Sunday October 24, 2021’s Smile of the Day: Nylon Stockings
On this Day:
In 1939, Nylon stockings went on sale for the first time in Wilmington, Delaware. Ahh but women (and men) were wearing some form of tights that gradually became more and more sheer (and enticing) over their legs for a very long time before that…
Stockings (also known as hose, especially in a historical context) are close-fitting, variously elastic garments covering the leg from the foot up to the knee or possibly part or all of the thigh. Stockings vary in color, design, and transparency. Today, stockings are primarily worn for fashion and aesthetics, usually in association with mid-length or short skirts.
Historically, even though the word sock is at least as ancient in origin, what men normally wore were often referred to as stockings, probably especially when referring to longer hose. The word stock used to refer to the bottom “stump” part of the body, and by analogy the word was used to refer to the one-piece covering of the lower trunk and limbs of the 15th century—essentially tights consisting of the upper-stocks (later to be worn separately as knee breeches) and nether-stocks (later to be worn separately as stockings).
Before the 1590s, stockings were made of woven cloth. The first knitting machines were for making stockings. The stockings themselves were made of cotton, linen, wool or silk. A polished cotton called lisle was common, as were those made in the town of Balbriggan.
Before the 1920s, stockings, if worn, were worn for warmth. In the 1920s, as hemlines of dresses rose and central heating was not widespread, women began to wear flesh-colored stockings to cover their exposed legs. Those stockings were sheer, first made of silk or rayon (then known as “artificial silk”) and after 1940 of nylon.
The introduction of nylon in 1939 by chemical company DuPont began a high demand for stockings in the United States with up to 4 million pairs being purchased in one day. Nylon stockings were cheap, durable, and sheer compared to their cotton and silk counterparts. When America entered World War II, DuPont ceased production of nylon stockings and retooled their factories to produce parachutes, airplane cords, and rope. This led to a shortage and the creation of a black market for stockings. At the end of the war DuPont announced that the company would return to producing stockings, but could not meet demand. This led to a series of disturbances in American stores known as the nylon riots until DuPont was able to increase production.
A precursor of pantyhose made an appearance in the 1940s and 1950s, when film and theater productions had stockings sewn to the briefs of actresses and dancers, according to actress-singer-dancer Ann Miller and seen in popular films such as Daddy Long Legs. Today, stockings are commonly made using knitted wool, silk, cotton or nylon (see hosiery). The introduction of commercial pantyhose in 1959 gave an alternative to stockings, and the use of stockings declined dramatically. A main reason for this was the trend towards higher hemlines on dresses (i.e. minidress). In 1970, U.S. sales of pantyhose exceeded stockings for the first time, and has remained this way ever since. Beginning in 1987, sales of pantyhose started a slight decline due to the newly invented hold-ups, but still remain the most sold kind of hosiery.
Stockings are still sometimes preferred to pantyhose in North American English, for a number of reasons. These may include the perception that stockings, and the associated use of garters, lace, high fashion, appliqué and the exposure of the thigh, are more aesthetically pleasing, or sexually attractive and alluring than pantyhose.
Both nylon stockings and pantyhose in being sheer share the advantage of being quick-drying compared to pants. Spare pairs are also easy to carry if they are ruined. If laddered they can be replaced ‘one at a time’ which provides a cost advantage over tights.
However, stockings have a drawback in colder weather, because more skin is exposed to the cold compared to pantyhose. Also, pantyhose do not require garters or garter belts, and do not need to be adjusted as much, whilst also leaving a smoother line under form-fitting clothing.
Stockings can be held up in one of three ways:
- A garter belt (AmE), or suspender belt or suspenders (BrE), is the most common way of holding up stockings. It is a piece of underwear worn around the waist like a belt but under clothing which has “suspenders” or “stays” that clip to the tops of the stockings.
- “Stay-ups” are the second most common means of support. The inside of the top of the stockings has a band (typically silicone) of elastic or highly tractive material that resists slipping down the thigh. However, there is no consistent sizing for differences in thigh circumference, resulting in some stockings either falling down or being too tight, leaving red marks and possibly aggravating varicose veins.
