For the last 10 years or more, the business of women’s stockings has been very simple. The general theme is “No socks.”
–If you were wearing a dress or skirt, you wore no stockings. Occasionally, if an outfit or the weather demanded it, you wore tights. Black tights.
–If you were going to the gym, you wore stockings that peeked a teense over the top of your sneakers.
–If you wore pants, you wore no stockings; occasionally, you wore short crew socks in the same color that were mostly covered by your long pants hems.
That was about the extent of the stocking thing.
This regime had consequences.
For me, it meant a smaller stocking wardrobe. Over time, I realized that all I needed were a few pairs of pant socks (black, navy and gray) and a couple pairs of black tights, which lasted much longer than pantyhose. I moved my stockings to a smaller drawer
For hosiery manufacturers, this was a disaster. True, there were efforts to pitch tights in different colors or with herringbone checks, but these did not capture the public fancy. The only possible uptick was in sales of gym socks (assuming more women were taking up exercise or yoga or barre workouts, which I’m not sure is true.)
Change Is Afoot
In Europe, the sock thing seems to have been changing in recent years. I can think of two reasons.
First, Kate Middleton, the duchess of Cambridge, has been seen wearing pantyhose at several events. This may be because she married into a pretty conservative family, but she still is an international fashion icon.
Second, fashionable Europeans spend more time walking in crowded cities, and they may crave a bit more comfort. City streets are littered with small stones carried in on the tires of cars and buses. Stockings offer a bit more protection than shoes alone, and much more protection than open-toed sandals and the open-toed boots that have been so popular recently.
One of my favorite websites is thesartorialist.com. Sart is a fashion photographer who posts excellent street snaps of fashionable people, chiefly in major European cities and New York.
For the last couple years, his posts have included many, many pictures of European women wearing short socks with street clothing. Here are a couple from last summer.
And here is a version caught by Sart last May in New York’s Bowery neighborhood.
These things have influenced me. A week ago, I attended a fancy-dress event in New York. The weather was fine, but for the first time in years I decided to wear pantyhose. (Turned out I had an old pair, still in the package, at the back of the hosiery drawer.) When I got to the event, I found that I was not alone in this impulse.
Tomorrow: Hosiery from the Fall Collections