The thought occasionally occurs, or comes up in conversation among us at ACTIVSKIN, "Which colors of legwear give of the most 'masculine' impression on others who see it?" Since part of our mission is to serve as an advocacy for men's legwear, we consider this a fruitful question for discussion. I encourage my readers to join in this discussion with the same gusto as we saw on the issue of what to call men's legwear...
So, what are our options here? First, you have your basic black sheer legwear, as you can see in the first photo. It's completely obvious to anyone within a quarter mile that you're wearing legwear (pantyhose, mantyhose, hosiery, whatever they may call it...). On the 'plus' side, people are likely to perceive that the wearer must be quite confident (a masculine trait) to be wearing something as bold as that. Also, black tends to be associated in many people's mind with masculine when it comes to clothing. I have seen posts from women on several legwear-related discussion boards that if men are going to wear pantyhose, they should try to avoid the appearance that they're 'sneaking around' while doing so.
On the other hand, being this obvious with your legwear choice open the wearer up to the possibility of negative reactions along with the positive. As an aside, I can share that I have gone to a number of large gatherings--or traveled around in general--dressed as in this photo and have yet to receive any overt negative reactions. I can't speak for what's inside people's heads but if it were negative it was not manifested outwardly.
Lumped into the same category with sheer black hosiery are opaque tights. They have the same characteristic of immediate visibility that sheer legwear does, but may have a slightly different perception when first seen by someone who hasn't yet been introduced to the concept of men's legwear.
For some reason, the opaque material seems to have a somewhat more masculine aspect to it than does the sheer. We've seen men wearing opaque tights with shorts in popular culture in recent memory, so it may have more masculine connotation built up as a result. I'm thinking of the 'Seattle grunge rock' movement of the 1990s. Guys were wearing tights under shorts or ripped jeans with some regularity, even though the movement itself was countercultural by definition. There was a film, starring Matt Dillon, in which he played a character who wore black opaque tights with shorts in several scenes. I don't remember the title.
So, even though worn with everyday attire, black tights seem to have a built-in advantage when it comes to masculine perceptions. This is the route many men seem to take when introducing themselves to the idea of wearing legwear more publicly. However, it does have the disadvantage of being hotter to wear than sheer legwear. If, like myself, other men are wearing them for the leg support benefits, they need them just as much in the summertime as the other three seasons. I would predict that as men's legwear becomes more widely accepted in the mainstream, this idiosyncratic linkage between opaque material/more masculine will gradually fade, until there's little difference in perception of sheer versus opaque tights on men.
Next, we have tan or beige, which somewhat closely resembles the skin color of Caucasians such as myself. I suppose we would substitute dark brown or similar colors into this paragraph for our African-American brothers. For our purposes here, I'll lump all of the above under the name, 'skintone'. As you can see at right, it is not obvious at first glance that I am wearing legwear in the photograph. Yes, there is an extra sheen visible, but that may not always be the case, depending on the style you are wearing. Some might prefer to nothing but 'skintone' legwear because they are not yet confident enough that they won't be teased or ridiculed by their friends or acquaintenances.
This is a natural enough concern since, after all, men's legwear as a trend is still fairly new and only now beginning to really spread significantly. The majority of men wearing our products still seem to be doing so exclusively under long pants. They want to see more men wearing them with shorts before they will 'take the plunge' and do so as well. Of course, the obvious shortcoming is that if no one is willing to go first, nothing ever happens. By the way, dear readers, that's one of the reasons for our mission of legwear advocacy at ACTIVSKIN: someone's gotta do it.
In any case, as I mentioned above, I've read comments posted on discussion boards that suggest that at least some women who do manage to observe that a guy is wearing skintone hosiery may equate that with 'sneaking around' wearing pantyhose and perceive it in a negative light. This could imply the opposite of the perception noted above with the black legwear. That is, that the wearer is bold and/or confident, which reads 'masculine'. Important caveat here: this is by no means a statistically valid observation. It's simply something I've picked up here and there along the way.
And, it begs the question: Does that mean that if someone goes somewhere wearing skintone legwear with shorts, they are automatically perceived as unconfident, sneaky, ashamed, etc., etc.? I believe the answer is, "No." When I go places, I'm about as likely to wear tan legwear as to wear black. In fact, now that it's summertime here in the States, I'm not that likely to wear black at all. Why? Because black is hotter than lighter colors because it absorbs the sunlight. And, while I'm not at all shy about people seeing that I'm wearing legwear, I have to admit I'm less likely to be wearing black in summer so as to avoid having people ask themselves, "Man, isn't he hot wearing black like that in the summer? What's the matter with him?" I know, pretty silly to be concerned over something like that--we all have our mental quirks. :-)
As it happens, the skintone styles that I typically wear are not that difficult to discern, especially when out in bright light or sunshine. And, no one would infer from my demeanor that I'm in the least bit reticent about anyone noticing whether I'm wearing skintone legwear. So, at least in my case, that aspect of the masculine perception of this color would not be an issue.
After black and skintone, we have the other, less frequently worn, colors that legwear can be found in. There's off-black sheer legwear, which some would call grey. ACTIVSKIN no longer carries any styles in this color. We formerly offered several styles in off-black, but discontinued them due to limited demand. Therefore, unless we bring them back by popular demand, off-black legwear would be available only from one of the overseas companies selling men's legwear, or in women's hosiery (unless you've managed to hold on to a few pair of our discontinued styles). Because of this, off-black doesn't bear much discussion under this topic. Personally, I always thought it was a good option when black would not go very well with your outfit--but that must be a minority opinion...
Finally, there's dark brown--which, as I said above might be considered 'skintone' for African-Americans. For the sake of discussion here, I'm referring to lighter-skinned men wearing dark brown. This color would fall somewhere between the beige/tan colors that can easily escape notice by others, and the completely noticable black hosiery. When I'm wearing dark brown legwear with shorts, there's very little chance of someone not realizing what I'm wearing. So, the positive aspects of boldness/confidence are probably associated with this color. On the other hand, it may lack the positive aspect that associates the color black with menswear.
There's a lot of psychology tied up in all of this, of course. Without getting into too much arcane discussion of irrelevant details, I'd like to hear what readers think of all this. Men who currently wear legwear with shorts in your daily activities: What are your thoughts on all of this? Have you had feedback from others regarding what you were wearing, and what was it? How about the people who have only recently been introduced to the concept of men wearing legwear (women as well as men): What are/would be your perceptions to seeing a guy wearing any of these options I've discussed above? Is there any truth to what I've noted about when a guy is wearing skintone hosiery that is only noticed after some time has passed? Have you had this experience, and what were your thoughts upon realizing the person was wearing hosiery? I'd like to have an in-depth discussion on this, with many participants, as the feedback is very valuable to our efforts here at The Nylon Gene.