Those people who find hosiery a pain are free to renounce it, while those who enjoy or endure it can indulge a multiplicity of pleasures — all the old thrills of all the old frills condensed in an ultrasheer embrace. Once, the goal of following the mode in hose was to achieve conformity; an old Hanes ad captures the ideal in its illustration of a cancan kickline, identical curves of calves receding to infinity. Now that hosiery is no longer quite so compulsory, it has been refashioned as a site of play. The browser confronts a carnival of decorative possibilities: jubilations of patterned tights and dainty plays of dots, embroidery suggesting the avant-garde compromise of a tea cozy and a temporary tattoo. There are mass-market numbers apparently engineered to adjust to body temperature and most definitely embellished with crystals, and there are high-end fishnets constructed with an understanding of the millimetric nuances in flirtiness. I wonder what veterans of the Nylon Riots, for whom a run in a stocking was a blot on the day, would make of the habit of wearing deliberately ripped hose to lend yourself a punk-waif atmosphere.
What was a cultural monolith fragmented into many niches, and the official language of hose gave way to a Babel of vernacular. These duds do not say the same things they did in the day before, for instance, the acceptance of leggings as trousers signaled a revision of the rules of lower-body array. Think of the deliberate run as a manifestation of the decay of ideas of order. Women’s hose have evolved into something new and dissolved into nothing all at once, just as measured feet of poetry evolved into free verse.
Troy Patterson, “On Clothing”, The New York Times Magazine (4 October 2015), 21.