Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Support Hose for the Health of Your Legs...Guys

A funny thing about poor leg circulation… it doesn’t respect gender boundaries—at least not very much. What I mean by this is that men may be nearly as likely to suffer from venous insufficiency as women. Risk factors for venous insufficiency include working in professions requiring long periods of standing (surgeons, chefs, factory workers, etc.) or extended periods of sitting without intervening activity (clerical/office workers, truck drivers, etc.) Smokers and diabetics also have higher incidence of this problem as well. Although women are likely to encounter symptoms at an earlier age, and in somewhat greater numbers than men, there is no doubt that many men suffer from it as well. Likewise for varicose veins and deep vein thrombosis. Unfortunately, this can present a dilemma for men in our society if their symptoms are not confined below the knee.

If you shop the drug store aisles or catalogs for leg support products intended for men, you will most likely find little more than knee socks. On the other hand, similar products for women range from knee socks to thigh-top stockings and full-length support pantyhose. If you are a man who suffers from the chronic discomfort of tired and achy legs, you may feel you have no recourse other than medical-grade hosiery. Most people find this to be too hot and uncomfortable for their taste and avoid them, unless specifically directed by their physician. While women can turn to the moderate compression styles produced by Ames®, Jobst®, et al—or support hosiery found in department stores, men had few options until recently. Fortunately, ActivSkin® Legwear for Men has been providing a solution for such men for nearly 10 years. ActivSkin® sells two styles of full-support opaque tights (both footed and footless), six styles of sheer full-support hosiery, five styles of support thigh-top stockings and three styles of support socks, all made especially for men. Until recent years, men who had need for full-length support hosiery had no choice but to resort to wearing women’s pantyhose. This led many men to feeling self-conscious about what others may think, despite the fact that—objectively speaking—there is nothing that makes full-length hosiery a strictly female garment. In fact, until little more than a hundred years ago, form-fitting legwear was considered exclusively a male garment.

With the advent of ActivSkin® , and our continued efforts to shape public perception of masculine applications for legwear, men are finding these products to be a ‘good fit’ when it comes to easing chronic leg pain, when not associated with a condition requiring medical-grade hosiery. When male patients complain of these conditions to their doctor, he or she now has more options than just directing them to the nearest department store to pick up a pair of L’eggs® Sheer Energy®. Men can now be directed to the online store at www.activskin.com to select a style that will provide comfort and help promote future leg health. ActivSkin® Legwear is made to conform to male body proportions, while providing full, medium, or light leg support. Men with symptoms of venous insufficiency should discuss this issue with their doctor and follow his or her advice.

ActivSkin® Legwear is not a medical product and is not required to have compression measurements in mm Hg. According to the Hosiery Technology Center in North Carolina, there are no agreed-upon industry standards for how to measure compression consistently from product to product and from company to company. Like any other product that you would use for health reasons, men with venous insufficiency or other circulation problems should consult their physician first.

DISCLAIMER: Neither ActivSkin nor G. Lieberman & Sons makes no claim that a customer’s health condition will improve by wearing its products, nor do we assume any liability for health problems that might ensue as a result of wearing its products. Customers at risk should wear them only under the direction of a competent physician.


Friday, March 27, 2009

The Politics of Mantyhose

ActivSkin Legwear for MenThis article appeared back in January on www.feministing.com. Since that predates the launch of The Nylon Gene, I'm posting a link to it for any readers who may not have seen it. The author referred to ActivSkin (misspelled as 'ActiveSkin') and used an image from our website. Obviously from the title and webpage header image, the site takes a fairly strident view towards men, and that's unfortunate. But at the same time, the article raises some interesting points for discussion.

At the time I posted a comment, which I'm also including below:

Good article here. I’ve been wearing hose or tights for about 10 years or so—primarily for improved leg circulation, but along the way have found them to have other benefits as well. There've been dozens and dozens of articles on the rise of men's pantyhose over the past 8 or 9 years, but not too many of them scratch below the surface of the issue like you've done here. Haven’t yet read all the posts, so I hope I’m not duplicating with this one.

