[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.