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The psychology of stockings

psychology of stockings

Matthew’s whole complex persona centred around the unquenchable quest for the stocking. Shocking? (Easy pun. Sorry, couldn’t resist it) Not really – many men have fantasies about girlfriends in stockings and suspenders. It’s just that Matthew thought about very little else. He was, as I stated long ago, completely obsessed.

We also ought to spend a minute or two looking at the situation from Matthew’s point of view. You see, there are other elements in this equation, and each has its part to play. And those elements are tights, shoes, hemlines, trousers (God forbid), tights again, denier, Lycra, hold-ups, colour, summer, pop socks, and even ankles. With so much to blend into a perfect whole it’s hardly surprising it had become a life’s work.

Tights were the real killer, for a connoisseur like Matthew. On the lower leg they looked the same and yet they were not the same. And that, from Matthew’s perspective qualified as the first most frustrating thing in the world. Consequently it would be fair to clarify Matthew’s position as being the quest for the stocking top. Not, you understand, because he wanted to look up ladies’ skirts (he was far too polite, and too much of a gentleman for that). But because it was only with a glimpse of the stocking top (perhaps when the wearer would sit down, and her short skirt would ride up that tempting inch, showing a fraction of lace or – the ecstasy! – a suspender) that he could have unarguable proof that stockings were on the agenda.

Now, take a step back. What was the secret of the stocking, and why did it hold so much power? Was it, perhaps, the inherent femininity? Was it, as Matthew would enthusiastically describe, the delightful shadow it gave to the calf as the nylon hugged itself around? The delightful “swish-swish” of stocking-clad thighs? Was it a fascination with clothing that Matthew, as a man, was denied? Maybe, on a baser level, it was years of conditioning, from looking at pornography, and the association of stockings with sex. Maybe it was all of these, (and sex certainly creeps in there somewhere along the line) but maybe, for Matthew it was none.

Tights, then. Big problem. Not sexy. Matthew of course, enjoyed looking at legs in tights, until, paradoxically, he knew that he was looking at legs in tights. If the wearer should sit down and show an expanse of thigh, but not reveal even a hint of a top (technically called a welt, I believe, but that sounds like the after-effects of a good, stern whipping session, and bondage has no part to play here), he could be heard to give an audible sigh of frustration. Hopes built high were cruelly dashed on the rocks of Cape Gusset. Matthew’s eyes would move on. You see, he fundamentally didn’t understand why women wore tights. If you ladder one you have to replace the pair, you have to take them off when you need the toilet, and the proximity of nylon to such a sensitive area, could not, he assumed, be good for your health. Above all though, tights were despised because they were the enemy, and an enemy with a majority rule.

Matthew saw his role as a vigilante – a mercenary in the tights versus stockings war. And it was a war, no doubt about that. Complete with casualties. His crusade had had notable successes. You no doubt remember, early in 1999 (around the time of the genetically modified food scare) how there was a health warning about how tights could cause “feminine itching” and make women infertile while fresh air to the genitals (pants permitted) could help prevent all sorts of nasties like tuberculosis and cancer? That was one of Matthew’s. Dreamt up in his office back in adland, backed by spurious research from a fictitious healthcare company, and covered by all of the major broadcasters and the press. A simple idea, but devastatingly effective and yet still there was a lot to do. If you had been standing in the queue that day in the airport, you may have been able to catch a glimpse of an article entitled “Why New Women are returning to suspenders” in the magazine in Matthew’s grip. He had written it six weeks earlier – one of his many contributions as freelance fashion correspondent Marcel Bellamy. A charade, but seemingly a remarkable – and he hoped, influential – success.

Back to the list: shoes. A very important factor. Matthew was conventional in this respect. Heels were good, stilettos the best, and black suede court stilettos best of all. (For stilettos you could substitute other heels of a similarly tottering nature, although nothing too clumpy please.) Ankle boots were okay, but espadrilles were most definitely not. “Sensible” shoes (that great contradiction – what, after all, as Matthew often reasoned, was “sensible” about footwear designed solely (another pun!) to cool the ardour of a gender?) were likely to gain instant rejection. But remember that Matthew was not a foot fetishist, and even the most perfect pair of shoes (and by perfect we mean high enough to give shape to the leg, smart enough to demand legwear of some description) could be ruined if the rest of the equation was wrong.

Hemlines. Vital again. Remember, Matthew was not a pervert in the classic sense, and he had no real desire to see up a skirt or to know the colour of a lady’s underwear. But hemlines were crucial because if too long, he would never catch a glimpse of the “top”, and if too short, the wearer would sacrifice stockings at the grim altar of decency. Mini skirts were okay in the bedroom, where tartiness could be encouraged, but he knew well enough, that women were unlikely to want the attention fostered by wearing stockings and a mini in the street. And who could blame them when so many men less sensitive than Matthew were around to make unsophisticated leers of lust?