I've posted quite a few blog entries or comments asking the question of why there's such a disparity between the way 'cross-dressing' is treated when it's a man versus a woman who's doing the crossing over. For instance, everyone thinks its ‘cute’ or sexy when a woman wears a man’s shirt or boxer briefs—or if she’s wearing a necktie or power suit, she’s not typically ridiculed for it. But, let a man wear something that’s in the least bit associated with ‘feminine’ and he’s laughed at, ridiculed, and treated with so much disdain and scorn as to make most any guy afraid to so much as pick up a piece of women’s underwear for any reason at all. (Ever watch one of us guys sorting laundry when we get to our lady's underthings?)

So, you’ve got to ask yourself, why the difference? It seems that maybe the idea of a woman wearing men’s wear is seen as ‘reaching up’ to take on the air of the ‘superior gender’—while a guy wearing something associated with women’s wear (in this case, pantyhose) the negative reaction makes it seem as though he is ‘lowering himself’ to the level of the inferior sex. Mind you, I don’t subscribe to that notion—just making the observation. And, like you asked at the end of the article, why is it that the wives and girlfriends of those men who aren’t afraid to wear hose more disturbed by it than the men? Is there a certain inferiority complex ingrained in the women that makes them do that? Or, is it just recognition that society makes that judgment on the relative merit of male vs female, and they don’t want to risk their guy getting degraded?

While many guys will take a ‘live and let live’ attitude towards men’s pantyhose, it’s interesting to note that the guys who DO get really stoked about it (‘he oughta have is a** kicked…’) in the various blog comments sound like the ones who are most likely to consider women to be an inferior species. I do value the differences between the sexes, and believe that men should be men and women should be women—just as God intended us to be. However, I don’t agree that pantyhose (other than maybe the name) should be considered to be an inherently female garment. I also don’t believe that anyone should consider male or female to be superior to the other. Different does not equate to better/worse. Men and women each have their own gifts and burdens and those should be embraced. But, wearing pantyhose does not make a difference if you like wearing them.

What do you think about this? Is the disparity between how men and women wearing clothing items traditionally associated with the opposite sex a little window on the relative 'value' society places on the other?


Home... After a Long Drive

My wife and I drove up to Toledo with our kids for a couple of days this week. Although the drive takes less than 3 hours, it's enough to make my legs get pretty achy and sore--if it weren't for the leg support you get from wearing these hose.

Believe me, if you've got problems with leg circulation, give it a try the next time you take an extended drive. In the photo, taken after we returned, I'm wearing ActivSkin A569 in off-black. They're a full-support style. Unfortunately, if you want them in this color you're out of luck. We only carry them in black, dark brown, tan and beige these days. The off-black didn't sell very well and were eventually discontinued. (I've had this pair for awhile).


Thursday, March 26, 2009

MEN’S LEGWEAR: A Little Background…

For the benefit of those readers (or potential readers) who are new to the concept of men wearing sheer hosiery or tights, I've included some background information on the whole men's legwear trend. Hopefully, this can enlighten our friends in the media who have been so gracious as to cover this unusual direction men's fashion has taken of late:

Although men were the original wearers of tights, in the Middle Ages, Renaissance and Colonial eras, the custom eventually gave way to women, who adopted them as their own—so much so that it became socially unacceptable for men to wear full-length hosiery, as it had become viewed exclusively as a woman's garment.

That has changed considerably over the past 10 years or so. Not only have women abandoned sheer pantyhose to a large extent in favor of the bare leg look, men have re-discovered the benefits of legwear and constitute a small but vigorous market that shows signs of breaking out into the mainstream. The tide began to turn with the advent of the Internet and the instant communities that grew up around various interest groups. One of these included men who had been wearing women's tights and pantyhose to ease the discomfort of varicose veins and other venous insufficiencies, and for warmth without bulk in various outdoor situations. Discovering that they were far from alone emboldened some trailblazing men to create online discussion groups to help others overcome their fear of ridicule.

In this were the seeds of our company, ACTIVSKIN (http://www.activskin.com/) which started in 1998. Steve Katz, an heir to a defunct hosiery company, G. Lieberman & Sons, formed a partnership with his wife Constance and launched the company. Early growth was spurred by positive media attention from such institutions as the Wall Street Journal and Financial Times of London, who both took notice of the emerging trend back in 2002.

