Stockings: the hosiery equivalent of a fountain pen

Classy stockings“I think the analogy between sheer hosiery and fountain pens is far better than the one with CDs/vinyl. Fountain pens, one would have thought, have long passed their use-by date, but they are still on sale everywhere (even W.H. Smith has a large selection, as does Office World). For most important uses, whether in professional life, social letter-writing or signing Wedding registers, the fountain pen still reigns supreme.

“Maybe we are on a sad path to less ‘everyday’ wearing of sheer hosiery (even I concede that it is seen less now than, say, 10 years ago) but to die out completely – that is both unthinkable and unlikely!

“Sheer hosiery will never completely die out. Nylons are always going to be the ‘get out of jail card’ for these manufacturers. Nothing is ever likely to be as popular as sheer hosiery and they know it. That’s why every so often they will target a new generation with new role models helping the campaign. If they paid Posh ‘tart’ Spice a fortune to wear any kind of sheer hosiery tomorrow (and for her it would have to be a fortune!) you can bet your bottom dollar all of a sudden they will be the most popular item since sliced bread!”

“It is funny that you should mention fountain pens, as that exact same thought crossed my mind. I have no idea what the demographics of the fountain pen buyer base are, but I would suspect that they are on the older side. (I myself only use fountain pens, but at 34, I am considered an eccentric in my office).

“If we look for another analogy, consider the classic American station-wagon. From the ’50s to the mid 1980s, the driveways of suburban America were filled with large, traditionally styled, separate-chassis station wagons, replete with whitewall tyres and woodgrain panelling. They were the symbol par supreme of middle-class American family life. Over a few years, the market for these cars collapsed. It was not because of fuel prices or anything like that, it was just that (younger) buyers decided, en masse, that they did not want them anymore.

“This is not the place for a detailed analysis of why, but suffice it to say that General Motors cancelled its last surviving traditional station wagons in 1996 because it could more profitably employ its resources elsewhere. The new generation of buyers had, for whatever reason, decided that the big wagons were no longer desirable, and simple economic logic dictated that production was no longer viable. This same logic is, I firmly believe, applicable to hosiery. Marketing people make mistakes, but they have their finger on the pulse of consumer tastes, and marketers are particularly keen to gauge the tastes of the young, for they make the buying decisions of tomorrow. It really is as simple as that, alas.

“I don’t know where you are based, but here in West Yorkshire, the use of fountain pens is pretty rare. They tend to be confined to doctors, headmasters, solicitors, accountants; that sort of occupation: professionals of a traditionalist leaning, although I concede that there are yet more that use them (myself included). Compared with FF stockings, however, they are as common as the day is long. My last FF stocking sighting occurred in the town of Keighley in the late summer of 1991. Two formally dressed ladies in their late 50s were strolling around town, presumably on their lunch hour. As they passed, it became apparent that one of them was wearing FF nylons. I nearly died of shock, having seen no FFs for many years previously. She noticed my interest and smiled knowingly. Since then, no FF sightings whatsoever, though I have seen other types. FF stockings are – to all intents and purposes – extinct, and have been for a long, long time.”

“After Aristoc ceased their manufacture (on commercial grounds alone) in the mid-1990s, there were a few doldrum years, but fully-fashioned stockings are once again freely available – from at least three different manufacturers, in a variety of styles, colours etc. In fact they’re probably on sale at more outlets (including online) now than at any time since the 1960s. I don’t think that, in the long-term, women are so boringly self-unaware that they will TOTALLY shun sheer legwear.”

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