Recently, I replied to a comment with a statement about my basic purpose for this blog, THE NYLON GENE. I thought it would be helpful to post this as a stand-alone article, so all readers might benefit from it. Basically, the observation was made that one of the biggest obstacles to further growth in the men's legwear trend is basic awareness among the general populace that there IS such a thing as men's legwear (tights, pantyhose, mantyhose... whatever we choose to call it). While it is true that general awareness of the fact that significant numbers of men are now wearing pantyhose or tights for practical, mainstream reasons has risen; a great many people on the street are still completely surprised when they learn about it.
I've written elsewhere that, "I'm working to change hearts and minds: from pantyhose to mantyhose." Well, the first step in making that change is raising awareness...
Mantyhose: Already Here To Stay
We know there are many men already wearing tights/pantyhose. That's based on increasing ACTIVSKIN sales year after year, despite the recession. Until recently, most of our customers were reluctant to wear them openly or acknowledge it to friends or colleagues. Of course, this presents a marketing difficulty. It's difficult to promote a product that most of your customers won't tell anyone they use, even though they love it. And that gets to the heart of one primary objective for The Nylon Gene, and our other publicity efforts.
Since we have so many satisfied customers--based on an infitesimal percentage of returns--we would like to enlist their aid as a part of our 'volunteer' sales force, by encouraging them to be more willing to wear their legwear in the open, at least occasionally, or acknowledge to their circle of acquaintances the benefits they gain from them. If the people could only see how many guys they pass on a busy street in a given day were actually wearing legwear under their trousers they would be surprised, and this trend would grow at an even faster pace than it already has. That is, at least until it becomes as commonplace as, say, wearing sweatshirts, at which point it would eventually level off.
But, How Many People Really Notice?
When a man wearing legwear passes by, people on the street are usually not aware for several reasons. The most obvious is because long pants cover them up in most cases. This is unavoidable to a certain extent, because short pants are not considered acceptable attire in many workplaces. The only way it becomes apparent that a guy in your office is wearing legwear under his trousers is if he wears sheer hosiery with no socks. This is becoming more common, however.
Another reason is that it's actually very unlikely for most people to notice someone is wearing tan- or beige-colored hose with shorts. Especially if it's a good approximation of his natural skin tone--and leg hair is either shaved, trimmed close, or fine and light in color. This fact seems hard to accept for the person who's wearing the hose. That's because when you look down at your own legs, there is a certain sheen to the material that makes it more visible to yourself than to others. When others look at your legs, they are looking at a different angle and there is not nearly as much reflected shine to the material.
I can't begin to tell how many times I've been engaged in conversation with someone and when I've happened to make mention of the legwear I'm wearing they express surprise because they had been unable to tell I was wearing it. This has even been the case when they've looked down beforehand expecting me to be wearing it, and thought to themselves, "he's not wearing hose." So, unless a person is distinctly looking for nylon hosiery on the legs of every guy they pass (and how many people do you know who do that?), they will almost assuredly not realize even if they pass by dozens of them.
The foregoing even applies somewhat to the case where he's wearing more noticeable shades of legwear. While less true than when wearing skintone hosiery, people in general don't pay that much attention to what guys are wearing on their legs. I've also had people remark (surprisingly to me) that they hadn't noticed I was wearing legwear even when it was dark brown or sheer black. People are generally too wrapped up in their own schedules and activities to pay that much attention, and besides that they are not attuned to even look for legwear on men because they've not yet heard of it.
Legwear Trend Needs a Spokesman
Which, of course, brings me to one of the primary reasons why I place myself in public settings as I do, and write extensively as an advocate for men's legwear. I've become somewhat of the de facto spokesman for men's legwear issues in the U.S. because of my position and my activities. Chan Kraemer of e-MANcipate.net has asked me to serve as a North American media contact point for all inquiries regarding 'mantyhose.' Media attention serves to bring the existence of this emerging trend to the attention of various groups of men who might benefit from it (athletes, outdoorsmen, leg health interests, etc.) but don't yet know about it. We've seen the number of men wearing legwear grow as awareness grows.
There is another important group of men to whom my publicity activities is directed: those already wearing nylon legwear on a regular basis. We don't know exactly how many there are. Although ACTIVSKIN is by far the leading seller of tights and sheer hose made exclusively for men, and the only one in the U.S., there are several companies overseas that are also in the market. There is also an unknown number of men who may wear women's brands for a variety of reasons (don't like mail-order, want lowest cost regardless of quality, etc.). What we do know is that there are far more men already wearing tights and sheer hose than the public perception would indicate.
Held Back By Lack of Confidence
The reason many of them are reluctant to wear legwear openly--either with shorts, or without socks under trousers--is due to fear of criticism from people who've never heard of 'mantyhose' or men's pantyhose, or anything of the sort. They are concerned that people in that group will immediately jump to the erroneous conclusion that they must be a cross dresser or some sort of fetishist for wearing pantyhose, because, "pantyhose are for girls." People who have read news articles, watched TV reports, or seen men's legwear discussed in blogs such as this are much less likely to labor under misplaced misconceptions. The vast majority of people can at least understand the men's legwear concept when it's explained to them in a rational manner. They may not be convinced to adopt it themselves, but they can at least accept the explanation for why a guy might be wearing them under his shorts without harboring less-than-favorable impressions of him.
Making the Case...
We've not had celebrity endorsements of ACTIVSKIN, nor have we actively sought them. However, a very visible example of a 'regular guy' wearing legwear and discussing it in public settings can serve a similar purpose. Therefore, I place myself out there in my community, in the media, and at public events to demonstrate how readily people acclimate to the idea of men's legwear, when it's presented in a legitimate manner. Since I've taken on this public role, I've had so many notes of encouragement, compliments, and other positive feedback from all quarters, and want to share that with my audience of men who are already legwear fans, to offer encouragement. To continue the past movement from 'The Fringe' toward the tipping point of and begin to really break out, it's necessary for guys who are already wearing legwear to step out there and let people see how many of you there really are. As my example is intended to encourage others who are less confident, seeing more men demonstrate their own self-confidence will embolden still others.
We're seeing the beginnings of that already. We get emails and read posts on other forums that tell stories of a new readiness to 'vote with their legs,' as it were. As that continues it will have a domino effect, and we expect to see the men's legwear trend move ever closer to social convention.
YOU Can Help...
Please feel free to post comments telling of when/where you've seen examples of a guy wearing legwear openly while out going about his business. What were the reactions of people around him? Also, help publicize this by posting links on blogs, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and elsewhere. Forward to friends who aren't yet aware of the growing men's legwear trend. Talk about it in your circle of friends ("Hey, guess what I just read an online article about?..."). The more places that information like this article appear, the faster public awareness will increase and the sooner men's legwear becomes as normal to see on the streets as short pants. And... most importantly, if you're a man who's already wearing legwear, work up the confidence to share that fact with others around you, wear them with shorts if you like wearing shorts. You'll soon see how positively people will react if you carry yourself well and appear confident in your masculinity.