Since that time media attention has ebbed and flowed, ranging from sarcastic ridicule to enthusiastic acclaim. One notable characteristic of the media timeline over these past 10 years is an evolution of public perception. Initially, men's legwear suffered under the unfair and misleading stereotype of fetishism or cross-dressing. Some may have also associated it with homosexuality, but many gays who posted comments on those early discussion boards pointed out they had no more use for hosiery than did women. Over time, these unwarranted stereotypes have been peeled away to reveal that the vast majority of men who are wearing nylon legwear these days do so for fairly mundane, mainstream reasons.

Sales of men’s legwear have grown from year to year, despite the severe economic conditions of 2008-09. This is an early indicator that the shedding of the social stigma will lead to a tipping point in the trend in the not-too-distant future. Had the trend not been hobbled by such societal forces, who knows where the market would be today?

Why are men wearing legwear? There are many motives, but most do so for a handful of reasons. Our aging population is experiencing many of the problems associated with it, including varicose veins and venous insufficiency (poor circulation). While the support styles of hosiery sold by ACTIVSKIN does not provide medical-grade leg compression, it does ease the discomfort associated with milder forms of these conditions.

Men whose problems were not so advanced as to require the measured compression hosiery were limited in their options in the past. Now, they can wear a product that is designed for a man’s body proportions without feeling self-conscious about wearing ‘women’s’ clothing. Many men who wear support-style hosiery claim that is has prevented early symptoms of varicose veins from advancing to the point of more invasive treatments. Controlled studies have not been carried out to confirm anecdotal claims however.

Athletics is another major reason for the emergence of men’s legwear. The leg compression provides runners, cyclists and many others with more stamina. They are also beneficial on cold mornings when chilly air can lead to muscle cramps. With heavier running/cycling tights, when the athlete has warmed up and the sun comes up, it can be entirely too hot. Sheer compression hosiery is light-weight and breathable, and therefore minimizes overheating.

Outdoorsmen of all stripes have found a place in their wardrobe for sheer or opaque tights. Hunters, skiers, motorcyclists and all others who spend long periods of time out in the cold find that the little bit of added warmth makes a difference, without feeling too bulky like traditional long johns. Also, hikers and horsemen experience less chafing on their inner legs when they wear tights or pantyhose.

As with so many of our styles that originate in the sporting world and migrate into the general fashion consciousness, hosiery is no exception. While still somewhat rare, there are more and more men every day who decide they want to wear hosiery just because they like the way it looks or feels and why not wear them just because? It is truly a unisex garment, as each gender has the same number of legs. As with pants or shirts, they need to be tailored differently to fit the variations in body shape between men and women. Otherwise, there is nothing intrinsically male or female about nylon legwear. Society’s conditioned response that tights and hosiery equals feminine is only a hundred or so years old. As more ‘early adopters’ find the confidence in their masculinity to resist convention and wear what works for them, look for this trends to “get L’eggs” (pun intended) and really take off in the coming years.


Wednesday, March 25, 2009

What IS, 'The Nylon Gene'?

The origin of the name of our blog... Some time back, the founder of ActivSkin, Steve Katz, wrote at length on "The Nylon Gene" for the benefit of Geraden's Legwear Blog . As this is the phrase from which this blog takes it's name, I thought those readers who have not had the opportunity might enjoy reading it.

Do people have a predisposition to legwear? And what are
the ramifications?

There’s probably no way to prove or disprove the first question, but like personal tastes in food, music, or literature, people are different. There’s an old joke that there are two kinds of people in the world: those who divide the world into two kinds of people and those who don’t.

For the benefit of the first group, we joke that there are two kinds of people in the world: those with the “nylon gene” and those without. Now as far as science has told us, the gene doesn’t really exist of course, and in fact we don’t even know if the love of wearing legwear is hereditary, but it’s a good way to characterize people who like wearing legwear, and have a little fun with it along the way. It’s a way of explaining the enjoyment we feel when we wear tights ourselves or see others wearing them.

