Tuesday, 5 August 2008

Men In Tights

What is so fascinating about the idea of men in tights? I don't know, but the concept of tights for men seems to have just the right combination of grotesque humour, glamour, general weirdness and a Batman news hook, to get coverage in many, if not all, of the daily papers.

Cinematic superhero inspired man tights have made it into the Independent, the Sun, the Scottish Sun, the Telegraph, the Daily Mail and many other over the past week or so. Even the international media has picked up on the story, and now the whole world - well, Germany and Australia, anyway - thinks English men wear tights.

The gist of the story, for those who can't be bothered reading the articles themselves, is that after 500 years in the fashion doldrums, tights for men are making a major comeback. This resurgence of interest in male tights is being attributed to superhero movies featuring blokes in tight fitting legware, and retailers are suddenly finding themselves out of stock in the man tights department.

They are, apparently, hurtling off the shelves at an almost indecent rate, with tights stockists like Precious Collections and Mytights reporting massive demand. It seems that men are putting on tights - from ultra sheer to heavyweight 8 denier - for many reasons, including warmth, comfort and a sense of metrosexual style. In response to demand, manufacturers have started producing tights aimed specially at male customers - i.e. bigger, stronger, with reinforced feet and convenient openings.

But, being the cynical, suspicious-minded guy that I am, I have my doubts. Oh yes, I'm quite sure there is demand for men's tights. But I don't believe it's just been turned on like a tap. Men do not watch a movie and stop off to buy a pair of tights on the way home from the cinema. Well, not many men, anyway. And even if they did, it takes more than a few weeks for manufacturers to notice demand, ramp up production and get their goods into the shops.

No, I suspect the superhero movie thing is just a blind, a trendy-sounding excuse designed to make the inherently bizarre concept of men in tights more acceptable to the general public.
And, if the Scottish Sun article and the Daily Mail's (female) fashion editor are to be believed, tights on male legs need all the positive publicity they can get!

Women don't seem to like the idea, though it's unclear whether they think it's unattractively sissy or they just don't like the competition. Unenlightened guys don't seem to like it too much either, but that's probably because they think everyone else - especially babes - will think it's sissy, and that would never do!

But the hidden truth is that many, many guys have been wearing tights for years, and I fail to see why this should suddenly become newsworthy. Take builders, for example, along with any number of other professions that require hulking great, testosterone-packed, muscle-bound macho men to freeze their ass off while they work outside in the British winter.

If, during the winter months, you could divest them of their trousers in such a way as to avoid a pickaxe in the ear, you would find all but the most inexperienced of tree-trunk legs clad in Pretty Polly's finest. Why? Because tights work for them. They keep these guys warm in the bad weather, and the men are so abundantly, self-evidently NOT sissies that the question just doesn't arise. And if it did, it would be answered in an unashamedly male way, by a fist the size of a bunch of bananas making contact with the questioner's nose.

The attitude reflected in the media reports seems to be largely confined to younger readers and writers of a less open-aired background, probably because older folks have the experience to let common sense triumph over prejudice. They know, in a way that recent victims of the British education system could not hope to match, that the ancient equivalent of tights were once indisputably male attire. To them, the sudden popularity of men in tights probably seems more like guys retaking what was once theirs than a Crossdressers' Invasion.

So, once again, the latest fashion is, in fact, old fashioned if you go back far enough. For the moment, however, I don't think I'll be leaping on the bandwagon - trendy it may be, but I can't see Mrs S taking kindly to me raiding her tights draw in the name of metrosexuality.

Billy Seggars.

No comments: