When I was in high school, I heard a quote inspired by Voltaire that has been my mantra for life ever since: “I disagree with what you say, but will defend to the death your right to say it.” I try to live by this quote the best I can. In my mind, as long as it isn’t harming anyone, I really don’t care what anyone does, what they believe, or how they do it. Therefore, I really had to take my own inventory when I found myself, like most, chuckling at and judging men who wear pantyhose.
This emerging trend has been under the scrutiny and judgment of many who have cared not to understand men who wear “mantyhose” (a term often used for men’s legwear) but, instead, have looked at it as fodder for laughter and ridicule. We as humans are funny– the last thing we ever want to be is judged or humiliated for our own personal choices yet, given the first opportunity to do it, we are happy to jump on the bandwagon to laugh at others for theirs. The way I see it, this is a form of protection– better to laugh at others than to be laughed at.
I admit I was one of the laughers when I first found out that there was a group of men who wear pantyhose. Yet, that Voltaire quote kept resonating loudly in my mind and I realized I was being a tremendous hypocrite. I decided to find out more by exploring this topic on my radio show last Friday. After all, it’s ignorance that is often at the root of judgment, hatred and prejudice.
What was shocking about booking this show was the fact that getting men who wear pantyhose to speak out on this topic was incredibly difficult. Scrutiny, judgment and being public laughing stocks has nearly pushed most of these men completely into hiding and made it questionable whether or not we’d even get guests for the show. In fact, we had an interview scheduled to tape with the owner of a major mantyhose website and he never showed up for the interview. Finally, we wound up getting two guests, men’s leg-wear wearers Rob Stephenson and Kevin Wright, to agree to talk to me and, as luck would have it, were probably two of the best guests to interview.
What are Men Who Wear Pantyhose like?
I highly suggest you listen to the segment which can be found in the first 30 minutes of Friday’s show titled Fashion that makes you go, “Hmm?” , but to recap here: The first thing I want to say is that all men who wear pantyhose do not do it for fetish reasons nor do they all belong on the sex offender list. In fact, there are many reasons why men wear pantyhose that are utilitarian and, quite frankly, boring. Men wear them for warmth in the winter and/or as a compression garment for circulatory problems. Now, if you’re breathing a sigh of relief thinking, “Okay, at least it there is a justifiable reason why a man would choose to wear a pair of pantyhose” then you should also know that there are men out there who are wearing them just because they like them. What became plainly obvious to me when talking to others about this show was that as long as I could give a justifiable and universally understood the reason for a man to put on a pair of ‘hose, I would sense relief from them. Yet, the second I’d mention that there are some men, good men who are upstanding citizens in their community, men who are living healthy, happy lives who choose to wear pantyhose as a choice their skin would start to crawl. Why?
I could go on and share with you some interesting statistics like mantyhose makes up 2.5% of the leg-wear market, that according to the well-known mantyhose site e-mancipate.net in 1996, LEGGS brand opened a forum to get a better idea of the needs of their female consumers and most of the forumers wound up being men asking for men’s pantyhose products and, finally, that leg-wear was actually a menswear garment long before it became a womenswear garment, but I’d be missing the more important point: Why is this such an uncomfortable topic for most people?
Undoubtedly, the fact that there are cross-dressers and people who wear them for fetishistic reasons that has created a huge stigma around men in pantyhose, with which my guests Rob and Kevin wholeheartedly agreed. Yet, the second, less obvious reason the stigma exists is that many men who are wearing pantyhose (for whatever healthy and harmless reason) are doing it shamefully. This was a strong point made by both my guests during the show when they asked for the entire community men’s legwear wearers to be more open and honest with their choice. Yes, the world can use a little more tolerance and less judgment towards those who choose to wear pantyhose but until the actual wearers do it with pride, the stigma will always be there. Kevin and Rob both pleaded with their community to step up the plate and not hide because they believe when things are done in secret, society can only assume that something fishy is going on, even when there isn’t.
As a woman, there are many freedoms I enjoy in my fashion choices today. I can wear pants, I can cut my hair short and if I choose to dress in a more masculine manner, I can. While this seems like an incredible double standard against the freedom of men and their fashion choices, I realize that it is because of the women who came before me and went against the grain that I get to enjoy such freedoms like I do. Nothing changes in society until those who want to change things decide to accept themselves and their choices no matter how bizarre others may find them.
Check out the interview here:
For more information about Mantyhose, here are some tremendous resources for more information: