AskDefine | Define tights

Dictionary Definition



1 skintight knit hose covering the body from the waist to the feet worn by acrobats and dancers and as stockings by women and girls [syn: leotards]
2 man's garment of the 16th and 17th centuries; worn with a doublet [syn: hose]

User Contributed Dictionary



From tight



  1. A close-fitting, sheer garment worn by women that covers the body completely from the waist down.
  2. A similar, non-sheer garment worn by dancers of either sex, especially by ballet dancers.


Usage notes

Even though this term is not restricted to the UK, British English does not share the US synonym pantyhose.


woman's garment
  • Czech: punčocháče
  • Finnish: sukkahousut
  • French: collant
  • Italian: collant
dancer's garment
  • Finnish: trikoot
  • Italian: calzamaglia
  • Irish: riteoga

Extensive Definition

Tights are a type of fabric leg covering, usually extending from the waist to feet, and fitting as tightly as possible to the body (from which the name derives).
Wearing of tights has a long history going back several centuries, when they were worn by men. Today, they are worn primarily by women and girls and some men, as well as infants and toddlers of both sexes. In recent years, they have been sometimes offered as men's fashion. Athletic tights are already considered unisex.
In American English, the difference between pantyhose and tights in women's and men's fashion is determined in the weight of the yarn used and the thickness to which the garment is knitted. Generally, anything up to 40 denier is known as pantyhose and anything over can be classified as tights. In the United Kingdom the word "tights" is used in all cases when referring to pantyhose.
There are many sub-classifications of women's and of course men's tights/pantyhose that describe the precise construction (such as control top, seamless, support). Although most tights are mainly nylon or cotton, lycra is normally included in modern blends to improve fit.
In women's and some men's fashion, unfooted tights are usually called leggings. Athletic tights are often unfooted, although they may have a "stirrup" that goes under the foot to hold the cuff down near the ankle.

Historical background

Originally derived from the hose worn by European men several centuries ago, tights were made as close fitting as possible for practical reasons when riding horseback. For men of nobility the material would be made of silk or fine wool rather than the coarser fabrics used by the lower classes. At the time of King Henry VIII of England, such was the male fashion for displaying a well turned leg that even the king padded the calf area under his hose.

Examples of current use

Tights are common in the world of theater, especially in Renaissance-era costumes, and dance, particularly in ballet.
The term "tights" has been used to try to ridicule certain traditional British uniform. Most famously the Serjeant-at-Arms at the Palace of Westminster, after a protester got past the security, were described in the media as "middle aged men in tights".

Athletic use

For horseback riding, tights refers to light jodhpurs (riding pants that extend to the ankle) that are worn in summer or as an undergarment in winter. These pants, or 'riding tights', are cheaper to buy than jodhpurs or breeches (riding pants that extend to mid calf intended for use with tall riding boots). In warm climates they can be worn all year round.
Tights can also describe the leg coverings worn in cycling and other athletics, especially by runners and wrestlers. These tights are usually a thicker spandex-blend, and are usually footless.
Athletic tights received some publicity during the 2005-2006 basketball season, when players started wearing the ankle-length tights under their uniform shorts. A prominent NBA player, Kobe Bryant, was one of the first to wear tights, and the style was subsequently adopted by several other NBA players, as well as some college and high school players. The style sparked controversy, leading to proposals to prohibit wearing tights with basketball uniforms.

Health and beauty use

Because the fabric used in tights is made of interwoven fabric such as nylon or cotton there are gaps in the fabric where modern manufacturers have been able to place other items which benefit the skin. They can use microencapsulation techniques to place substances such as moisturizers and other skin creams in the tights. These creams are said to act against the skin to create a health and/or beauty benefit for the wearer. Some manufacturers have even put caffeine in tights which they claim can reduce cellulite for the wearer.

Sales of tights

After World War II, sales recovered, but towards the end of the 20th Century sales of tights started to fall by as much as 10% a year. This was mainly due to the increased prominence of trousers in fashion. Workplace dress codes were also a significant cause with the increase in casual wear, "dress down" days and the rise and rise of the trouser "power suit". The UK was particularly hard hit with sales decreasing from £400m in 2000 to below £300m in 2004.
Since 2005 sales in tights and other hosiery has recovered. This is mainly due to the increase in male tights wearers and in skirts, dresses and shorts in fashion. Also a lot young women are using brightly coloured and patterned tights to make a fashion statement. On top of this, the rise of internet retail has helped the industry. The internet should continue to play a significant part in future sales growth as tights do not need to be tried on in the shops and can be delivered to consumers easily and cheaply.


See also

tights in Bulgarian: Чорапогащи
tights in Esperanto: Kalsonŝtrumpoj
tights in Japanese: タイツ
tights in Norwegian: Tights
tights in Swedish: Tights
tights in Chinese: 連褲襪
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