color, design, and transparency, a nylon stocking (also known as hose) is a close-fitting, variously elastic garment worn the same as socks or tights.

  • Stockings first started appearing after the invention of the knitting machine in 1589 by Rev William Lee. In the early days they were known as hose and worn mainly by men.
  • Stockings worn before the 1890s were made of woven cloth such as cotton, linen, wool, or silk.
  • Before the 1920s, women’s stockings were worn for warmth.  As hemlines of women’s dresses rose in the 1920s, women began to wear stockings over their exposed legs. These 1920s stockings were sheer, made first of silk or rayon, followed by nylon after 1940.
  • Chemical company DuPont’s introduction of nylon in 1939 began a high demand for stockings in the United States.  As nylon stockings were inexpensive, durable, and shear, up to 4 million pairs would be purchased each day
  • On May 15, 1940 women flocked to stores by the thousands. Four million pairs sold out in four days!
  • On February 11, 1942, as America entered World War II, DuPont ceased production of nylon stockings and switching their focus to the manufacture of parachutes, airplane cords, and rope.
  • This created a mass shortage followed by a black market for stockings.
  • During times of wartime shortage, women would sometimes draw a black line up the back of their bare legs to simulate the seam effect of a stocking.
  • At the end of World War II, DuPont resumed production of the stockings but could not meet the demand leading to nylon riots in American stores. In time, DuPont was able to increase its output.
  •  In 1945, Macy’s sold out of their entire stock of 50,000 pairs of nylons in just 6 hours.
  • In the 1940s and 1950s, the first pantyhose made its appearance.  Film and theater productions had stockings sewn to the briefs of actresses and dancers, as seen in popular films such as Daddy Long Legs. Unlike stockings, pantyhose did not require a garter belt to hold the stockings up.
  • Pantyhose were first created by a man named Allen Gant Sr. who owned a textile company. He began manufacturing pantyhose when his pregnant wife, Ethel, demanded he create a stocking that combined underwear and hosiery when her pregnancy made it too difficult to adjust her stockings and garters.
  • Pantyhose were introduced in 1959, providing a convenient alternative to stockings which led to a decline in their sales.
  • In 1970, for the first time, United States sales of pantyhose exceeded stocking sales and have remained the same ever since.
  • In 1987, there was a slight decline in sales in pantyhose due to the newly invented hold-ups. However, they remain the most purchased kind of hosiery.
  • The wearing of hosiery dates back as early as the 15th and 16th centuries.
  •  Initially, stockings were worn by European kings and noble men to make horseback riding easier, and to show their financial and class standing because stockings were made out of silk.
  • Stockings had to be worn by women because bare legs were highly inappropriate
  • Queen Elizabeth I was the first well-known woman to wear stockings in 1560 and they became a fashion statement.
  •  The late 1930s brought political tensions between America and Japan. By 1937, there was a nationwide boycott of all Japanese products in the U.S., which included silk stocking. American women now had no choice but to switch from silk hosiery and nylon.
  • Some fishermen sport tights to help protect against jellyfish stings.
  • Two billion pairs of tights are produced each year.


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