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Tights, Pantyhose, Nylons: What’s the Dif?

November 27, 2009

The other day, I was trying to put on the last pair of tights that I owe, which do not have a run in them. A hellish experience all on its own, but I couldn’t go to a job interview with bare leg and a dress, that just seemed a little uncouth. The weather is getting colder and although I could have easily gone out with bare legs, but for some reason as soon as summer is officially over, I feel like it’s unacceptable to not were anything over my legs especially when going to a job interview, which is exactly what I was getting ready for. 

My brother called while I was trying to pull up this particular article of clothing that could only have been designed by a masochist and as per usual he asked me what’s up. I almost felt like crying, but instead I blurted out “I’m trying to put on a pair of goddamn tights”. Clearly, I was not having an easy time of it. 

Have you ever noticed that you’ll never wear a pair of tights that have a hole or a run in them, at least not when trying to look well-dressed and business like, but for some reason although the pair of tights in question no longer serves their purpose you will nonetheless stick them back in your drawer? It’s kind of akin to sticking the empty carton of milk back in the fridge hoping that somehow the problem will take care of itself. Personally, I think it might also have something to do with my unwillingness to throw out something that was so easily ruined after so little wear. Kinda feels like throwing out money and who the hell likes doing that? 

I decided that this winter I would renew my tights collection and in preparation for this I started to throw out all the ones that had holes the size of grapefruits in them, which basically left me with nothing since I torn the pair I wore to my job interview that very night, but in the process of doing all this I started to wonder what the hell is the difference between tights, pantyhose and nylons?

So far, I’ve been able to find out that nylons are basically a synonym for either tights or pantyhose and the name itself simply refers to the material that is used to make them (most of them now contain some spandex). Although, I think most people use the word nylon when referring to pantyhose. The only difference there seems to be between pantyhose and tights is the sheerness of the material, which is expressed as a numerical denier ranging anywhere between 3 (very thin, very rare) to 15 (standard sheer) up to 30 (semi-opaque) until a 100 (opaque). The line of no return seems to be at 40 deniers, and anything over that number will be considered to be a pair of tights. Meaning, pantyhose are sheer while tights tend to be more opaque. 

From personal experience, I can tell you that sheer pantyhose seem easier to put on, since the material isn’t as dense, but they also tear more easily. The more opaque the material, the denser the fabric is the harder it is to create a run in them, but they also tend to feel like the entire lower half of your body is encased in some sort of torture device. Pantyhose (and or nylons) tend to come in neutral shades, which are supposed to mimic the color of your skin, but trust me when I say that the shade commonly known as “nude” or “flesh tone” comes nowhere near imitating life, a goal made that much harder considering that “flesh tone” sadly does not represent all of society, not even close (can I hear “racist”?) unless you use some sort of tanning lotion that turns your skin a lovely shade of “almost orange”. 

As dismal as all this information is, this is pretty much all I was able to learn in hours and hours of online research (maybe 40 minutes of reading through Wikipedia) and none of it or very little of it has lent itself to making the experience of wearing tights or pantyhose seem any less torturous. How about you, can you recommend anything? I mean, besides having to wear pants all the time… 

16 Comments leave one →
  1. cleofaye permalink
    November 28, 2009 12:09 am

    My understanding is also that pantyhose and tights both refer to a full set of tights with crouch and stomach and all. I have always been a tomboy and have hated tights since I had to wear them for the big church holidays with white patten leather shoes. However, I have recently discovered the wonder that is stockings, the old school kind you wear with a garter belt. I will never go back. I’m short so I’ve always had pantyhose that were able to come up over my shoulders. Stockings only get pulled up to my mid thigh, making them a better fit and allowing me to skip the horrible readjusting when you realize you left them too loose and have to pull everything up higher to get them on. I also just find them really old school and they make me feel good. Finally, if you put your underwear on over them, you can pee without having to touch them, by far the best benefit ever. (you can also have sex without taking them off, and you know, they’re kind of hot…. just sayin)

  2. November 28, 2009 1:39 am

    I agree in part, but I find the garter belt bit uncomfortable and it can also ruin the look of a really clinging thin dress. That said I’ll probably be wearing a garter belt and a pair thin stockings tonight at Whip Club.

