The vast majority of TightsPlease readers are women, so the article and accompanying survey are primarily directed at guaging the attitude of the female customers towards the 'mantyhose' trend. However, it's also evident from the article that they have a great many male customers, and they ask the question, "what are your men buying tights for?"
I hope that some TightsPlease readers have made their way here to The Nylon Gene, where we can certainly shed some light on that question...
Having spent some time as director of marketing for the original seller of tights/pantyhose made especially for men (http://www.activskin.com/), I am very familiar with the reasons men are buying tights (BTW, 'tights' in British usage is synonomous with what we in the U.S. refer to as pantyhose, as well as opaque tights). First, one needs to answer why men are buying so many pairs of tights/pantyhose from a website that sells women's tights/pantyhose? The simple answer is that there are a great many men who wear them for mainstream, legitimate reasons (see below) who aren't aware that there are readily available brands of hosiery made especially for men--and what the differences from women's hosiery are. This is most true when talking about mail-order hosiery, since there is no difference from ordering from ActivSkin or a website selling only women's hosiery. Even the question of overseas shipping becomes moot, because there are British-based distributors of male tights such as Legwear4Men, and several European-based companies. As awareness of existence of these companies has increased over the past 5-10 years, sales have also grown rapidly. This trend will continue away from women's tights to men's as awareness continues to grow.
There will continue to be a certain percentage of male tights wearers who stick with those brands they've become accustomed to and loyal. There are also a good deal of men who prefer to buy their legwear at retail outlets instead of mail-order. Male legwear has not become pervasive enough yet to enter the retail market, so these men must either buy women's brands or spend the postage money and order from the web. I mentioned the differences between men's and women's hosiery above. These include sizing according to male body proportions, somewhat more durable material (men aren't tolerant of the wispy-thin styles that run/tear at the drop of a hat), etc. However, those men who have not tried any of the men's brands before may not realize what they're missing by settling for women's brands. They may think there's no real difference because they've never worn anything else.
So what ARE the primary reasons men are buying tights (aka, mantyhose) in the first place? They can be summed up in a few categories:
Leg support: Women have known for years of the benefits of support hosiery when they're bothered by the subtle effects of poor leg circulation. One need not have gnarled up knots of varicose veins to benefit from a good pair of support pantyhose. They mildly massage the legs and help move blood through the veins to keep it from pooling during the day when on your feet for extended periods or being sedentary for hours on end. Somehow, 50% of the population has been left out when it comes to providing relief. Men are as likely as women to suffer from this complaint. A woman can wear a pair of sheer hose that keeps her legs feeling good at the end of the day and no one thinks a thing of it. It's now becoming more acceptable and commonplace for men to recognize the value of support hosiery. And, they need not wear thick black opaque tights--under long trousers--that are too hot in spring/summer, either. As men's legwear becomes more commonplace in the public perception, men are wearing them with shorts when the weather permits.
Warmth-Without-Bulk: In colder settings, hosiery provides a thin base layer under outer clothing that is much more comfortable than the long johns that were traditionally the only option available to men. Thin tights trap a layer of air next to the skin that adds insulation. When wind is blocked by an outer layer, hosiery is very effective at adding additional warmth without constricting movement. This is usefule for hunters and fishermen, construction workers, and even office workers. How many desk jockeys complain that their employer can't seem to find a way to regulate the climate control and sit shivering throughout the day?
This benefit is also valuable to outdoor athletes. For instance, runners or cyclists who exercise or comete on chilly mornings need to keep the chill off their legs to avoid cramping. Hosiery provides just enough insulation to do that. Yet, since most types of athletic tights are thicker than sheer pantyhose, they tend to cause the athlete to feel overheated after body temperature rises during exertion. Some cycling tights have zip off legs, which is good, but zippers add expense and you still have to stop to remove them and find someplace to store them.
Performance Enhancement: It's fairly well known in athletic circles that muscle compression helps improve stamina/endurance by holding the muscles in place better and minimizing bouncing against each other. Support hosiery provides that same sort of muscle compression. So in addition to the aforementioned warmth-without-bulk benefit mentioned above, they can also enhance a runner or cyclists ability to stay the course longer. Also, since sheer hosiery wicks perspiration it's insulating effect transforms to cooling when this moisture evaporates from the legs. Thus, they can also be worn in warmer weather if the benefit being sought is performance enhancement.
Anti-chafing: When worn under trousers, tights or pantyhose are a great means of preventing chafing of the inner thighs in many circumstances. It's been an open secret for many years that horsemen often wear women's pantyhose while riding to avoid 'saddle sores'. Likewise, this same benefit applied for hikers on long marches. An added benefit is protection against ticks. They can't get attached to your legs when you're wearing nylon against your skin. That's also why the military have used them overseas to help ward off sand fleas, etc.
I've posted the text from the TightsPlease blog, along with a few inline comments that I think will help clarify a few misconceptions inherent in the article:
Does your man wear tights?
It’s come to our attention that more and more men are choosing to wear our tights!
They’re being worn for whole host of purposes, from meeting a basic need like our boys in Afghanistan – wearing tights to protect their legs from desert flies, or wearing tights to make a bold statement, like our cross dressing shoppers, who get a lot of enjoyment from wearing stylish, women’s tights! [As men become more comfortable with the idea of wearing tights, they will add them to their wardrobe for aesthetic, as well as practical, reasons. However, cross dressing is a very small proportion of the number of guys wearing tights.]
Traditionally, men wearing tights has always been a taboo subject. The only time men in tights is acceptable, is at the pantomime or on our favourite superhero! With the sheer volume of male shoppers that we’ve seen visit the site, it’s unlikely that they’re all shopping for either of these purposes. [As I've detailed above, men wearing tights is fast losing any of the former taboo. They're wearing them for very practical reasons, and the public is recognizing that fact by taking the sight of a guy wearing hosiery very much in stride]
[Nylon Gene readers: Make sure to visit the blog or follow this link, and offer your input for the survey]