Do people have a predisposition to legwear?
And what are the ramifications?
There’s probably no way to prove or disprove the first question, but like personal tastes in food, music, or literature, people are different. There’s an old joke that there are two kinds of people in the world: those who divide the world into two kinds of people and those who don’t...
For the benefit of the first group, we joke that there are two kinds of people in the world: those with the “nylon gene” and those without. Now as far as science has told us, the gene doesn’t really exist of course, and in fact we don’t even know if the love of wearing legwear is hereditary, but it’s a good way to characterize people who like wearing legwear, and have a little fun with it along the way. It’s a way of explaining the enjoyment we feel when we wear tights ourselves or see others wearing them.
Those of us who have the 'nylon gene', which is probably most of the people visiting [Geraden's] web site, enjoy the tactile sensation of soft fabrics like silk, nylon, and satin. The same may be true of visitors to The Nylon Gene blog, but it's also intended for those who've just discovered the men's legwear trend and want more information. Those who don’t have 'the gene' are perfectly comfortable with cotton, linen, polyester, and wool. For women, whether they have it or not, there's no issue at all. They can wear either kinds of fabric with no concern from anyone. For men it can be problematic. Men are supposed to be tough and macho in western society, so they're programmed in their early life not to have a softer side; and they definitely aren’t supposed to like softer, silky fabrics.
And yet, many do. Perhaps in secret, perhaps openly, but they do. Men have, in fact, established a limited beachhead on this side of the 'fabric boundary'. Some guys have taken to silk boxers and bathrobes, and nylon athletic apparel, underwear, and dress socks, for example. These products have been marketed to men for a long enough time to become acceptable.
The problem for many with the 'nylon gene' is that they want to move into territory traditionally reserved for women--at least in recent history. Namely tights (both sheer and opaque). Keep in mind however, that tights for men are nothing new. They were popular in Spain in the 1500s and the fashion was imported to England. Men wore cotton or silk hosiery to show off their legs and to keep warm. Women never showed off their legs until the 20th Century.
So upon closer examination, we see that tights were strictly a male fashion for three centuries, until Victorian fashion changes put men into trousers and somber colors for the next two centuries. When women did start showing their legs, hosiery fulfilled the same function it once had for men--it was made to be seen. Cotton, silk, and later nylon were fabrics of choice. Stockings were held up by garters until the invention of full-length sheer nylon tights in America in the late 1950s.
Men's legs were almost never seen at the time. Keep in mind that men of that era hardly ever wore short pants--they were considered children's clothing until the middle of the 20th Century. And tights or pantyhose were considered a women-only garment until the end of the 20th Century. Socially, therefore, tights and pantyhose were off-limits to men completely. Only cross-dressers and fetishists violated these social constricts, and this was kept hidden from public view. It's no wonder tights for men had taken on such a negative connotation by this time.
However, a curious thing happened in the past 10 years or so. Men who have this 'nylon gene' and secretly wore tights for practical, legitimate reasons started to move into the open with it. Assisted by companies such as ACTIVSKIN--who began actively marketing tights for men--and many advocacy websites, online support groups, and blogs such as this one, men have discovered they are far from alone in this.
It became evident there were literally thousands of men who had been wearing women’s hosiery in private and enjoying the benefits all along. They were wearing for all sorts of reasons. Many discovered the valuable benefits of nylon support hosiery that we now tout on our website. Benefits like warmth-without-bulk; compression to energize muscles; improved blood flow; fatigue prevention; help with prevention of DVT; protection from ticks or chafing associated with wool pants; and many other reasons not even remotely associated with cross-dressing or fetish wearing.
How is this received by wives and girlfriends?
As time goes by many men have tried wearing tights and just decided they are comfortable. Not every male who wears tights has chosen to do so openly. Many who would otherwise do so have experienced resistance from wives or girlfriends, who are reluctant to support it, or may actively discourage it.
There are probably as many reasons for this as there are relationships. One of the most common reasons may be early programming. Because of the era they grew up in, many women are 'programmed' to think of nylon legwear strictly in terms of women's wear. The idea of their man wearing it can't help but conjure up suspicions of cross-dressing in her mind. Her guy may have even made the mistake of wearing them in a romantic setting--thereby cementing in her mind that his purpose for wearing them must have some ulterior sexual overtone to it.
He knows that he wears them for comfort, warmth, compression, or other 'legitimate' reasons, but she still views them through the eyes of her early programming. So it's no wonder she may actually be OK with her man wearing hosiery in private, but is horrified at the thought of him wearing them in public. Her friends and relatives might see and secretly think how 'perverted' (or at least odd) her man is.
