The Right Tights
Virtual museum of hosiery from the UK
by Jacques Hughes
Why do some men like tights (pantyhose)?
I can think of many reasons why men like tights and like to wear tights. They are sexy, feel nice, make your legs look interesting, keep you warm and wearing them is daring.
In her chapter on Transvestites in the book Men In Love Nancy Friday suggests that there are four types of men that like to dress in women's clothing: macho sporty men, drag queens, transsexuals and secret transvestites,. The macho-sporty type do it for a dare in a closed masculine society usually as part of celebrations involving a lot of alcohol. The Drag Queens do it to get attention again in a closed society of the entertainment world; they may be gay. The transsexuals do it because they want to look like women or would feel happier if they looked like women. The secret transvestite does it for a sexual thrill "his heart in his mouth lest someone come home and catch him"; most secret transvestites are heterosexual.
There are also fetishists - people who's object of sexual attraction has transferred from the person(s) they love to an object or clothing associated with them. This is often an item of clothing worn by the opposite sex - perhaps shoes, gloves, lingerie, panties or tights.
Nancy Friday notes that fetishists are often obsessed by the details of the fetish object - e.g. brand, size, colour, where it was obtained, etc. Perhaps this is more due to the human tendency to collect and categorise things which is more common in the males of the species?
I suspect that the picture is more complicated.
As well as the groups identified by Nancy Friday I would add - Unisexuals.
Let's look more closely at the groups and their reasons.
Unisexuals - these are people who think that there is no reason why men and women should wear different types of clothes. They look at women and see that it is acceptable for them to wear "men's clothes" (such as trousers, jackets, jeans) so why should it be unacceptable for men to wear women's clothes (such as skirts, lacy underwear and tights).
Eddie Izzard and Rufus Wainwright
Strangely enough there is an acceptance of unisex clothing in the sports world - with both men and women wearing tight bodysuits, leotards, long shorts and tights for cycling, swimming and athletics. There seems to be no embarrassment about it.
Some men wear tights in the entertainment business - jugglers, wrestlers and ballet dancers for instance. Others wear them in reenactments of earlier times when men wore tights (doublet and hose) in Europe.
Some men wear tights to keep warm because they work outdoors in cold winters and some may wear them for medical reasons. Long compression socks (which in the past may have been called surgical stockings) are now recommended for long-haul flights to reduce the risk of deep vein thromboses.
Some manufacturers are starting to market tights for men.
Some specialist companies produce lingerie for men also.
Drag Queens - These are men who dress as women to entertain others or draw attention to themselves. This is often done in specific circumstances - as professional or amateur entertainers or for a celebration in the gay community.
Fetishists - These men get pleasure from the actual clothing or particular articles of clothing. They are attracted and aroused by that item of clothing.
There are perhaps subtle subclasses of fetishism:-
Sexual fetishism - Men who are attracted to a particular item of clothing because of its sexual association with a part of the woman's body, often the sexual parts of a woman. For some the clothing has to have been worn by a particular woman. For instance there are who like to sniff worn women's panties. For others the association is more general - e.g. "panty-wankers".
Some women may have a fetish too, but is it that unusual for women to like wearing women's clothing? But if you view some web-sites there do seem to be some women with a sexual fetish for tights/pantyhose.
Security fetishism - For some the association goes deeper, perhaps starting before puberty. The clothing has a non-sexual association and perhaps acts as a 'security blanket', making the man feel secure and relaxed during stressful times in their lives.
"Fetish Community" - People who like to wear "fetish clothing" and go to "fetish" parties and clubs. This seems to mostly involve dressing in latex or leather clothing, but may include nylon or fishnet tights. Latex tights and stockings are available from specialist suppliers.
Interestingly - in Clavel Brand's 1970 book "Fetish - an account of unusual erotic desires" (reprinted in 1997), the author writes: "Significantly there is no indication at all that tights have become fetish objects for men. This is partly because they are unattractive garments and also because their barrier-like qualities robe them of true eroticism. Furthermore it is not without significance that tights were, until very recently, an exclusively masculine garment." I suggest that the number of web-sites devoted to pantyhose and tights indicates that Clavel was premature in dismissing their erotic charms; though the observation that tights were masculine attire might explain female fetishism!
Transvestites - These men get pleasure from dressing in women's clothing. It arouses them sexually or it helps them to relax and indulge the feminine side of their personality.
They often dress in women's clothing secretly and feel embarrassed and guilty about their crossdressing. They are afraid of being discovered, which in itself may add to the thrill.
Submissives - The fetishism or transvestitism can be part of submissive behavior within a relationship. Part of the wish to submit to the domination of their partner/Mistress. Or it could be part of some sort of self-humiliation.
Transsexuals - These are men who believe they are women and want to be women. Another way of looking at it is that they are women who have a man's body. They dislike their masculinity and wish to change sex so they can be accepted as women.
read a "Survey of pantyhose-wearing men and cross-dressers" (2009)
Summary and full article