- A garter is the least common means of support. It is slipped over the top of the stocking to hold the stocking by essentially clamping it to the leg. These are the garters typically worn by a bride at her wedding. They have similar disadvantages to “stay-ups”.
In modern usage, stocking specifically refers to the form of hosiery configured as two pieces, one for each leg (except for American and Australian English, where the term can also be a synonym for pantyhose). The terms hold-ups and thigh highs refer to stockings that stay up through the use of built-in elastic, while the word stockings is the general term or refers to the kind of stockings that need a suspender belt (garter belt, in American English), and are quite distinct from tights or pantyhose (American English).
Other terms used with stockings include:
- Cuban heel: A stocking with a heel made with folded over and sewn reinforcement.
- Demi-toe: Stockings which have a reinforced toe with half the coverage on top as on the bottom. This results in a reinforcement that covers only the tip of the toes as opposed to the whole toe. These can be with or without a reinforced heel.
- Denier: The lower the denier number the sheerer the garment. Stockings knitted with a higher denier tend to be less sheer but more durable.
- Fishnet: Knitted stockings with a very wide open knit resembling a fish net.
- Fencenet: Similar to fishnet, but with a much wider pattern. These are sometimes worn over another pair of stockings or pantyhose, such as matte or opaque, with a contrasting colour. Sometimes referred to as whalenets.
- Football stockings: typically made out of heavy cotton or a thick, durable synthetic fabric that reaches the knee.
- Full Fashioned: Fully fashioned stockings are knitted flat, the material is then cut and the two sides are then united by a seam up the back. Fully fashioned stockings were the most popular style until the 1960s.
- Hold-ups (British English) or Stay-ups: Stockings that are held up by sewn-in elasticated bands (quite often a wide lace top band). In the US they are referred to as thigh-highs.
- Knee highs: Stockings that terminate at or just barely below the knee. Also known as half-stockings, trouser socks, or socks.
- Matte: Stockings which have a dull or non-lustre finish.
- Mock seam: A false seam sewn into the back of a seamless stocking.
- Nude heel: Stockings without reinforcement in the heel area.
- Opaque: Stockings made of yarn which give them a heavier appearance (usually 40 denier or greater).
- Point heel: in a Fully Fashioned stocking it is a heel in which the reinforced part ends in a triangle shape.
- RHT: Abbreviation of reinforced heel and toe.
- Open-toed: Stockings that stop at the base of the toe with a piece that goes between the first and second toes to hold them down. They can be worn with some open-toed shoes, especially to show off pedicured toes.
- Sandalfoot: Stockings with a nude toe, meaning no heavier yarn in the toe than is in the leg. They are intended to be worn with sandal or open-toe shoes.
- Seamed: Stockings manufactured in the old Full-Fashioned manner with a seam running up the back of the leg. In the past they were manufactured by cutting the fabric and then sewing it together.
- Seamless: Stockings knit in one operation on circular machines (one continuous operation) so that no seaming is required up the back.
- Sheers: Stockings generally of a 15 to 20 denier.
- Stocking Feet: Shoeless feet covered by stockings or socks.
- Suspender belt (British English) or Garter belt (American English): a belt with straps to keep stockings (not hold-ups) on place: usually they have 4 straps, but may have also 6 or 8.
- Ultra sheer: A fine denier fiber which gives the ultimate in sheerness. Usually 10 denier.
- Welt: A fabric knitted separately and machine-sewn to the top of a stocking. Knit in a heavier denier yarn and folded double to give strength for supporter fastening (per Wikipedia).
First, a Story:
What does a lingerie store and a guitar store have in common? They both sell G-strings…
Second, a Song:
The Nylons are an a cappella group founded in 1978 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, best known for their covers of pop songs such as The Turtles’ “Happy Together”, Steam’s “Na Na Hey Hey Kiss Him Goodbye”, and The Tokens’ “The Lion Sleeps Tonight”.
The band’s current lineup includes Claude Morrison (tenor), Garth Mosbaugh (tenor/baritone), Gavin Hope (baritone/tenor/bass) and Tyrone Gabriel (bass/baritone). Morrison is the only original member still with the band (and still living) today.
