Nylon Gene readers who are following updates added to the Media Blog will have noted addition of a link to a story entitled "Horrors of Fashion: Mantyhose" on the KXAX/NBC5 website the other day. As suggested by the title, it did not take a favorable tone toward men's legwear. Happily, today a follow-up piece was published called, "Defending the Mantyhose". This resulted from contacts I made with author/editor Greg Janda, explaining the variety of practical benefits for which men are now wearing pantyhose. The initial article approached the issue strictly from a 'fashion statement' perspective and was completely negative in tone. We commend Mr. Janda for his willingness to present counter-balancing information as well...
There has been a flood of articles and blog posts focusing on the men's pantyhose (aka, 'mantyhose') trend since late September, when several British newspapers ran the story of a leading London department store launching a line of 'Mantihose' from clothing designer Unconditional. As it turns out, the mantihose in question seem to more resemble cotton/lycra blend leggings than pantyhose. The UK media muddied the waters further by combining silly-looking photos of their reporters wearing this legwear (paired with a mini-kilt, basic dress shirt and tie), with others borrowed from the e-MANcipate website.
The result has been misleading mental images of men's legwear in the public eye that conjure up connotations of modern day 'merry men' prancing about in short skirts and snakeskin tights. Needless to say, under those conditions the overwhelming public response is one of, "What the... ?"
During this time, yours truly has been working overtime to engage discussion in these many venues, where reporters essentially ask, in so many words, "Would you wear THIS?..." Respondents predictably reply, "Hell no!" Who can be surprised at these responses, if the other side of the coin is not being presented?
Our observations indicate that when the story of men's legwear (tights, pantyhose, mantyhose, etc.) is conveyed in a context of the practical reasons for which men are wearing them, people are less inclined to react in the visceral ways we see when it is presented in a context of showy, dramatic styles intended to grab the viewer and 'make a bold statement.' Men wearing legwear for leg support, added warmth, or even the comfortable feeling it provides, don't evoke the same degree of resistance among the unitiated that fashion tights with colorful patterns do. I think this is because the latter is much further removed from the current experience of most males and their loved ones today.
I would like to explore this issue further in the near future. For now, suffice it to say that I have to wonder aloud whether imagery such as found on e-MANcipate harm more than help our advocacy efforts for the men's legwear trend? I have great admiration for Chan Kraemer, the website creator, and his photographic skills, as well as his passion for promoting something so far outside the current social norms. We have corresponded on a number of occasions.
The many photographic images depicting men wearing colorful legwear in a wide range of settings has been very successful in getting the idea of men's legwear on the radar screen of many media organizations around the world that otherwise would probably never have paid much notice at all. Part of that success comes from the boldness of the tights they are shown wearing, with patterns and colors that can hardly be ignored. Yet, the vast majority of men who wear legwear--myself included--would not consider wearing these designs, let alone those men who have yet to so much as try their first pair of tights. The dilemma of promoting men's legwear is that very often it is either completely covered, or barely noticeable unless photographed up close with very high resolution.
I face the same dilemma here on The Nylon Gene. While I often wear dark-colored or black hosiery with a basic shorts and pullover shirt outfit, my position as a public legwear advocate demands a higher degree of visibility than the average guy might embrace. Some might say the black legwear is over the line, too. One distinction from the patterned tights shown on e-MANcipate is that all of the legwear I'm photographed wearing are actually men's tights or hosiery. Currently, no company is selling tights in the variety of patterns and colors depicted at e-MANcipate. With the exception of camouflage, I doubt the men's legwear market will support anything at all like what is shown in these pictures--at least in the near or intermediate future.
So, the question arises: Are images such as I've discussed above beneficial, in that they provoke much more 'buzz' surrounding them--even if most of it is negative? (the, "any publicity is good publicity" theory) Or, would men's legwear be better served having people's first encounter one in which it's depicted more akin to the way most men who might adopt it could see themselves wearing it--with information included about functional reasons why they might consider giving it a try? Although the latter alternative is more likely to evoke an initial positive response, it may not have the 'Wow' factor that gets it noticed more often. Is it better to expose a wider spectrum of people to the concept--hoping to later persuade them of the practical benefits of what was first met with mocking or ridicule?
As I've Twittered, blogged and emailed out my, "rest of the story" in the wake of the most recent publicity wave, these are the questions that have run through my mind. I would be very interested to hear what The Nylon Gene readers have to say on this...