I fucking hate pantyhose.
Doesn’t everyone? Constricting, itchy, tortuously hot in summer and uncomfortable in every season, they are up there with whalebone corsets and horsehair wigs as one of the most uncomfortable, unnecessary products ever created for women. And to my great delight, they appear to be going the way of the wig and corset.
I came of age in the last days of pantyhose, the 1990s. In fact, I remember a time when I was excited about wearing them; pantyhose were for grown-ups, and I always aspired to be a grown-up (you will never hear me reminisce fondly about how childhood is the best time of one’s life). Like bras, nylon pantyhose were a mark of womanhood, and at first I embraced them with the eagerness of a convert.
Then I discovered that pantyhose suck (not unlike bras, actually). I hate any kind of constricting clothing, so the clingy, binding, control-top on most brands made me want to run around in circles and howl like a dog. I felt like I was constantly wrestling myself in and out of them, even just to pee. Even without the misery of the control top, they were difficult to take on and off without tearing, and unlike panties or bras, they tended to self-destruct after only one or two wearings. I always carried clear nail polish in my purse, along with a spare pair for when the nail polish failed to prevent a run from zipping up my leg (and don’t you know, they always run right up the most conspicuous part of your leg, leaving you looking like a hooker staggering home after a long night on the corner). I could never figure out the appeal of pantyhose—maybe because they kept shoes from chafing? Or because the nude—or worse, the dreaded “suntan”—shade hid any spider veins or razor stubble? I know there’s a small minority of people who find them sexy, even erotic–sometime when you’re not at work, do a Google search for “pantyhose fetish”–but for me they were far too uncomfortable to be a turn-on. I just plain loathed the things.
Unfortunately, I had no choice but to wear them. My summer jobs were always in Washington, D.C., a notoriously dowdy city where pantyhose were mandatory for the office, or when going out to dinner. Unfortunately, the only thing worse than the dowdy dress code is Washington’s oppressive humidity, and the combination of the two was sheer hell. There were days when I almost wept with relief when I got home and could finally peel off my hose. I tried desperately to find an alternative. Thigh-highs meant no tight, sweaty control-top, but the rubberized elastic that kept them latched to my thighs either left painful red pressure weals or didn’t work very well, in which case I was constantly fighting to hitch them up while they made a dash for my ankles. Garter belts were somewhat better, but tended to create telltale NSFW lines under the sleek pencil skirts that were in fashion at the time. There really wasn’t a better option. I was stuck.
But then something wondrous happened: I moved to New York. It was 1996, and in Manhattan, pantyhose were falling out of favor. Women went bare-legged in the summer! Hallelujah! I had to ditch a lot of my D.C. wardrobe—it was hopelessly unfashionable by New York standards—but I was fine with that if it meant I could also get rid of those fucking horrible pantyhose. I have not worn a pair since. Tights definitely, especially in the winter, and fishnets or patterned hose occasionally, when fashionable. But clingy, snaggy nude nylons? Never again. I have been delighted to bid them an unfond farewell.