B.missing tights are in fashion Marmite. If you love them, you look forward to the first crisp day of September or October, when it is acceptable to stop pretending that “late summer” exists on these shores and put a thick pair of pantyhose under your dress. You have strong opinions on the optimal coin count and can argue at length about the relative merits of Falke and Wolford. You could safely give Ted a speech about whether Edie Sedgwick’s modern jazz vibe of a matte pair is more chic than the sheen of a velvet or satin finish.
The other camp – my camp – would tackle horizontal snow and sleet with bare legs first rather than being seen dead in pairs. In fashion, not wearing pantyhose has long been a badge of honor. Around the time when staggering all day in high heels stopped signaling elegance and started making you look a little deranged, going bare-legged took over as the style set equivalent of a tie. club. Going bare-legged during the winter requires a high tolerance to cold wind and, depending on your skin color, a time-consuming fake tan habit. However, the bare-legged brigade avoids pantyhose because we think they look better.
I suppose this is all an elaborate justification for the fact that I stopped wearing pantyhose because no one else in the front row was wearing them and they felt a little scruffy. Going barefoot made me feel like a contender. Style is a way of insisting on something, as Susan Sontag said, and black pantyhose seemed to give up, like throwing in the towel.
In the 1920s, when Prada was all about a knee-length skirt, and in the 2010s, when the midi skirt dominated, going bare-legged didn’t mean being cold. I could wear booties with socks, a long skirt and coat, and technically I was bare-legged but only a small piece of meat was exposed.
But now the mini is back. Not just in the theoretical sense of fashion week, but in real life. Skirts and dresses are shorter – on magazine covers and in shop windows, but also on the street, on the bus, in the park. And going without pantyhose wearing a skirt that ends above the knee requires a double dose of courage, not only in the face of the cold but in feeling uncovered and naked. That’s why, while hems have crept upward, tights have made a comeback.
“It’s the season to start wearing socks again,” headlined an American Vogue in September, a statement that surely wouldn’t have gotten the green light from director and bare-legged warrior queen Anna Wintour before this year.
The renaissance of black tights began with sheer polka dot tights, or tights covered with graphic logos: fancy and trendy stockings are a way for opaque skeptics like me to start wearing tights again without losing face. Amina Muaddi – Rihanna’s favorite shoe designer, and 100% the kind of hardcore fashionista who wouldn’t have been seen dead in tights until recently – designed a range for Wolford that includes a one-legged pair in black lace. and a smooth transparent leg, and dance tights with polished latex stirrup.
But the crystal stitches and fishnets are just the access drug to the hard stuff that’s attracting us all again: the real matte black tight. Bare-legged swagger has been left behind in the old days, along with impromptu city breaks and mask-incompatible lip gloss. Reader, I’m back in tights. M&S Autograph 100 denier merino wool, since you ask. The world has really changed.