Just a moment ago, as I was scrolling through my Feedly, I came across an article in the Guardian titled “When is it socially acceptable to wear black tights?”
“What?” I thought, looking down at my legs–which were, yes, encased in black opaque tights of the sort I wear most days when it is coldish and I do not feel like wearing pants. To me, the only answer to this question could be “Whenever you feel like wearing black tights!”
Socially acceptable? Is that a thing we ask about tights? I mean, I could see if we were talking about going fully nude, or wearing the mascot costume for your local high school football team–but tights? Is there seriously a situation in which people might cluck their tongues at my tights-covered legs and go “Oh, can you believe she wore tights? She must have been raised in a barn! That is not at all appropriate!”
Then I read the excerpt–which states “When – or if – you wear black tights reveals a lot about your status, age, class and self-image. And it signals just how much you are prepared to suffer for your look.”
Here, or in an alternate universe somewhere?
Look–I am aware that “status symbols” exist. I mean, I worked in retail! I totally get that the entire point of wearing a boring-looking David Yurman necklace is to let other people know that you or your parents are wealthy enough to afford a boring-looking David Yurman necklace. Because let’s be honest, it’s not like you’d buy something that blah if it cost $15. I am also aware that in the past, old money people used to make up ridiculous “etiquette rules” just to trick the nouveau riche, which is where the whole raising your pinky when drinking tea thing came from.
I know what these things are about. But never, ever has it occurred to me that anyone would look at my tights-covered legs and go “OH, that sure is a person who doesn’t have a lot of money, and probably has really low self-esteem!” It has never occurred to me that not wearing black tights would make people think I was fancy.
Frankly, if I saw someone schlepping around barelegged in the middle of a Chicago winter, I would guess that they were a junkie before I guessed they were fancy.
I went and read the article only to become even more confused. The author, who is somewhat in the pro-tights wearing camp, says she is personally in favor of wearing black tights in months that contain the letter “R” as one does with oysters (I prefer the more simple “when it’s cold out,” but that’s just me). However, she also says that “in certain fashion circles, the answer to the tights question is: only when there is a Z in the month. That is, never in a month of Sundays.”
What the hell fashion circles are these and how have I managed to do such an excellent job at avoiding them? I mean, for what kind of people is wearing black tights such a fraught issue?
The black-tights question is the million-dollar question because it is not just about what you wear. It is about class, and money, and age. It is about how you order the priorities of how you look and what you get done. It is about your postcode and your mindset, your taxi bill and your holiday schedule.
Is it really? Then how have I gone this long in life without knowing that this question even existed? Or the apparent symbolism behind my choice to wear black tights, which I have definitely worn every fall and winter and most springs since childhood? Is this like the time I didn’t realize that Bessie Smith was not exactly singing about baked goods until I was 18 years old?
Although the assumption throughout the article is that everyone knows that black tights are for peasants, there is a bit of explanation for those of us whom this has never occurred to.
I wear black tights, when it gets really cold. But a tiny part of me dies, the first day I do so.
It is also a matter of cold, hard cash. Or, to put it even more brutally, it’s a bus-stop issue. A bare leg is a luxury that signals you have the funds to pull the ripcord and summon an Uber should the wind chill get too much. It is an age issue, too, because bare legs are a youthful look. This is not simply about whether or not you are too old for bare legs, but by going bare-legged you make it clear that you do not believe yourself to be too old for anything, thank you very much.
I use cabs all the time, still wear tights. Which, again, I wore throughout childhood and high school. When it gets really cold, I wear leggings as tights! Hell, I’ll wear fleece or cashmere lined leggings as tights! I get excited the first time I get to wear black tights, as quite frankly, I prefer fall clothing to summer clothing!
This is the most thought I have ever given to tights in my entire life, outside of wondering how uncomfortable I would be were I to wear two pairs at once. However, I am going to wear them with pride now that I know that I am thumbing my nose (toes?) at some fashion establishment I had no idea even existed until now! Who knew I could start a class war with my non-bare legs!
Original by Robyn Pennacchia @robynelyse