Those of us who have the 'nylon gene', which is probably most of the people visiting [Geraden's] web site, enjoy the tactile sensation of soft fabrics like silk, nylon, and satin. Those who don’t have 'the gene' are perfectly comfortable with cotton, linen, polyester, and wool. For women, it’s no worries. They can wear either kinds of fabric with no concern from anyone. For men it can be problematic. Men are supposed to be tough and macho in western society, so they are programmed in their early life not to have a softer side; and they definitely aren’t supposed to like softer, silky fabrics.

And yet, many do. Perhaps in secret, perhaps openly, but they do. Men have, in fact, established a limited beachhead on this side of the 'fabric boundary'. Some guys have taken to silk boxers and bathrobes, and nylon athletic apparel, underwear, and dress socks, for example. These products have been marketed to men for a long enough time to become acceptable.

The problem for many with the 'nylon gene' is that they want to move into territory traditionally reserved for women--at least in recent history. Namely tights (both sheer and opaque). Keep in mind however, that tights for men are nothing new. They were popular in Spain in the 1500s and the fashion was imported to England. Men wore cotton or silk hosiery to show off their legs and to keep warm. Women never showed off their legs until the 20th Century.

So upon closer examination, we see that tights were strictly a male fashion for three centuries, until Victorian fashion changes put men into trousers and somber colors for the next two centuries. When women did start showing their legs, hosiery fulfilled the same function it once had for men--it was made to be seen. Cotton, silk, and later nylon were fabrics of choice. Stockings were held up by garters until the invention of full-length sheer nylon tights in America in the late 1950s.

Since men's legs were almost never seen at the time--keep in mind that men of that era hardly ever wore short pants--they were considered a women-only garment until the end of the 20th Century. Socially they were off-limits to men completely. Only cross-dressers and fetishists violated these social constricts, and this was kept hidden from public view. It's no wonder that tights for men had taken on such a negative connotation by this time.

However, a curious thing has happened in the past 10 years or so. Men who have this 'nylon gene' and secretly wore tights for 'legitimate' reasons have started to come out in the open with it. Assisted by companies such as ours who began actively marketing tights for men, and the many advocacy websites, online support groups--and blogs such as this one, men have discovered they are far from alone.

There were literally thousands of others who had once been wearing women’s hosiery secretly and enjoying it all along. They were wearing for all sorts of reasons. Many discovered the valuable benefits of nylon hosiery that we now tout on our ActivSkin website. Benefits like warmth without the bulk of thermal underwear; compression to energize muscles; improved blood flow; fatigue prevention; help with prevention of DVT; protection from insects or chafing from wool pants; and many other reasons not at all associated with cross-dressing or fetish wearing.

How is this received by wives and girlfriends?compliments of: e-MANcipate.net

As time goes by many men have tried wearing tights and just decided they are comfortable. Not every male who wears tights has come out in the open about it. Many who would otherwise do so have experienced resistance from their wives or girlfriends, who are reluctant to support, or actively discourage it.

There are probably as many reasons for this as there are relationships. One of the most common reasons may be early programming. Because of the era they have grown up in, many women are 'programmed' to think of nylon legwear strictly in terms of women's wear. The idea of their man wearing this item of clothing can't help but bring up suspicions of cross-dressing in her mind. Her guy may even have made the mistake of wearing them in a romantic setting--thereby cementing in her mind that his purpose for wearing them must ulteriorly have some sexual overtone to it.

He knows that he wears them for comfort, warmth, compression, or other 'legitimate' reasons, but she still views them through the eyes of her early programming. So it's no wonder that she may actually be OK with her man wearing hosiery in private, but is horrified at the thought of him wearing them in public. Her friends and relatives might see and secretly think how 'perverted' (or at least odd) her man is.

Most women in this situation may not have been exposed to much of the media attention that has only recently begun to reach a larger percentage of the population. They most likely have not visited any of the advocacy websites or our ActivSkin site either. Nor have her friends and relatives in all liklihood. There is a good probability that she has no idea that there are thousands and thousands of other men in the world who wear for what we might call 'mainstream' reasons. Her horizons may be very limited and her reaction is thus quite understandable.

To make matters worse, if she is among the "I hate pantyhose" crowd herself then she just won't 'get it' that her guy's reason for wearing them could actually be that he LIKES it. She tends to consider them to be hot, constraining, or just plain uncomfortable. Since this is probably a result of purchasing cheap, improperly sized hosiery herself, she won't have any realization that quality legwear that fits can be quite comfortable.

