For decades upon decades, women wore hosiery. All through the 40s, 50s, 60s, 70s and 80s, this is simply what the ladies wore… but then, suddenly, it went away. Indeed, it happened so fast (perhaps somewhere in the late 1980s) that I didn’t even notice until hosiery had all but vanished from the face of the earth. What the hell happened?
In the UK and much of Europe, hosiery has made a comeback in recent years, but in the United States it is entirely absent. I grew up surrounded by hosiery, so I must admit, I’m a bit sad to wave it goodbye. In the 70s, all the foxy babes on TV wore them: Charlie’s Angels, Daisy Duke, Chrissy Snow, Wonder Woman, Julie Barnes (The Mod Squad), Marcia Brady,… the list goes on and on. Don’t get me wrong – I’m not a perv with a stocking fetish. I just grew up with them, and like most guys my age, was sorry to see them leave.
The question is “why?” – or to be more precise “WTF?” I’ve done a bit of research by asking a few ladies and come up with a few theories of my own. Feel free to offer your own explanation for their mysterious disappearance, and together we can solve this mystery.
1. They have simply gone out of style.
We are all fashion followers, so it stands to reason that what is not marketed in Cosmo, Vogue, etc, as trendy and stylish is not purchased. The fashionistas for years have been telling young women that only grandmothers and old ladies wear pantyhose, that nude pantyhose makes your legs look like they’re encased in a sausage, and that it also makes your legs look orange. Kate Middleton helped change that conception in the UK, but it’s still pervasive in the States.
That’s the obvious answer. But dig deeper and ask why they went out of vogue in the first place…
2. Hosiery is an annoyance and inconvenience to women
They often have runs, which require frequent purchases. Also, a run can cause embarrassment. I am told they are uncomfortable. They have a tendency to slip down, and can create annoying wrinkles in your shoes.
3. Tan legs are “in”
A function of hosiery (especially nude hose) was to improve the tone of the leg. Now that most women in the US tan their legs and “tan in a bottle” is abundant, this function of hosiery became no longer necessary.
4. Women gained control over the mass marketed female images and fashion industry
What women wore and what was deemed fashionable used to be dictated exclusively by men. If men thought legs looked better in hose, then by God, women are going to have to wear hose. Once women had a say in the process, the inconvenient pain-in-the-ass hosiery was kicked to the curb.
5. We’re comfortable showing bare skin
For a time, hosiery basically served to censor a woman’s bare leg. In other words, it was more than a little bit naughty (and in poor taste) to show off a bare leg; now that that taboo is long gone, yet another function of hosiery is gone.
6. Razor blade improvements
It’s easy to overlook this factor, but vast improvements in the comfort, ease and effectiveness of modern razors definitely has had an impact. Women’s razor blades of today actually provide a smooth finish without carving your legs like a turkey. The need for hosiery to mask the effects of unfriendly razors is long gone.
7. Skirts aren’t as short
The heyday of the miniskirt is long since gone. With much less leg shown, so there isn’t much need for hosiery which improves the appearance of the leg.
8. That annoying “swishing” sound
It’s certainly not the primary reason hosiery went kaput, but according to the ladies in my informal poll, it is a contributing factor. The swish-swish-swish with every step was often a source of embarrassment.
9. They look bad with open-toed shoes
Even the biggest pantyhose enthusiast will have to admit they look a little ridiculous with open-toed shoes.
But these answers still don’t get to the core. I mean, women have always had these issues with hose; and skirts haven’t always been super short; however, they were fine with wearing them back then… why not now?
10. Americans have gotten slovenly
If you look back a few decades, you’ll see people dressed up more. Men wore hats and kept their shoes shined. Women wore gloves and were rarely seen outside the home without makeup on. The change from well-groomed and “dolled up” to today’s state of shabbiness was a gradual transition. The hippie counter culture was the first to make strides in this area. For whatever reason, this casualness just got more and more casual.
You always hear that today’s society is overly concerned with outward appearances. However, it’s interesting to note that we’ve never cared less about the way we present ourselves. In this climate, it was only a matter of time before hosiery bit the dust.
Of course, this begs the next question. Why have Americans gotten so casual? That, I’m afraid, is a question for another day.