The modern hosiery era began with the democratization of silk stockings, which were once on the verge of seeming a contemptible extravagance. After World War I, the price dropped to put them within the reach of a middle class newly encountering the ‘‘artificial silk’’ of rayon, which on the one hand was cheap and on the other looked cheap. DuPont introduced nylon stockings at the New York World’s Fair of 1939 by presenting a model (Miss Chemistry) emerging from a test tube, her legs coated in a polymer boasting futuristic properties: ‘‘filaments as strong as steel, as fine as a spider’s web, yet more elastic than any of the common natural fibers.’’ Within two years, nylon had captured 30 percent of a market dominated by the silkworms of a bellicose Japan. During World War II, when DuPont directed its nylon toward ropes and tarps and parachutes, nylon stockings came off the market. When they reappeared, the shop-floor frenzies that followed were construed as Nylon Riots. Imagine these scrambles as the claiming of delicate peace dividends and baptismal sites of postwar consumerism.
Troy Patterson, “On Clothing”, The New York Times Magazine (4 October 2015), 20.