Tights are a kind of cloth leg garment, most often sheathing the body from above the waist to the feet with a tight fit, hence the name.
In American English, the difference between pantyhose and tights 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, as for example 'running tights' and 'cycling tights'. In the United Kingdom, the word "tights" is used in all cases when referring to pantyhose, and "leggings" for footless tights of heavier, normally opaque material. Tights can be sheer yet solid in colour, whereas leggings are almost or absolute opaque, not sheer. Thus the almost opaque tights are not suited as pants.
There are many sub-classifications of tights or pantyhose that describe the precise construction (such as control top, seamless, support and sheer). Although most tights are mainly nylon or cotton, lycra is normally included in modern blends to improve fit. Athletic tights are absolute opaque and often footless, although they may have a "stirrup" that goes under the foot to hold the cuff down near the ankle.
In both historic and modern times, the wearing of tight hosiery by males has sometimes been associated with an accompanying garment fitted over the groin of the male genitalia. In the 15th century, some men wore an elaborate and decorative cod piece to accentuate their genital endowment, and as a symbol of their virility. In modern times, male ballet dancers generally wear a dance belt beneath their tights both to provide support to the genitalia and to promote a smooth, regular appearance since tights are so skin tight as to be revealing of the contours of the male anatomy.
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. Portrait paintings of him and other nobility often portray the wearing of a cod piece covering the groin.
Wearing of tights has a history going back several centuries, when they were worn by men. Today, they are worn primarily by women and girls and some men and boys, 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.
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".
For horseback riding, "tights" in some equestrian circles can refer to tightly fitting riding pants of light material that extend all the way down to the rider's ankle and worn with a 'paddock' style (ankle height) boot. Such pants are worn in summer or as an undergarment in winter. In warm climates they can be worn all year round. These "riding tights" are cheaper to buy than jodhpurs or breeches which are a type of riding pant made of heavier material and which extends only to mid calf length and are intended to be worn with tall riding boots. Tights can also describe the leg coverings worn in bicycling in cold weather and in other athletic activities, especially by runners. These tights are usually a thicker spandex-blend, and are usually footless. It has also been advocated by some sport scientists that the wearing of tights can reduce muscle tissue vibration. Tights are popular use of dancers, especially in ballet. Modern dancers also may wear tights.
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.
In colder temperatures outdoors, American football players sometimes wear spandex tights next to their skin beneath their normal padded stretchy, tightly fitted pants.
Because the fabric used in tights is made of interwoven fabric such as nylon or cotton, there are pores 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.
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