The band has reissued all their albums on CD through Unidisc Music.
The Nylons’ original lineup consisted of Claude Morrison (tenor), Paul Cooper (baritone; born James Paul Cooper in Pikeville, Tennessee, February 20, 1950 – December 29, 2013), Marc Connors (tenor), and Denis Simpson (bass). In April 1979, Simpson left the group to perform in a musical and was replaced by Ralph Cole (bass). All of the original members were gay men, although later lineups included both gay and non-gay singers. Cole left the band in late 1981 and was replaced by Arnold Robinson (bass).
In 1986, the group appeared on the critically acclaimed children’s television show Sharon, Lois & Bram’s Elephant Show, featuring children’s entertainers Sharon, Lois & Bram. The Nylons appeared in Season 3 of the show on the “Treasure Island” episode, singing “The Lion Sleeps Tonight”. These songs appeared on the band’s albums Seamless (1984) and Rockapella (1989). During this era, the band also gained exposure from the mid-1980s syndicated sitcom Throb by singing (with the show’s lead actress Diana Canova) the theme to the show.
In October 24, 1992, The Nylons sang “O Canada” at Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium in Atlanta, Georgia, preceding Game 6 of the 1992 World Series, in which their hometown team, the Toronto Blue Jays, won their first championship.
Cooper retired from the band in 1990 and was replaced by Micah Barnes (baritone). Connors died in 1991 from AIDS related complications, and was replaced by Billy Newton-Davis (tenor). In 1994 both Newton-Davis and Barnes left the group to pursue their solo careers, and were replaced by Garth Mosbaugh (tenor) and Gavin Hope (baritone) respectively. In 1997 Hope left the group to pursue a solo career and was replaced by Mark Cassius (baritone). In 2005, Cassius left the group; Tyrone Gabriel replaced him. After Robinson’s retirement in early 2006, Gavin Hope returned as baritone; Tyrone Gabriel moved to the bass position to replace Robinson.
Paul Cooper died in 2013 of cardiac arrest, at the age of 63.
On May 30, 2014, the Nylons performed a show in Toronto which included the participation of every living past or present member of the band.
In fall and winter 2016, The Nylons toured and performed their farewell show throughout Canada.
“The Lion Sleeps Tonight” is a song originally written and recorded by Solomon Linda under the title “Mbube” for the South African Gallo Record Company in 1939. Linda’s original was written in Zulu, while the English version’s lyrics were written by George David Weiss. The song was adapted and covered internationally by many pop and folk revival artists in the 1950s and 1960s, especially after it was published by Folkways Music Publishers in December 1951, including Henri Salvador, the Weavers, Jimmy Dorsey, Yma Sumac, Noro Morales, Miriam Makeba, and the Kingston Trio. In 1961, it became a number one hit in the United States as adapted in English with the best-known version by the doo-wop group the Tokens. It went on to earn millions in royalties from cover versions and film licensing. The pop group Tight Fit had a number one hit in the UK with the song in 1982. This song is written and composed in the key of F major.
Here are The Nylons performing “The Lion Sleeps Tonight”. I hope you enjoy this!
Thought for the Day:
“When I think about fashion and elegance, I imagine a woman from the 1950s, on an airplane, with seamed stockings and a garment belt underneath, a skirt, high heels, and her hair that she’s done the night before, perfectly done eyeliner, lipstick, gloves, perhaps, and all this just to sit on an airplane for a transcontinental flight.” – Liz Goldwyn
Further to Greenwich Mean Time Smile, Sid White of Surrey, BC, Canada writes:
Did you know that Coast Meridian or 168th Street played an important role in the history of Surrey. Also, it became the basis for dividing the Lower Mainland into various regions geographically. Coast Meridian School was of course named after the Meridian. I enjoyed reading this article. Thanks!
And further to the Boris Pasternak Smile (Dr. Zhivago), Gerry Wahl of North Vancouver, BC, Canada writes:
“This is a classic movie! My grandmother was in Russia/Ukraine at that time (on the wrong side) and said the movie was very realistic.
She cried through a lot of it “
Have a great day!
Dave & Colleen
© 2021 David J. Bilinsky and Colleen E. Bilinsky
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