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Long ago, stockings were made of knitted wool (think Robin Hood), silk (royalty) or cotton (the common folk through the early 1900s).  When ladies hemlines rose up and up to show more and more leg, stockings became sheer and were made of silk or rayon (or artificial silk).

By the 1940s, nylon thigh-high stockings became the rage, although silk ones were still considered the ultimate luxury.  Actress-singer Ann Miller was one of the first to wear a theatrical version of pantyhose - stockings sewn to the briefs of dancers. 

In 1953, a commercial equivalent, “Panti-Legs” was invented by Allen Gant, Sr. of Glen Raven Knitting Mills in North Carolina.  It took six more years before he began manufacturing his new product.  With the introduction of the miniskirt, a seamless version of pantyhose was developed in 1965 at the Glen Raven Mills. 

The actress Julie Newmar, best known for her role as Catwoman on the Batman television series of the mid-1960s, holds two U.S. patents for ultra-sheer, ultra-tight pantyhose she invented. 

By the 1970s, pantyhose sales exceeded those of thigh-high stockings.  This is still true today, although the popularity of pantyhose has declined to half of what it was for three primary reasons:  changes in workplace dress codes, the trend for bare legs even with the dressiest of attire, and finally the expense of garments that are easily destroyed with one “run.”

Today, tights and leggings are more popular than ever, along with specialty pantyhose such as fishnets and patterns in a wide variety of vibrant colors. 

Pantyhose for men or “mantyhose” have also witnessed increased sales worldwide. Football players wear them in cold weather, along with hunters and campers.  Jockeys and horseback riders wear them to prevent chafing and saddle sores.  Men also wear pantyhose for medical reasons such as varicose veins, lymphedema, and deep vein thrombosis. 

The latest trend is for men to wear pantyhose with shorts, either keeping leg hair trimmed short or removed altogether.  European men have also taken to wearing patterned pantyhose under short pants.

There is no magic pantyhose that lasts forever, not yet.

But hosiery today is better than ever . . . stronger, sheerer and more comfortable than even products made just five years ago.  Remember, the more sheer, the more fragile.  Denier refers to the degree of sheerness, the lower the number, the more sheer (and fragile) the pantyhose.


Spandex is the highly elastic fiber that allows hosiery to continuously conform to the body. With spandex, pantyhose can stretch and snap back in place, avoiding the dreaded baggy look. Popular brands of Spandex used in hosiery products today include: Dorlastan®, Glospan®, Cleerspan®, Lycra®