Tuesday, May 12, 2009

What Should We Call Men's Legwear?

ActivSkin Sheer Tights[NOTE: Results of the June 16th Poll on this question can be found by clicking this link] I've been mulling over what would be a good generic name for men's legwear for some time, but there's no answer that's blatantly obvious. So I'd like to put the question out there for the readership of The Nylon Gene, for your consideration.

As the popularity of the burgeoning trend continues to spread, slowly but surely it will start to come up against the obstacle presented by its name, "pantyhose".

Of course, that's the name that's been used to describe sheer, stretchy, nylon/lycra blend garments worn on the lower body for about 50 years now. But for some reason 'pantyhose' just doesn't really fit the bill for many guys. Why? One reason is because the word is strongly associated (at least in the U.S., if not in the U.K.) with a garment that's been almost exclusively associated with women's wear for all but the last 10 of those 50 years. That word connotation is not easily undone in some men's minds. It seems unavoidable to always add the qualifier 'mens' in front of it.

But that can't be the only reason that 'pantyhose' doesn't seem like the right word. If it were, then we would've encountered the same issue when women began wearing pants in large numbers in the 1940s. Why wasn't there an unspoken need to find another word to describe pants when it was women who were now wearing them?

Maybe the reason 'pantyhose' presents an obstacle to wider acceptance as a word to describe what men have begun wearing for their own is because it has the word 'panty' at front of it. Men don't wear panties, do they? At least not that they would let on to anyone else. Men wear briefs, or boxers, or shorts (as in undershorts), or tighty-whiteys... and OK, I guess they also wear thongs and bikini underwear, but we'll leave that be for now.

Lately, with the media coverage that has picked up on the legwear trend in the past few years, the tag 'mantyhose' has frequently been used to describe what we're wearing on our legs these days. Although I don't personally care for this name too much, I too have used it from time to time. The reason I don't care for the name 'mantyhose' is because it just sounds sort of silly. Can you be taken that seriously if you tell someone about the 'mantyhose' you're wearing that day? Besides, it's just another in the long succession of trends that men have adopted of late from women, that the media so creatively coins a name for by cleverly adding or substituting an 'm' in front of the former name. We've all had to endure reading about 'murses', 'mirdles', 'meggings', man-bras (still can't figure that one out--the product, not the name), and so forth. 'Mantyhose' is just another manifestation of these silly malappropriations.

Then, there's 'legwear'--which is the name ActivSkin uses to refer to it's product. Of course, the name 'activskin' itself could make its way into the lexicon, the same way 'kleenex' and 'xerox' went from being brand names to being the generic word used to describe what these market leaders so firmly established in the cultural context. Setting the brand name aside for the moment, 'legwear' is probably a leading candidate for the generic word to use to describe the nylons we're wearing. It's broad enough in meaning to cover everything from sheer hosiery to opaque tights. On the other hand, the meaning associated with 'legwear' may be too broadly defined for our purposes. In addition to tights and pantyhose, 'legwear' can also refer to socks, and maybe even leggings in some circles. So, there are drawbacks to using the term 'legwear', too.

'Tights' is another term that's used quite a bit. This is what the British call what we in the U.S. refer to as pantyhose. This can give rise to confusion when Americans and Brits have a conversation about nylon legwear. If one of them uses the name 'pantyhose', everyone knows what he/she is referring to. If the American says 'tights', he or she may be referring to the opaque legwear that we on the west side of the Atlantic call by that name. Or, they may be referring to pantyhose, but using the British terminology for the benefit of their conversation partner. How do the British distinguish between opaque tights and sheer pantyhose? They generally just add the term 'sheer' in front of 'tights', as in 'sheer tights'. And, maybe that's what we ought to adopt over here also.

If we called all men's legwear 'tights' and used 'sheer tights' to describe what might now be called 'mens pantyhose', it would be sufficiently clear to the listener, and would also lend itself to more masculine sensibilities. I will say, I do like this alternative. 'Mens tights' or 'mens sheer tights' sounds somewhat less jarring to the unitiated ear than 'mens pantyhose', or 'mantyhose'.

What other options are there? What about say, 'brief-hose'? It eliminates the uncomfortable-sounding 'panty' from the front of the word and substitutes the more male-friendly 'brief'. This, of course, conjures up more palatable images of the kinds of underwear guys are accustomed to wearing. In fact, the waist/hip portion of most full-length hosiery is shaped more like a man's brief than a woman's panty--except for those French-cut lacy ones that a few of the women's brands use. All the ActivSkin products that have a reinforced top use one shaped like a brief. Is 'briefhose' to far out of the ordinary to be accepted? Does it sound contrived?

