Thursday, October 15, 2009

Defending the Mantyhose at NBC

Courtesy of The website promotes men's pantyhose as a fashion statement--a minority position among male hosiery wearersNylon 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.

In reality, most guys wear their legwear in a fairly low-key mannerThe 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...


  1. the thingy with pictures on e-MANcipate and the whole concept of it is toward fashion, for men. High fashion, not some kind of spooky ridiculous stuff that I've seen at so many places by different designers. And e-MANcipate itself says - as a regular fashion item for men. I think mr. Chan has more than succeeded in this coz more designers show men in pantyhose as a step forward in mens fashion world. And I think it does help. He covers the fashion area, ActivSkin covers the healthcare. Both supportive to each other. When I first saw those pictures I said to myself - f(sensored), they look so great on these pictures! Very delicate set of pictures. Maybe not seen in stores in near future as you said but it definitely speeds up this "movement" and fashion designers just can't resist it. What blocks it is the narrow-minded journalists, reporters etc with their strange sense of "humour". That's what I think.

  2. you will never convince the public that it is acceptable for men to wear "tights" OR "pantyhose" ...EVER!It will always be perceoved as gay or just plain WEIRD for men to wear them regardless of the "benefits"..women don't even like to wear them anymore. And YES it IS a FETISH!

    1. The men that have tried women's panty hose LOVE them and wear them all the Time. Men LOVE the feeling against their skin. They don't have to tell anyone anything - just wear them. Yes, they love the warmth, the feeling and while it's a great fetish, that's not the only reason men wear them.

  3. Anonymous: Well, we'll just have to see about that. Given how much the default perception when one recognizes that a guy is wearing nylon on his legs has changed already in the past few years, I think there's a strong possibility you're wrong on this one. The default assumption used to tend toward cross-dressing and the like, but that's rapidly fading into the past.

    As for the fetish aspect, I disagree vehemently that it is fetish per se. Rather than rewrite what I've written elsewhere, I'm going to paste an excerpt of a comment I recently posted on a UK bulletin board. Keep in mind it was not written specifically for THIS topic, but it is very similar (see it here:

    [EXCERPT FOLLOWS]: One last thing, at the risk of being way too long-winded. I think we need to clarify this whole 'sensual' thing. The word Pprimarily means, 'relating to gratification of the senses' in this case, the sense of touch. eople frown on men pursuing things or 'sensual pleasure' while having no problem with it for women. I would suggest this is a fallacy based on denial of the role the senses play in the masculine world. Why else would a guy enjoy 'a good cigar' or leather seats in a sports car? With respect to wearing pantyhose, we confuse sexual excitement or arousal (for some) with legitimate sensual aspects that anyone wearing a good pair of hosiery would experience.

    I understand that society looks askance at a guy who wears hosiery solely for the sensual pleasure of the material--even if the sexual excitement is absent. However, I think it's a sign of intellectual dishonesty (even if not intentional) to condemn men who wear hosiery for practical benefits because they appear to enjoy wearing them too much. Although I started wearing it initially for leg support and improved circulation, I found the legwear to be very comfortable, and I do in fact like the feel of them. Is that surprising when you consider that part of that feeling is the removal of the discomfort I once endured? And, since the material just plain feels good to wear, does that disqualify me as wearing it for legitimate reasons? Should I instead wear stretch burlap so I can have a good, manly scratchy feel to it? I don't think so.

    Using myself as representative of many men who started wearing legwear for a practical reason, I'm sure there are many who found out in the process that they actually do like the way they feel, independant of the reason they first started wearing them. So, I can say with assuredness that my coming to like the way legwear feels on my legs in no way diminishes my masculinity. Men are very little different than women in that we like the way certain things feel (take for example, silk boxers, etc.) but that doesn't equate to sexual excitement, nor diminished masculinity. [END EXCERPT]

  4. e-MANcipate long time ago updated. now abandoned

  5. I don't think e-MANcipate is abandoned, just not updated in a long while. I know the owner, Chan Kraemer, from email correspondence, etc. and I'm pretty sure he's not abandoned it. We last corresponded within the past month and he didn't indicate that was the case.

  6. "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."
    I think in this you have answered your own question. The image of men in tights is marked by the assumption that this is fetish wear, and emancipate only confirms this in a highly visual way with feminine looking men. In a sense it is not misleading, this is what people expect to see. It certainly makes this appear to be only for people with a very strange sense of what is fahionable.
    As far as men wearing tights goes, isn't image all-important? It's not the garment itself so much as what it conjures up in the public's mind.

  7. I think e-MANcipante is doing a very good job. Some of the pictures can seem too strange or too bold for most men, including me, but I look at them in a similar way as I look at offerings from world-class fashion designers - it's not something normal people would wear, just to show the trends, to shock people, to make them think about it. However there is also a lot of e-MANcipante pictures that present, in my opinion, a great, colorful look - something that I would like to wear, if hose for men were a little bit more accepted. And another thing: e-MANcipante pictures show up almost everywhere pantyhose for men is mentioned. I would rather people posting those pictures than some men-in-skirt-and-pantyhose by a clueless reporter who just wants to shock people.

  8. Dennis, you're right and that's more or less why I've made the comments I have about the relative value of those images. On the one hand, they probably put the concept of men's legwear in front of a lot more people than would otherwise have seen them. On the other, they also tend to evoke a negative reaction from those not already familiar with it, and this requires a certain amount of followup (on my part, and others) to counteract that perception by calling attention to the fact that men's legwear is about much more than what's portrayed in those images. The $64,000 question is which is stronger, the initial negative response, would be more effective in the long run: More exposure, but with a more negative initial response; or a more readily acceptable presentation that may not reach as many people?

    I'd be interested in what Nylon Gene readers think about this question.

  9. I've found this post by accident - it's almost a year old now.

    Back in 2007 I thought that if I'd start taking the photos, then after a year or two they would regularly show up in image searches, and could potentially give a - at least by my taste - a tasteful answer to the general inquiries about the mantyhose. Secretly I had the hope to show up in the mainstream media as well.

    Steve is right that sometimes they are just too much. But this is how we push something towards a new direction: we put the level to 100, then 10 or 15 may come out finally. Just like in fashion - did you ever wear anything directly from the fashion runway? But, you surely wore many styles that were originated there, just transformed and adapted to everyday life. Same for my photos.

    I am happy to read your comments, it means so much support for me - thanks for that. And thanks to Steve for the excellent blog - please keep it up!


  10. Chan, it's never too late to contribute comments to the conversation. Sorry it took me so long to moderate it--I haven't been on here for a few days. Thanks for the great comments, and as always, for the great effort you put forth in promoting men's legwear. It's moving inexorably toward the mainstream, thanks to the efforts of people like you.


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