Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Which Colors Look More Masculine?

Black Legwear for Men, on the StreetThe 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.

Black Opaque Men's TightsLumped 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.

Tan Legwear for MenNext, 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.

Off-Black Legwear for MenAfter 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...

Dark Brown Legwear for Men at the OfficeFinally, 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.


  1. Masculinity isn't about a colour. I think sheer tights/tights/pantyhose what ever you name them and which colour they underline the masculine body as well the feminine body and all the genders between. If you look feminine wearing pantyhose it is because you are feminine. I wouldn' help then being in full leather. Pantyhose are indeed unisex.


  2. Johs, I think I agree with you on that (impact of color), with some reservations. I know the e-MANcipate site ( has an item where he asks the question, "Is pink (pantyhose) too femmy for men?" BTW, maybe I'm being a tad hypocritical--given that I'm advocating the concept of hosiery being a completely unisex item--but I tend to think pink pantyhose would be too 'femmy'.

    Kind of ironic isn't it?... It may turn out to be an easier case to make that pantyhose (mantyhose?) can be as much a man's garment as a woman's, than it is to make pink hosiery be masculine. I guess you could say that's because you've got two paradigm shifts to navigate here: the one that moves hosiery from a traditionally female garment to a unisex one; and the one that moves pink into the masculine domain.

    It's sort of like this: men can (and do) wear pink shirts or ties and it's not considered feminine; men are starting to wear hosiery more and that need not be considered feminine, either. But, combining each of these two makes for something that's much harder to keep from appearing feminine.

    Your second point is a very good one. Clothing is not necessarily the biggest determinant of how masculine you look. However, it can't be ignored completely.

  3. I don't know but sometimes I notice the difference between wearing navy blue pantyhose and jet black ones when it comes to how I'm looked at. Strangly, I'm looked at as more manly when I wear navy blue pantsuit or dress/nylons while not so if I'm dressed jet black. However, if I wear a light colored blouse, sweater, or jacket while the rest of what I wear is navy blue, I'm not looked at as masculine as much. I don't know how this would work out for men since I'm a woman.

  4. Interesting... that you would feel that you, as a woman, would be looked at as more manly by wearing navy blue nylons? Wonder what sort of dynamic that fits into? Also, I neglected to include navy blue men's legwear in the discussion... but it seems to be a rarely worn color.

  5. I've never given much thought to which shades of pantyhose appear more masculine than others. A part of me certainly feels that black opaques would be the most socially accepted form of legwear on men, as we have often seen opaque hosiery on men in various athletic outlets. I feel people would be less prone to question opaque hosiery on a man than sheers (assuming they take the time to really even notice). That being said, I almost exclusively wear black sheer pantyhose when I go out.

    Black pantyhose will make much more of a statement than skintone pantyhose will. As pantyhose as a part of male fashion has yet to be fully embraced, I certainly feel that wearing black hosiery will do more to further the cause, although I digress. I feel that black will also look more masculine and perhaps even be more accepted because it is very visible. To me that visibility directly translates into confidence in oneself, which is in itself considered a very masculine trait.

    That being said, living in Florida I have recently taken to wearing beige hosiery during these hot summer months, and I have noticed an increase in comfort with regards to the heat while in the skintone hosiery as opposed to the darker shades. This is important because comfort is very important in displaying confidence. I would say that hosiery color perhaps does not play a large role in the masculinity of male pantyhose fashion, or at the least has less of a role than the individual wearers comfort level with the color. If a man feels more comfortable (and thus more confident) in a particular shade of pantyhose than another, then that will carry through considerably in his appearance.

  6. Steve, it's when I'm dressed completely in navy blue, pant suit and dress and nylons wise, that I'm looked at as a bit more masculine even when my navy blue nylons don't look so dark. Wearing a light blue blouse or a pink jacket often reduces the otherwise somewhat masculine look. However, when I see any man especially my father wearing navy blue shorts and nylons and yet wearing a white polo shirt, he looks more masculine and even more so when he wears the tights. It's always so amazing how nylons can affect us men and women in so many interesting ways. :)

    P.S.: I'm surprised that navy blue legwear is rarely worn by men. When men are dressed for a meeting at work, I've seen more navy blue suits than I have seen black suits but I guess it varies from one work place to another. I guess that there are not as many navy blue working shoes or boots for men as there are brown and black. Maybe if there were more navy blue shoes for men on the market would the navy blue nylons be worn by men more often.

