Arbitrary Criticism

A User's Guide to Tights

How to keep your legs warm without looking like Pretty Woman or Wolverine.

By Catherine Martin January 12, 2015

Her secret? She hasn't shaved all month...

Finally the temperatures in Houston have dipped low enough that it is possible to walk around outside without sweating. In other parts of the country they refer to these sub-50 degree days as “autumn.” Here, we prefer to call in sick to work and cancel all appointments. I plan to spend my winter hibernation productively, tucked into bed, streaming episode after episode of Criminal Minds on Netflix until I’ve watched all nine seasons and my eyes are bleeding.

Sometimes it is still necessary to go outdoors in this weather. Paid time off only lasts so long and you may need to save a few days for your Free Press Summer Fest hangover. Luckily there’s no reason to stop being adorable just because it’s cold, and if you have a dress-centric wardrobe it’s possible to jazz your outfit up with a cute pair of tights.

Originally I was against tights because if I were willing to have a constricting band of elastic cutting into my waist, reminding me that the five pounds I plan on losing has turned into eight, I would just wear pants. The difference here is that it’s possible to nip into the bathroom and remove your tights after a heavy meal, but you really have to gauge the nuances of a crowd before you can take your pants off in front of them.

One of the biggest concerns when it comes to tights is deciding if you should wear patterns or solids. Word of warning if you choose fancy gold-patterned brocade tights and walk along the side of the road: avoid pairing these with a fake fur coat. Recently as I went about my daily aerobic exercise a homeless man peddled up to me and gave me $20 in what I can only assume was an attempt to keep me away from the streetwalker’s life. Honestly I don’t care what people think of me as they hand me no-strings-attached money, but if you have a sense of pride a good rule of thumb is to avoid statement tights if you are wearing a statement jacket.

The way I determine whether to wear pattered or solid tights is by using what I call “the Magic Eye test.” I put on my outfit—fancy patterned tights, a dress with exotic geometric designs, and a plaid coat, for example—stand 15 inches from the mirror and then slowly walk backwards, unfocusing my eyes. If the patterns blend together to show, for example, the image of a pair of dolphins majestically breaching the ocean waves, something is off and I at least consider switching to solid colored tights.

A common misconception among women is that if you wear tights, you do not need to shave your legs. I’d like to take a moment to discuss that. Winter seems to be an off-season for many women who use this time to let their hair follicles rest, rejuvenate, and recover a sense of worth after the long summer of shaving, waxing, lasering, or whatever creative way of removing body hair that you might have. Firing squad? Lethal injection? Hanging? Personally I don’t practice this seasonal laxity; I am lax about shaving all year long. Just know that when it comes to wearing tights, there is a sweet spot.

Clear nail polish is not going to save this.

If you wear tights when your leg hair is in that weird, prickly stage two or three days after your last shave, you run the risk of your leg carpet going all Wolverine on you and slicing through the thin nylon. My mom tells me that using clear nail polish will keep a run from spreading, but let’s be realistic guys, this is Houston. Just take your tights off. Your legs aren’t that hairy and it’s not that cold.

The other stages when you can’t wear tights is when things go really far and you’re walking around like a yeti in mating season, your thick, luxurious pelt in full splendor. Ladies, come on. These are thin, delicate fabrics you are stretching over your mass of unshaven hair and disappointed dreams. They do not have the binding capacity to handle the follicular capacity of your average adult female leg. 

Tights are only optimal on two occasions. First, when you’re freshly shaved (and why would you waste that effort by covering it up?) and second, when you’re at that disgusting stage between stubble and militant feminism. The real trick here is to match your shaving schedule with the Houston weather—tights are only going to be necessary for an eye blink before we go back to sundresses and shorts.

Finally, do not wear tights with shorts. That's just gross.


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