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:

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.


  1. Since Steve Katz's post was written nearly 4 years ago, some things have changed, and I did some slight editing to bring it up to date. As for the last section on reactions of wives/girlfriends, I can shed some light from my own personal experience.

    My lovely wife fell among those in the "I hate pantyhose" crowd, and therefore did not understand why there would be a market for men's nylon legwear. Truth be told, she was probably suspicious of my true motives. She hated the idea of me wearing them in a way that others would know what I was wearing, although I did so on a pretty regular basis. This caused her no small amount of anxiety--and for that I've apologized for not being more sensitive to her feelings in the past.

    However, since I have taken the position of marketing director for ActivSkin, it would be only natural that I would wear legwear in a much more visible way. That includes such outfits as you can see in my photo at the top of the page, and similar. And, I've got only the highest admiration for the way my wife has handled herself during what was no doubt fairly stressful at first.

    What may be enlightening to many wives of men who wear legwear is what happened as all of her friends (and mine) who had not already known that I wore nylon legwear: Nothing! Without exception, our good friends are still our good friends. People have wished me well in my endeavors to promote men's legwear, and I've had no strange looks from anyone as I've gone about my business dressed this way.

    It just goes to show that people are much more accepting than we give them credit for.

  2. I wish I had seen "The Nylon Gene" post a year ago. I feel that there is a desire to wear hoisery, and describing it as a gene is an excelent anology.
    The relationship between men and their significant others is proably the most important part of the post for me, because with a support system that includes someone close to you is very important in helping you break the barries that have been programmed into you by society, and finally allowing you to be your true self.
    I beleive as time goes on the nylon gene will be a great way of building the grassroots movement, but eventually it will need to be tweaked, for example we shouldn't try to defend our desire to wear now with the fact that centuries ago men wore tights. Aslo touting double standards and that women wear pants is also a good defense. We really shouldn't defend the cause, but more explain it. Both men and women have the Nylon Gene and the desire to wear hose because of its look, fashion, and feel will eventually need to be the forefront reason for wearing hose. Getting to that point may be a long road, but I am glad to be on it, and to see others like the Steve's paving the way for us to follow.

  3. Yes, the 'nylon gene' analogy works because, although there are certainly legitimate reasons for wearing nylon legwear (as we'll explore elsewhere in this blog), if a guy just absolutely hates them after he tries them on, he's not going to continue wearing them despite the various benefits that may have led him to try them in the first place.

    On the other hand, when a guy who is predisposed to enjoy the fit and feel of them (regardless of whether he's aware of this to begin with), he will find the benefits that he's seeking to be well worth it and will continue to wear them. In years past, the social 'stigma' that may have been associated with tights or hose may have been sufficient to discourage him from continuing to wear them. Or at least would have kept him in long pants and socks to cover them.

    That's all changing these days, as society is prepared to accept this new trend without automatically assigning undesirable motives to the guy wearing them.

  4. One additional (unrelated item): Since this blog is oriented almost entirely towards publicizing the men's legwear trend, by continuing the past efforts to overcome the old, misplaced stereotypes associated with guys who wear tights or hose--which are centered around what reasons would cause otherwise normal, heterosexual males to wear a garment that had previously been worn mostly by women of late--I have adopted the convention of referring to 'wives and/or girlfriends' in this context.

    I certainly hope I won't open myself up for any virulent criticisms by avoiding the more politically corrent, and non-gender specific 'significant other' term. But, this usage is not intended to be a direct affront to non-heterosexual readers. In fact, I don't intend to take up that issue for discussion at this point. I am just recognizing that using the 'significant other' terminology where it's not needed only tends to reinforce one of those misplaced stereotypes that we are working to overcome. That's all there is to it... (no harm, no foul, I hope)

  5. I am amazed by the total lack of basic over the calf nylon and sheer executive type socks---you cant find them anywhere hardly. The new replacement seems to be microfiber and I have never seen any over the calf microfiber socks. Ive worn over the calf nylon or sheer socks since I was a teen--I rode horses for years and they were just best for tight custom made riding boots. I still love the feel and look of very thin/almost sheer nylon socks and I love the pantyhose Ive seen here on Steve! They just look great in my opinion. Jack

  6. It sounds like we've filled a niche with our sheer socks. You're right in that you hardly ever see them in retail settings, and they're usually sold out I might add. We tend to think a lot in terms of the void we fill for guys with our full-length and 3/4-length (thigh-top) products--you do well to remind us that there are also few options out there for men who are looking for sheer or patterned/sheer knee socks. Thanks for the kudos.

  7. I am new to this site. It is really great. I agree with a lot of what has been shared, but if nylons are to become a normal clothing item for men, then men have to wear them without feeling awaked. I understand when you first go out in public you will feel a little shy and you may feel you’re being judged or that people are staring. However, nothing could be further from the truth. It is not that way at all. I wear nylons everyday, and most of the time I get compliments.

    I really believe if a man is going to war nylons, he needs to shave his legs regularly. I shave my legs everyday. It not only looks and feels better, but if you want to look natural, then shaving your legs is a must. I can’t imagine wearing nylons without my legs shaved. If your legs aren’t shaved people will notice the hair under your nylons more than if they are shaved.

    I rarely leaver the house without having nylons on. I have found that the best way to wear nylons is to wear them like you would wear any other article of clothing. You don't need to draw attention to yourself by dressing a certain way. I wear shorts, nylons and a nice flat or one to two inch heel.

    When I go to work I wear them under my pants, but I wear woman’s flats. I do not wear socks. I work in a department store. Some people may notice I have on nylons, but very seldom do I have anyone ask me about them. Most of the women I work with think I look great. I usually wear nudes and suntans and I almost always wear ultra sheer pantyhose. Ultra Sheers are the best for looks, feel and comfort. The negative thing is they tend to run if you are not careful. I also suggest wearing a pair of pantyhose and a flat yarn type RHT stocking. The outer stockings glide on your inner nylons and provide a great massage all day long. They look and feel great. It is very uncommon that I don’t wear stocking over my Pantyhose.

    My suggestion to men is to wear them just like socks. Don’t worry about what people think. The more men wear nylons the more they will become normal for m

  8. Welcome to the site. Sounds like you like what you see. Make sure and tell friends about it so they might be persuaded of the viability of this growing trend. I agree 110% that the best way for it to continue growing in popularity is for guys who wear hose to just go ahead and do it, and overcome that awkwardness you write of.

    I wear them wherever I go, and virtually everyone I know is aware of it. Sometimes (as you can see from some of the pics on here) I wear colors that are completely obvious. My goal is to promote men's legwear by letting people see it on someone they know and respect. That has a much higher effect on people's perceptions than seeing a stranger on the street.

    The thinking is that, "I know ____, and he's a solid guy. So, if he's wearing this legwear, it must be a legitimate thing." Many guys who lack confidence in themselves fear that if they wear legwear, people who know them will think less of them as a result. More often, the converse is true: people will think higher of the men's legwear trend as a result of THEM wearing it.


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