  7. This is untested by personal experience, but I tend to think any dark color would work well: black, navy, brown... and I would like to suggest a new color, a dark color between olive and gray, that would go well with olives and khakis.

    I have looked at various colors of sheers elsewhere (e.g., American Apparel), and all of the lighter colors strike me as more feminine.

    Men might get away with a bit more color range in tights, but I haven't given that much thought.

  8. One other color I would see as masculine is a dark red (toward maroon more than burgundy).

  9. Hmmm... I haven't seen any of those around Harold. Could you get me a couple of photos? I'd like to see what that looks like.

  10. Personnaly i feel sheer skintone Tights/Pantyhose is the most masculine....
    I feel it is a great all round colour that can be worn with anything.

    I don't lack confidence wearing skintone...I wear from matt skintone to very glossy skintone...

    As for masculine tights/pantyhose...Myself..Sheer to waist..No fly..Sheer toes..

  11. I love them all but think w/ dress clothes black/brn or navy look more masculine and appealing in general.
    If I were to wear these nylons w/ shorts Id wear nude/see-thru ones as they would draw less attention--and its more about comfort than attention anyway.
    Id for sure stop and talk to any man wearing sheer nylon hose no matter what the color. In general I prefer dark colors.

  12. I've been wearing sheer tights in public in several occasions.
    Colored pantyhose is the way to go, and the best is to match the color the way socks are colored.

    Black, gray, navy, all are great. Light or bright colors are good too, as long as they're matched appropiately.

    The problem with skin toned pantyhose is that it was created specifically for women and it was meant to be invisible, just to make legs look smoother. That said, beige hose goes well with beige trousers and brown shoes, for example.

    Colored hose is more appropiate to make a fashion statement and was worn by men even before than women did.
    If we want to make a fashion statement, then we have to make it visible and in a masculine way.

  13. Well said, Antonio. Sounds like you're doing your part to raise awareness of men's legwear--keep up the good work. BTW, if you happen to have any photos that show you and your legwear out in public, and wouldn't mind sharing them with our readers, please feel free to email me at the address found in my profile. I'm still planning to post a page dedicated to showing a variety of real guys wearing legwear, to demonstrate to others that this trend if for real. Not only for media reps who browse the site when working on articles, but to encourage the many guys who are already wearing legwear but are not yet confident enough to do so openly.

  14. I think black,grey,brown and navy blue colors are good for masculine. The fashion wave can accept with opaque style I think. So we must push it with opaque. A lot of people think about sheer pantyhose "this is a transparent and transparent for women". My prefer everytime opaques because my way to go to sheer that. My suggest to show opaques with shorts much and more easy acceptable.

  15. I love wearing leggings / pantyhose nylons of all colors. but sheer black are my favorites.
    I have even gone out in sheer purple though it feels more femme. But thats ok I feel great in nylons of any color. TRan or dark brown are hot.

  16. I think more huys should start wearing nylons.
    They are so good looking and wearing them does not make me feel femme.Wearing nylons does not mean one is gay. I like shaving my legs and wearing sheer nylons of many colors.I do like the pattern nylons and like wearing spandex pants to.As I have long great looking legs nylons make me feel sexy.

    Steve from Los Angeles

  17. Steve, let's just make sure we don't drift over into a direction I'm not looking to have us follow on The Nylon Gene. Nothing wrong per se with the comment, but I could see it encouraging others to push just a little further in that direction, and so on... So, nuff said for now.

  18. I tend to dress VERY informally - mostly cut off blue jeans and a t-shirt in the summer. Once it gets a little cooler outside, I'd like to start wearing tights. My fashion sense says to wear navy blue or beige in matte. I can handle some attention, but not a lot. I.e., I'm nervous! Any thoughts?


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