I don't know if 'boxerhose' would ever make it, and I'm quite sure that 'tighty-whiteyhose' would be DOA. What else is left? Shorthose?... Nah, sounds like we ordered the wrong size or something. 'Men's nylons'? Men's stockings'? Once again, it would be nice if we didn't need to qualify the word by putting 'men' on the front end. Also, although some people use the word 'stockings' to describe waist-length legwear, my mind can't help but associate this word with the 3/4 length, or thigh-high, legwear that is often used with garters to hold them up. It doesn't fit with what we call pantyhose and tights.

Here's where I ask for reader feedback. Post a comment, or write an e-mail, and tell me what your suggestion is for what we should call men's legwear. If I get a good range of suggestions and commentary, maybe I'll post an online survey on The Nylon Gene where we can ask everyone to vote for their preferred terminology for men's legwear. Since it's my firm belief that we're on the verge of a tipping point in the growth of this market, we should come up with a good generic word to describe it before something else becomes too difficult to firmly engrained in our cultural mindset.


  1. Gene,

    Although it is a brand name, I like the term "ActivSkins for Men". Another one I thought might be good for consideration was "Bodywear for Men" or even something crazy like "Uniwear for Men". I think it would be nice to have a single word as description so anyhow I only came up with one "X-Wear". In the mean time I will try to come up with something unique for the cause!!!

  2. I would vote for the "tights and sheer tights" option.

  3. Thanks, keep the suggestions coming. Hopefully, I'll get a large enough range of comments and suggestions that I can put up a survey, listing all the possibilities and have people vote on their favorites. I'm also hoping to get a good deal of input from those that are not already regular wearers (or not at all). What name, or names, have the least 'negative' connotations in your mind? Are there any that have particularly 'positive' connotations? Let's hear 'em!

  4. I like the word tights. Use the adjective 'light' for pantyhose as in light tights. These terms get rid of the word 'panty' which has a stigma of being female and by association 'pantyhose' another term definitely female.

    Its semantics but then so is the difference between tights, athletic tights and long johns...

  5. I definitely like the British way of using the gender neutral word "tights" and then qualifying it according to sheerness. Since the difference between "pantyhose" and "tights" is simply a matter of yarn thickness, I don't see why we should have two different words. Heavy wollen socks, thin cotton socks or nylon socks are all... socks! At what denier tickness do tights stop being tights and start being pantyhose??
    Also, the generic word "tights" does not have the feminine, and somewhat negative, connotation that pantyhose already have. And Steve, I agree with you that inventing new words like mantyhose is completely ridiculous. We already have an excellent word, tights, that we can qualify as sheer, semi-opaque, opaque, heavy, etc.

  6. I tend to use the word "Hose", having just dropped the main offending word, because to me hoisery is any foot wear. While the word panty does conjure a female image, the word hose, and even hoisery has been so closely paired with panty, and other feminie images so its use will always be called into question. Just as an example, their is a hoisery store in my neighborhood, and it does not sell a single pair of men's sock of any kind.

    I have to agree with the above posters, in that "Tights" should be the prefered term. I think between dance, comic book costumes, tv/movies, the word tights has been & can more easily be associated with any gender. The only adjective needed would be the style (opacity, material, etc...)

    "Stocking" makes for a good runner up, but as you mentioned it has the conotation of size. The only reason I bring it up, is that people who have seen me in sheer black hose have called them stockings and not pantyhose. So it is a possiblity that its a word already mulling in their heads as a proper non-offensive description.

    Legwear in my opinion is like hose in that it refers to all types, and for me that includes pants, and shorts as well. My pants go over my legs, so are they not legwear? I would think that then leads to confusion as to what we are promoting in the first place.

  7. I believe the term "pantyhose" definitely takes on a feminine tone because of the incorporation of the word "panty" which is definitely a feminine word. Guys don't wear panties as underwear, so the term pantyhose appears inherently feminine. I think the term "hose" could carry through to the male term for the garment because it is neither masculine nor feminine.

    I also believe selecting a generic phrase such as "(insert legwear term here) for men" is also not the most appropriate way to go because by adding the term "for men", again you are stating the fact that the garment is not normally what a man would wear (e.g. Nair for men).

    I feel the best way to remove the gender-specific component of legwear, we need a completely new term that has not been used before, and I don't mean "mantyhose" which the mainstream media has appeared to adopt.

    If you put some thought to it, the garment is a combination of underwear and legwear. Although some of us may choose to wear underwear with them, the products are designed to be used as underwear without additional layers. What terms are used to refer to men's underwear? The most common term for close-fitting men's underwear is "briefs". Although men also commonly wear boxers, I don't think that is appropriate.

    So, based on the above statements, it's my opinion that Men's legwear should be called "briefhose" because it incorporates both a commonly-used term for male underwear as well as the specific term for the garment: hose. I would love to hear you opinions regarding my thoughts, especially yours Steve.

