In American English, the term pantyhose generally refers to hosiery traditionally worn by women since their introduction in 1959, however some manufacturers also produce pantyhose for men, or, colloquially, mantyhose, brosiery, or guylons.
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In 1996 L'eggs, a US pantyhose company, opened a storefront together with a product-related bulletin board on the web. They soon discovered that most of the visitors talking about their products were men. After conducting a survey in 1998, the company came to the conclusion that, in fact, many men were wearing pantyhose as a regular clothing item, and would buy leggings in a well-targeted male product range, if it existed.
Based on this survey and other market research, G. Lieberman & Sons (GLS Hosiery) began to manufacture and market ComfiLon in 1999, which became Activskin in 2002. Comfilon/ActivSkin was so successful it inspired Levee, a German pantyhose manufacturer to create a unisex product line called WoMan in 2002. Wolford, an Austrian luxury hosiery manufacturer also introduced 'Waistsocks' for men. Nearly every year since then at least one manufacturer has entered the market with a male product line, such as Collanto in Germany and Gerbe in France.
To manage public relations and serve as spokesman for issues related to men's pantyhose in the U.S. media, GLS hired Steve Newman in 2009. The company expects to reach a tipping point in the near future with respect to public perception and growth of the male pantyhose and tights trend. As an addition to the constantly expanding family of men's legwear manufacturers, there is another producer in Eastern Europe called Tim Legwear that is testing the local market with men's tights and leggings. Men's tight also account for 2-3% of the business of Italian legwear designer Emilio Cavallini.
Size of the market
The market for men's pantyhose has continued to grow steadily since 1999. While ActivSkin, the leading seller of male pantyhose and tights, does not release specific sales data, they now sell to customers worldwide in 76 countries and have reported growth each year since their inception. An important component of that growth is continued expansion of public awareness of this phenomenon. On March 14, 2012, Forbes magazine indicated that mantyhose could be the next billion dollar undergarment idea.
As everyday clothing
Men who wear pantyhose as a regular item of clothing have come to the attention of the media with increasing frequency since 2002, beginning with a front page Wall Street Journal article on the subject, entitled "Kingsize, Not Queen: Some Men Are Taking to Wearing Pantyhose". Some of the reasons for wearing them include:
- To stimulate circulation if working in a profession that requires them to sit all day, or conversely, if on their feet for extended periods of time. In addition, compression can help reduce swelling and decrease the dangers of circulatory problems.
- To improve athletic performance, energize and revitalize tired, aching leg muscles
One can find both sheer and opaque pantyhose for men, the denier ranging from 8 den (very sheer) to over 100 den (opaque). They usually come in black, brown, tan, and navy blue colors. In the U.S., hosiery above 70 den are usually referred to as 'tights'. This threshold is subjective, and hosiery of lesser denier may be considered tights in the U.S. vocabulary.
Some men wear pantyhose under trousers, with or without socks, while an increasing number are now wearing them with shorts. They have found it is very difficult to notice pantyhose closely matching skin color, as long as leg hair is either removed or kept closely trimmed. As men's pantyhose continues to move from the periphery toward mainstream acceptance, more men are also wearing colored legwear (black, blue, dark brown) with shorts.
Pantyhose and other "compression stockings" can be worn to provide relief from leg or ankle swelling and varicose veins. They provide warmth and support for men who have Raynaud's phenomenon. They can also be worn as supportive therapy for vein disorders such as lymphedema and deep vein thrombosis.
The effect of non-medical grade support hosiery is given only passing notice in much of the medical literature. This is primarily due to less experimentally-quantifiable information available regarding the contribution of non-medical grade support hosiery on leg circulation. That's not to say there is none available, however.
According to the United States Department of Health & Human Services, "The single most important thing a person can do to slow down the development of new varicose veins is to wear graduated compression support stockings as much as possible during the day." They also list "wearing elastic support stockings" as a means of reducing the chances of getting new varicose and spider veins. In addition, a 2001 study cited by the American Society of Dermatologic Surgery concluded that, "Use of lightweight (low compression), ready-to-wear gradient compression hosiery is very effective in improving symptoms of discomfort, swelling, fatigue, aching, as well as leg tightness."
A significant portion of the populationâ"both male and femaleâ"will eventually suffer from some sort of leg circulation problem, including venous insufficiency and related issues. There is no physiological difference between men and women that prevents it from developing in men in nearly equal frequency as women, therefore men can benefit from the preventative aspects of full length support hosiery every bit as much as their female counterparts. It is important to consult a physician when these problems worsen and varicose veins begin to appear, to make sure medical intervention is not necessary. The regular use of full support tights or pantyhose may be all that is needed to prevent these symptoms from occurring.
In scuba diving
Some scuba-diving men have been known to wear pantyhose or similar garments under their wetsuits to get a bit of extra insulation against cold water. It also assists in putting on and taking off the wetsuit. Pantyhose are also an effective protection against box jellyfish stings. The pantyhose were formerly thought to work because of the length of the box jellyfish's stingers (nematocysts), but it is now known to be related to the way the stinger cells work. The stinging cells on a box jellyfish's tentacles are not triggered by touch, but are instead triggered by the chemicals found on skin.
There have been anecdotes of men wearing pantyhose for practical purposes nearly since their original introduction in the women's market, but these stories have been typically difficult to verify because the men in question tended to refrain from discussing the issue. Such anecdotes have included:
- NFL football players wearing them under uniforms in cold weather.
- Hunters and campers wearing them as a base layer beneath other cold weather attire.
- Men with varicose veins or other circulatory problems that may or may not require surgical hosiery.
- Horseback riders wearing them to prevent chafing and saddle sores.
- Soldiers who have to wade through deep water and want protection from leeches.
- Motorcyclists wear them under their riding gear to aid movement and to prevent chafing.
- As a purported measure against ticks and chiggers; also blisters.
Reasons why manufacturers are now producing pantyhose for men:
- The female market has been in decline since the late 1990s, while the male market is growing.
- Online hosiery retailers have reported that the majority of their sales are to male customers.
- Men are likely to require a longer lifespan from their purchases and will therefore pay more per item for greater quality.
- Compression garment
- Men's skirts
- Annis, Elisa "An industry that lost its footing" International Herald Tribune, October 9, 2006.
- Bringard A, Perrey S, Belluye N. "Aerobic energy cost and sensation responses during submaximal running exerciseâ"positive effects of wearing compression tights" Int. J. Sports Med. May 2006;27(5):373â"8.
- Helliker, Kevin. "Kingsize, Not Queen: Some Men Have Taken To Wearing Pantyhose" Wall Street Journal, February 19, 2002.
- Lambert, Stephen M. and Haga, Melissa J. "A randomised crossover study of low-ankle-pressure graduated-compression tights in reducing flight-induced ankle oedema" The Medical Journal of Australia, Sep 2007; MJA 2008; 188 (2): 81â"84.
- Norton, Amy. "Compression tights may give runners a lift" Reuters Health/Medicine Online, May, 2006.
- Preston, Shelley. "Wearing Pantyhose Is Serious Business For Some Guys" The Ledger, September 18, 2006.
- Ramelet, A.-A. (2002), "Compression Therapy". Dermatologic Surgery, 28: 6â"10. doi:10.1046/j.1524-4725.2002.01181.x
- Temple, Matthew "Men in tights" FT.com, June 7, 2002.
- "âMantyhoseâ: Not your momâs pantyhose" on MSNBC.com