Women in this situation may not have been exposed to much of the media attention that has only recently begun to reach a larger percentage of the population. They most likely have not visited ACTIVSKIN's website, The Nylon Gene or any of the advocacy websites that have sprung up. Her friends and relatives may or may not have encountered any of this publicity either. It's possible she has no idea there are thousands and thousands of other men in the world who wear male tights or pantyhose for completely practical, legitimate reasons. Her horizons may be very limited and her reaction is thus quite understandable.
To make matters worse, if she is among the "I hate pantyhose" crowd, she may just not 'get' it that anyone could actually wear them because they LIKE them. When it comes to women's pantyhose in the media, it's almost de rigueur to write about how horribly hot, constraining, or just plain uncomfortable they are--despite the fact that this isn't true of properly sized, higher quality, support pantyhose. In private conversations, there are significant numbers of women who will acknowledge how much they value the benefits of a good pair of support hose. (Hence, the astounding success of Spanx, for instance). It's only very recently that dissenting voices can sometimes be heard in some media circles, but the prevailing mindset among many women is still very anti-pantyhose. Until more women learn to stop purchasing cheap, improperly sized hosiery, they won't discover that quality legwear that fits can be quite comfortable to wear.
What can be done in this situation?
A guy may have started off on the wrong foot and now doesn't have a leg to stand on (no puns intended... of course). Reversing the programming and undoing years of reinforcement may be quite difficult. There are no secret formulae guaranteed to work successfully to change those hearts and minds. Communications and compromise offer the best hope, but no guarantees. Women need to be reminded that for them, wearing hosiery is primarily for appearance and fashion, whereas for most men, it’s primarily for comfort and/or the benefits enumerated above. It’s difficult for many women to accept and really understand this difference. If a man likes to see his woman in hosiery, finds her appearance pleasing, and compliments her, the association between legwear and appearance is reinforced. Furthermore, if she herself doesn’t find wearing hosiery to be comfortable, how readily can she understand or appreciate her man’s claims as to why he wears it?
Sometimes it takes some observational evidence to begin the change of heart and mind necessary for wives and girlfriends to consider their guy's legwear in a new light. It's ironic that many women, in general, don't think negatively of the idea of men wearing legwear. Often, it's only when it comes to their guy wearing it that problems arise. The reaction seems to be centered around fear of what others will think of their guy--and by extension, of them.
Women tend to be very motivated by the issues of security, and 'home and hearth' issues. They may become very concerned if they perceive that these could be threatened. Consequently, if they perceive that their husband or boyfriend could lose social standing, employment position and in general be diminished in status and earning capacity, it could become very upsetting. This explains why women may practice a double standard when it comes to the men's legwear trend. Many don't actually have a big problem with men wearing hosiery--when done in a masculine setting such as we promote here on The Nylon Gene--because they have nothing personal at stake. ...Until the guy is their guy. At that point, they may perceive a risk to their personal livelihood if people react negatively to what he's wearing.
We know that risk to be virtually nil, of course. Most likely when a male wears hosiery in the open (i.e., with shorts), one of two reactions can be expected from people he meets out in public. Either they don't even notice in the first place. Or, they notice briefly before proceeding with what they were doing. In that case, thoughts rarely translate into words, but people generally assume there must be some legitimate reason this person is wearing hosiery. When it comes to friends and acquaintenances, it may seem more difficult because, if they react negatively we have to live with the consequences. The good news here is that we have seen so many anecdotes of how readily people accept their friends' legwear, especially once it's been explained rationally. This is bolstered by my own personal experience since setting out on my career direction as a leading spokesman for the men's legwear trend. My wife and I have received nothing but positive feedback from our friends, family and colleagues. There's no reason to expect anyone else's experience to be any different.
Although there are still some who have yet to encounter the growing media attention on this matter, many have and in sufficient numbers to positively affect people's first reaction to a man wearing hosiery. It no longer runs first to cross-dressing or other unfavorable assumptions. We hope our efforts at ACTIVSKIN and The Nylon Gene--along with many others with the same goals--will continue this change for the better.
Monday, August 31, 2009
The origin of the name of our blog... Some time back, the founder of ACTIVSKIN, Steve Katz, wrote at length on "The Nylon Gene" for the benefit of Geraden's Legwear Blog . I posted the following updated discussion in March 2009 to explain from whence we took the name of this blog. It's been awhile since the post initially ran, and we've gained many new readers since then. Therefore, for the benefit of more recent readers, I'm posting "What IS the nylon gene?" again: Hope you enjoy...