    Thanks for the opportunity to voice my opinion.

  8. I can't see any problems with tights or pantyhose. That is what they are. In Danish they are called strømpebukser( strømpe=stocking/bukser=pants) I think you Americans make to much fuss out of it.


  9. Matt, as I said in my post, I do like the term 'briefhose'. It does incorporate the typical style of underwear men wear with 'hose' to form a new word. And, I do see definite benefits to use of a brand new word to describe them, as opposed to needing to qualify it with 'for men'--although, on the other hand, I don't see that as a dealbreaker either.

  10. Johs, I understand your point, but do beg to differ somewhat. While we don't need to get ourselves too bent out of shape over names, we must still remember that language is a tool that we use to express our thoughts. Words, in turn, not only reflect our thoughts, but also shape our thoughts. If we use words that conjure up feminine images to describe what we wear, it will affect how we perceive that garment. It may be that the Danish words used to describe sheer legwear haven't developed the same feminine connotation as thoroughly as the word 'pantyhose' has in English.

    I'm not saying in this post that we should stringently avoid all use of the word 'pantyhose'. It appears all over the ActivSkin website, as well as this blog. I'm just searching for some ideas on an alternative name we might use that doesn't sound too contrived.

    I seem to recall somewhere that someone may have tried to promote the name 'powerskins' as a generic word to replace pantyhose. That's an example of one that I don't think would ever catch on because it sounds just a bit too contrived.

  11. Guys, seriously... call it what we all know it to be... "uberwear"

    DaKoomz =)

  12. If so then call them tights/sheer tights - though they will still be pantyhose no matter where and when.


  13. legskins, waistsocks, nylongs, loinhose, sport-hose, maleskins, leg gear, spandose, legmail, tauts, firmwear, loinlongs, speeders, stretch skins, stretchies, technicals, nylohides, leglites, peel skins, peels, stem seals, peltyhose, buckskins, ganders, ganderwear, ganderskins..

  14. yes I support Johs in this, you english people can name it whatever you like but......have any of you guys thought about how to translate it afterwards??? For example, I know the translation of "pantyhose" or "tights" but make it "briefhose" or something and it would be something we couldn't translate. So, either just "tights" or a brand name, ActivSkin would be good. That's IMHO.

  15. If I were you as a company Comfilon I would stick to Activskins and drop any other word from your advertisements or web site.
    I personally prefer tights or hose and these are the words I normally use in everyday conversation. These words are also somewhat gender neutral. Mantyhose sounds silly and pantyhose infers a bit of femininity and is definitely a gender specific word. Stockings generally refers to a garment that covers the foot and part of the leg. Boxerhose and simular words just sound made up.

  16. DaKoomz, isn't 'uber' the word for 'over' in German? My German's pretty limited, so correct me if I'm wrong...

  17. Jesse, we're definitely not looking for a word to replace ActivSkin, and it that becomes the generic word for men's legwear, that would be great for us. We would welcome it.

    But, that will either happen naturally over time by itself, or it won't happen. We probably won't have much luck in trying to 'force' it to happen. All I'm doing on this thread is entertaining some group musing on what might be a good word to use in place of 'pantyhose' or 'mantyhose' to describe what we're wearing when speaking to others.

    Thank you for your input, too!

  18. Main Entry: über-
    Variant(s): also uber- \ˈü-bər, ˈue-bər\
    Function: prefix
    Etymology: German, from über over, beyond, from Old High German ubar — more at over
    1 : being a superlative example of its kind or class : super- (übernerd)
    2 : to an extreme or excessive degree : super- (übercool)


    ** i meant it in this fashion.. =) i guess more in the current internet lexicon rather than the traditional definition.


  19. [to DaKoomz]: Ahhhh... so we're calling it 'super'wear! Hmmm... I like what it says about our product. ;-)

  20. My thoughts are that "tights" seem to cover it all, very generic, to include pantyhose, running tights, and all legwear without a gender specific indication. That is what I normally refer to all legwear that I wear regardless. I think that is a word that has been around for a long time and would not require and introduction in any language and would not result in a tag of being a "fad". Just a thought.

  21. Sheer tights or hose is fine w/ me - Im masculine and Im fine w/ pantyhose but as you say it does have a feminine connotation. I love your site and you in your dark sheer tights rather than sheer tights that match your skin tone. Id sure introduce myself to you if I saw you out in your sheer tights w/out a doubt! :-) Jack

  22. Well, alright then! Make sure you do (introduce yourself) if you happen to see me out and about.

  23. tights, tights, tights....

    ActivSkin, ActivSkin, ActivSkin....

    but what about...ActivTights?

    LOL, don't kill the messenger...or maybe just this time, I got carried away :P

  24. Actually, people can call it whatever they want. All we, guys, want is to just wear our support pantyhose (or mantyhose or hosiery or whatever) openly. These are just names.