    Usually I prefer stay-ups. If I buy several pairs in the same colour they last a long time. If there’s a run in one I throw it away and take one from the next pair. I’m no mathematician but 5 pairs of stay-ups probably equals a lot of pantyhoses.

  3. naturegirl permalink
    November 28, 2009 9:41 am

    Here in the UK, they are “tights”, but I spent some time in the US so I sometimes refer to them as pantyhose when speaking to my stateside friends.
    I went through a phase of wearing stockings, suspender belt and all, but they can be so uncomfortable!!! I tried “hold-ups”, but hated the mark they left on my thighs.
    So in the cooler months it’s tights (with two pairs of panties, one under & one over!), in the summer its bare legs (& sometimes bare bottom as well!)

  4. November 28, 2009 10:22 am

    Unwearable hose can be moved to the bondage drawer. I like to believe that science will one day product nylons that never run, and maybe can change color and patterns from an iPhone app.

  5. November 28, 2009 5:27 pm

    I didn’t mention stockings, because I think they fall in a different category. As Cleofaye said, they are hot …and retro, and classy, and feminine, and naughty…I don’t have a garter belt though, because I actually want to invest in one that fits me well and won’t dig into my flesh, which is also the reason I don’t like stay ups, because unless you have perfectly toned tights those plastic bands are going to leave a mark and create a bulge of flesh, which can be cute, but on me would just look ridiculous.

    @Naturegirl – Can I ask why in the colder months you wear two pairs of underwear (one underneath and one on top)? I mean, is there a particular purpose?

  6. November 28, 2009 9:25 pm

    Pantyhose are evil, tights are a good substitute for long underwear (which are also evil), and stockings are the best for any time you need to look either sexy or business-y. Just say no to sausage casings! (aka pantyhose)

    Also, have you ever considered the leg warmer? I’m a big fan.

  7. naturegirl permalink
    November 29, 2009 5:50 am

    OK! One pair under as I don’t like the feel of nylon tights on my girly bits & one pair over to keep the tights in place!

  8. November 29, 2009 6:07 pm

    That makes sense.

  9. November 29, 2009 6:08 pm

    In theory, I like the leg warmer, but in practice they kind of make my calves look huge. Ah yes, vanity at it’s best.

  10. Liz permalink
    November 30, 2009 7:46 am

    I hate stay ups cuz I’m not toned enough to rock them for the same bulge-inducing problems. (Skinny as I am, my legs are in no way muscular… hahahah). Nylons are SYNTHETIC. They will never be all that comfortable. What I suggest is look into leggings. I know that look can be sloppy or bulky or not as sleek as tights but the legging market is growing and for $20 or so you can find a super thin, 100% cotton pair and there is nothing better to don those gams in but pure, sweet, natural cotton. You can also find cotton or natural fibers mixed with nylon in certain tight brands. Guaranteed opaque but still more breathable. And less stinky feet in the process. Avoid wool, though. Itch. Gag. Sob.

  11. November 30, 2009 4:37 pm

    Yup, last thing you want to do is encase your legs in something itchy.

  12. December 7, 2009 9:20 am

    Really funny article just don’t come to my blog !

  13. December 16, 2009 2:39 pm

    Haha, I see your point. I don’t really hate them that much. I was mostly really frustrated with the current state of my tight situation.

  14. December 16, 2009 3:03 pm

    “Stinky feet”…that makes me think of the scene in the movie Secretary when James Spader’s character tells Maggie Gyllenhaal’s character to wash her stockings, because they smelt bad. Boy, he was harsh boss, but damn did I ever love that movie.

  15. Wayne permalink
    January 1, 2010 11:51 pm

    Very useful reading! Do you have ANY idea how hard it is for a guy to learn the “secrets” of feminine coture and preferences without appearing to be either a creeper or a cross dresser? I find these little tidbits helpful in knowing how to buy gifts that are not only appreciated by the recipient, but also something practical that she might wear outside of the bedroom.

  16. January 2, 2010 12:00 pm

    Well, you are welcome to the information we unravel as we go along.

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