A BRIEF HISTORY OF HOSIERY
Imagine how ecstatic Queen Elizabeth must have felt when she received her first pair of silk stockings in 1589. We know very little about how they actually looked on her legs, but we do know that they must have felt quite fabulous.
Since then, stockings, and later, pantyhose have aroused the passions of women (and men) everywhere. Until the twentieth century, a lady’s legs may have been talked about, but were never seen. Men’s legs, however, were in full view.
The Egyptians wore the first socks – bulky knits with separate big toes. Attila the Hun wore colorful bands of cloth around his legs, and for sixteenth century dandies, hosiery was a means of self-expression, they playfully wore layers of brightly colored socks and tights in contrasting checked and striped patterns.
On May 15, 1940, when the first nylons went on sale at stores throughout the country, four million pairs sold out in four days. Women everywhere were wildly enthusiastic about the new miracle fiber. But everything came to an unfortunate halt with the outbreak of World War II, when nylon production was commandeered for the war effort. Women resorted to using makeup to decorate their legs, like drawing faux seams up the back of their legs with an eyebrow pencil. World War II ended in 1945, but the nylon wars were just beginning!
Peace slowly brought nylons back into stores, but not fast enough. In New York, Macy’s sold out of its entire stock of 50,000 pairs of nylons in six hours, leaving a long line of unhappy, bare-legged women. Meanwhile, in Pittsburgh a mob of 40,000 women stood all night in a torrential rain storm to buy nylons from a tiny hosiery shop. By 1948, production of nylon stockings returned to normal. Hosiery took another giant step ahead with the development of spandex in 1959.