What can be done in this situation?

A guy may have started off on the wrong foot and now he doesn't have a leg to stand on (no puns intended, of course). Reversing the programming and undoing years of reinforcement may be very difficult. There are no secret formulae that are guaranteed to work successfully. Communications and compromise offer the best hope, but no guarantees. Women need to be reminded that for them, wearing hosiery is primarily for appearance and fashion, whereas for most men, it’s primarily for comfort and/or the benefits enumerated above. It’s difficult for many women to accept and really understand this difference. If a man likes to see his woman in hosiery, finds her appearance pleasing, and compliments her, the association between legwear and appearance is reinforced. If she herself doesn’t find wearing hosiery to be comfortable, how can she possibly understand or appreciate her man’s claim of why he wants to wear it?

Sometimes it takes some observational evidence to begin the change of heart and mind necessary for wives and girlfriends to consider their guy's legwear in a new light. It's ironic that many women don't think negatively of the idea of men in general wearing legwear. It's when it comes to their guy wearing it that the problems arise. The reaction seems to be centered around fear of what others will think of their guy--and by extension, them.

Most likely when a guy is wearing hosiery that can be seen (i.e., with shorts), one of two reactions can be expected from people he meets out in public. Either they don't even notice in the first place. Or, they notice briefly before proceeded with what they were doing. In that case, thoughts usually don't translate into words and people generally assume there must be some legitimate reason this person is wearing hosiery. Although media attention has not become pervasive on this matter, there has been enough that people's first reaction to a stranger wearing hosiery no longer runs first to cross-dressing or fetishim. We hope that our efforts at ActivSkin and The Nylon Gene--along with the many others out there with the same goals--will soon change this for the better.


Shorts & Tights - Yes!

I posted a comment on a blog I ran across called, "Tights, Stockings & Hosiery". The comment was in response to a post entitled, "Shorts and Tights - Really?" (Mar. 19, 2009). The post was concerning whether it's OK for women to wear sheer hose or tights with shorts. Of course, for women the alternative to shorts is a skirt or dress. Obviously, that's not in the cards for the guys who are wearing hose or tights. So basically, the choice is: "long pants or short?"

Wearing legwear with shorts is inseparably tied to how confident the guy is in himself. At this point in the evolution of this new trend, the majority of guys are only opting for long pants, and therefore the question of what kind of clothes to wear with shorts and hosiery applies only to a small percentage of men at this point in time. However, this is quickly changing as more and more guys are getting over any lingering hangups about wearing them openly. These guys are not about to rely on others to validate their masculinity, and are boldly going about their business with not a care over whether others might think 'men don't wear hose'.

Anyways, here's what I posted as a comment on the Tights, Stockings & Hosiery blog:

I know you're writing primarily about women wearing hose or tights with shorts. But, what about men? For any of us with an interest in legwear, it would be hard to have missed some of the spate of
publicity from the past year or so, of men trying out hose and tights. Men have been re-acquiring what you ladies have so elegantly co-opted in our absence over the past hundred years or so. Of course, we don't begrudge you that, either.

But now we're ready to re-establish legwear as a unisex fashion. Men have been wearing them under long pants for some time now, for various reasons including leg support and added warmth. But it's tended to be kept pretty well under wraps until most recently, when we've begun to see the occasional guy wearing hosiery with shorts. Men are realizing that this can be done while still maintaining a masculine look to them. And also, prior unwarranted negative connotations of why men would wear them have been fading away rapidly.

Do you think that slightly different rules apply as to what would be considered suitable clothing to go with sheer hose or opaque tights on a man? For instance, pairing sheer hose with sneakers and low-rise socks would not be considered the best look for a woman. Yet I've seen a number of guys wearing this sort of outfit (as I have myself), and had it look pretty good (IMHO). It would be interesting to see what sort of consensus might develop on what kinds of clothes are seen as 'good' or 'bad' form to wear with sheer hose or tights--for men, and for women. Maybe I'll take that issue up on my blog, "The Nylon Gene"...

So readers (and I know you are few right now, with this blog being brand new) why don't you weigh in and share your thoughts on what kind of outfit looks best for a guy wearing either sheer or opaque tights?


Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Central Ohio Engineer Makes Unique Job Transition

It’s not every day that someone makes a transition from civil engineering to marketing men’s pantyhose as a career path. When Steve Newman, a longtime resident of Hilliard, Ohio received word that he was among a group of engineers and technicians being laid off at the firm where he worked, he was understandably upset by the news. The word from friends and colleagues was that the market for civil engineers in Central Ohio was pretty grim for the time being. Despite that assessment, he did not let any grass grow under his feet.

Having been a longtime customer and advocate of ActivSkin Legwear for Men—headquartered in Granville—and well acquainted with Mr. Steve Katz, the owner of the firm, Mr. Newman called him the following day to see if there was a need he could fill. ActivSkin, the world’s first company to sell legwear designed specifically for men, just completed their best year in sales ever—no mean feat in today’s economic climate. Mr. Katz needed someone to take charge of marketing this emerging trend, to free him to manage product development and overall operations. The needs of the two intersected, and Mr. Newman was hired immediately as director of marketing and publicity.

The market for men’s legwear has grown by leaps and bounds since the company first opened for business in 2000, yet has not quite broken into the mainstream consciousness. In his role with ActivSkin, Mr. Newman’s mission will be to capitalize on the surge in publicity over the past year or so and move men’s legwear from the edges of public awareness into the realm of full acceptance. The company believes the trend to be near the tipping point, where large gains in product sales can be realized. ActivSkin is currently the only firm in the U.S. selling men’s legwear—among at least seven overseas companies so engaged—and thus is poised to gain the lion’s share of this emerging market.

ActivSkin’s target audience includes men who experience problems with leg circulation (the initial reason for Mr. Newman’s acquaintance with the company), athletes, outdoorsmen, and others who have come to realize that form-fitting legwear is not inherently a masculine or feminine garment. That also depends on the context in which it is worn. Among the obstacles hindering ActivSkin’s growth in the early years were lingering stereotypes that associated tights and sheer hosiery with women’s wear, despite the fact of originally belonging to the male domain prior to the past hundred years or so. After that, they were adopted by women and abandoned by men during the 20th Century. That is now changing, as evidenced by a steady and growing stream of media publicity since the year 2000 and beyond.

The public perception of men wearing legwear is rapidly shedding misplaced associations with cross-dressing and other negative images. More than a few men have boldly begun to allow their legwear to be seen, by wearing them with shorts on occasion. Given his responsibility for publicizing ActivSkin Legwear, Mr. Newman can be counted on to lead by example. “How can I expect other guys to give this a try if I’m not willing to show that it can be done while still maintaining a masculine look. Of course, you have to be confidant in who you are to be one of the ‘early adopters’, but that’s one of the reasons I took this job.”

For more information on ActivSkin, check out the website at www.activskin.com

NOTE: This was written for potential publication in local media. Thus far it has not been published.


Monday, March 23, 2009

Welcome to The Nylon Gene

Hello and welcome. I'm Steve Newman and this is The Nylon Gene. Nylon Gene is a blog intended to be the clearinghouse for information pertaining to the emerging trend of men's legwear. I am the Marketing Director for ActivSkin Legwear for Men, and as such I am playing the role of hosiery evangelist in that it is my mission to present information that's useful for media contacts (reporters, writers, TV/radio producers, etc.) when working on articles or shows relating to men's legwear. There has been a lot of misinformation out there, often because there have been too few knowledgeable sources who are willing to stand up and be counted among those who wear sheer hosiery or tights.

The Nylon Gene is also for those who have recently learned of the existence of a market for men's legwear and want to know more about it. There are some good sources of information out there, and some that are not so good. Our goal is to become the most reliable and objective source of news and information for those who are newly acquainted with this trend as well as those who are longtime customers of ours or other providers.

We don't hide the fact that this blog is supported by ActivSkin, as we believe that 'a rising tide raises all boats' and that advancing the overall trends in men's legwear will also contribute to the continued success of ActivSkin. We hope that this blog will also provide our customers a forum in which to share their opinions of our products and offer suggestions for improvements. Personally, I look forward to reading your comments and getting acquainted with all of you who share an interest in the future of legwear.


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