Trousers (God forbid). Another big enemy, right up there alongside the massed regiments of the army Tight. Women, he knew, were unlikely to wear stockings with trousers, and even though there was always a chance, a glimpse of nylon-clad ankle was rarely enough, on its own, to raise either his pulse or his expectations.

Tights again. Before moving onto the exotica of Denier (a word right up there with Aristoc) it’s actually worth reconsidering the position of tights. “So soon?” you cry. “Haven’t we just dismissed them?” Well, yes, but it’s not exactly as cut and dry as I may have led you to believe. Matthew thought tights were okay under one very specific circumstance: when they offered the only practical alternative to bare legs or trousers. And obviously only as long as the wearer went for those suspender tights you get in Sock Shop and the like, and when the woman concerned would choose stockings whenever she possibly could. He couldn’t think when such a circumstance would ever arise, but the get-out clause was there just in case.

Denier. Matthew, you have to remember, was first and foremost a man. The murky world of denier is not a man’s domain. If you ever find yourself being chatted up on the Internet by somebody who claims to be a woman, ask her the denier of her hosiery. It is a question guaranteed to sort out real women from the wannabes. How, then, was he to know the difference between seven and 10, or even between 15 and 20? Of course he knew what he liked – and had worked out that, in general, the lower the number the better. Opacity was not a property to admire. But having said that, he actually liked dark, black, stockings, and had to admit that the finest mesh could not contain that much tone alone. He assumed (with the benefit of some of his own experimentation in the field) that 10 denier would be pretty much the ticket but he was not sure, and it was a constant source of frustration.

Lycra. Another lady word. Lycra, he had decided, was probably a good thing from a stretch point of view, but was it the Lycra that was responsible for the beautiful sheen on some legs that was so depressingly absent from others? The problem, you see, was that questions had to remain unasked. In keeping his obsession a private affair (and always sensitive not to appear a pervert or give women cause for alarm) he was unable to approach people on the train and ask them outright about brand, finish, Lycra, and of course the denier. He was learning, of course. The Marcel Bellamy disguise gave him some license to explore the subject, but nevertheless, the direct approach was out.

Hold-ups. A curiosity. Matthew liked hold-ups, but they did not hold quite the some frisson of excitement as their more refined cousin, the stocking proper. Part of the stocking’s appeal lay, quite naturally, in the suspender belt, and obviously hold-ups denied these their purpose. Yet hold-ups were infinitely better than tights. They could still look stylish and sexy. Okay, so there was something missing (and he could never quite come to terms with the lack of suspenders), but if stockings were unavailable, hold-ups would do just nicely.

Colour. A personal matter. You have to understand that even the most unflattering colour could be overlooked, but Matthew did have his favourites. Black, obviously, for general purpose wear – the classic combination of smart and sexy. Nearly black? (Or even barely black?) He was not quite sure about those. (Hey girls, why not go the whole hog? You’ve already made it this far!) Blue – the least favourite perhaps, but it depended on the shade. White: yes! The virginal look was a guaranteed winner. Red: perhaps in the bedroom but not really during the day. Nude, or any of those other skin-type shades (Honey? Mink?): a good result, Matthew decided, on the basis that the wearer was obviously the secretive type, but that was okay with him. Within the realm of colour came the welt – or top – itself: lace tops were obviously the best, and if the lace contained the initial of the manufacturer (the intertwined PP now sadly dropped by Pretty Polly or an elegant A for Aristoc) then so much the better. Plain tops were less exciting, but he understood that they were also less expensive, and so they could happily be forgiven. Either way, the welt had to be reasonably deep for maximum appeal.

As you may have realised by now, fishnets did not enter the equation. They were okay in their own particular way, but just too obvious for a man of Matthew’s sophisticated taste.

Back to the list. Next comes Summer. This was a bad season as it gave women an excuse to go round with bare legs. He understood why. Tights must be uncomfortable in all that heat, but in that case why not switch to stockings? His hit rate of sightings went down dramatically during the summer months, and he welcomed autumn like an old friend.

Pop socks aka knee highs. For heaven’s sake, why? If anything looked less sexy than tights or the bare leg, it had to be the pop sock. Pop socks were for old people, and they had no part to play in Matthew’s obsession. But the fact that the great hosiery factories could turn out pop socks on lines not unadjacent to the ultimate lace top stocking perplexed him on many a lonely night.

Ankles. The final factor. If all else was right, the ultimate high came from a finely turned ankle. The ankle, perhaps, has a lesser role in this narrative than Lycra, say, or the hemline. But a good ankle was the final factor that could make Matthew fall in love.

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