    Perhaps, just call it hosiery. Support hosiery if it has support features.

  25. Steve,
    I also very much enjoy your blog.

    I am leaning towards "tights for the term for mens legwear, It seems to encumpus every thing. Sheer hose could be labeled as "sheer tights" and the opaques could be labeled acordingly.

    Thanks for letting me add my 3 cents worth.

    David Neeper

  26. Yeah 'briefhose' sounds masculine enough. If nylon hose are worn by a masculine man I think its fine to call them most anything. I think both men and women will be intrigued by the notion of men wearing what has been a fem clothing item for so long--but time changes lots of things, including the closed minds of others, at least theoretically. Nothing ventured, nothing gained. I appreciate the function of the hose and I also happen to love the look of them alot, since I think I got a double helping of the 'nylon gene' ! ;-) Jack

  27. war: I would definitely not kill the messenger. Actually, I quite pleased with the strong response I've received on this thread. Thanks to everyone who has contributed so far.

  28. Nylongs! Yeah thats interesting and easy and descriptive. Nice. :-) Jack

  29. It is no good trying to change the name it will only confuse the issue...

    Tights is a unisex word that everyone understands with no problems at all....

    If i ask for sheer tights...I get sheer Tights...

  30. I think this is just something that is going to take time. Women spent a lot of time breaking the gender barrier, so for them to set one up for us is absurd. I believe that over time, as more and more men come to wear them, its just something they are going to have to suck up and accept, regardless of what we call it. Whether its tights, or Briefhose, its something that we, as men, are comfortable in. There is a fine line between fashion and function, and "manhose" is on both sides of it.

    Personally, Briefhose sounds perfectly fine to me. Its more of a marketing issue with how its relayed in the media that gives it such a feminine rep. All it takes it one major chain to pick up "Briefhose", and it would be intergrated rather well into our society. Think about it.. if Macy's started selling them in the mens section, a lot of different types of people would probably get hooked on them. I cant wait for that day.

  31. Memoirs, I tend to agree with what you've said. We can try to track which terms are the most favored--and I'm going to continue to do so--but in the long run it will tend to play itself out in a way determined in large part by the community who's using them and talking about them.

    I wouldn't wait for a Macy's (or Walmart) to pick them up and cause it to happen though. For a variety of reasons, which I've mentioned elsewhere on the blog, there are some structural obstacles totally unrelated to 'societal acceptance' that make retail selling quite a ways down the road.

    I've also heard/read discussion about how great it would be for a 'celebrity' to take up wearing men's legwear, and what a great shot in the arm that would be. But, while that could happen, waiting for it is a low probability approach. What needs to happen instead is one or more people deciding to become vocal 'champions' of men's legwear and getting out and talking about it in a very public way, to make the case for why it's such a good idea.

    I've taken the personal attitude of, "If not now, when? If not me, then who?" That's reflected by Steve Katz, ActivSkin's founder as well. We'll do the heavy lifting when it comes to taking the case to the public arena. Hopefully, of the thousands of customers we have, a sizeable corps will arise and follow us as we continue to make wearing legwear a mainstream concept.

    [Sorry for the long-winded resonse]

  32. I think I also vote for tights, if only because this is the accepted term for existing unisex garments, to be specific running or cycling tights. However, I do have to admit that when a British discount store offered cycling gear for sale, they called the tights 'trousers', as there seemed to be a fear of calling them what they really are. They were being sold explicitly as unisex, so I wonder if they still thought men wouldn't buy them if they were called tights. This was a couple of years ago now.

  33. I've languished for years over the same issue. My wife is a Brit and I think they have it right...Pantyhose are called light tights; tights are simply called tights.
    If you get too fancy, men searching for the product will not be able to find them on the net...keep it simple, but as manly as possible.
    Toesinhose1 (LAUF member)

  34. Hlacne nogavice is a Slovene word for PH. It literary means brief-hose.
    But tights, men's tights or sheer tights is absolutely appropriate I think.

  35. I'm a straight 42 y. old man from Slovenia, Europe and I wear sheer tights for years 'cos they are comfy, feel good and are just as masculine as anything.
    I can't believe this article! What is the problem with you???
    Metrosexual? Ok, if it means a noble urban gentlemen, sure then I'll be a metrosexual. And I carry a shoulder bag, menpurse as you say, why the hell not?
    Right now I wear sheer 15 den lycra sheer nylon tights and they are perfect for todays long working hours. Perfect!
    Best regards!

  36. love4nylon: was your 2nd comment intended to reply to another post? I can't discern from your writing whether you're taking issue with something in the post, or if you're agreeing. Clarify maybe?

  37. It is just another piece of clothing meant for both sexes .


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