Black tights are fashion Marmite. If you love them, you look forward to the first brisk September or October day when it is acceptable to stop pretending that “late summer” exists on these shores and layer a thick pair of tights under your dress. You have strong views on optimum denier count and can debate the relative merits of Falke and Wolford at length. You could happily give a Ted talk on the whether the Edie Sedgwick modern jazz vibe of a matte pair is more chic than the lustre of a velvet or satin finish.
The other camp – my camp – would sooner brave horizontal snow and sleet bare-legged than be seen dead in a pair. In fashion, not wearing tights has long been a badge of honour. Around the time that tottering around in high heels all day stopped signalling elegance and began to make you look a bit deranged, going bare-legged took over as the style set’s equivalent of a club tie. Going bare-legged through winter requires a high tolerance for windchill and, depending on your skin colour, a time-consuming fake-tan habit. Still, the bare-legged brigade eschew tights because we think it looks better.
I suppose this is all an elaborate justification for the fact that I stopped wearing tights because no one else on the front row was wearing them and they felt kind of scruffy. Going bare-legged made me feel like a contender. Style is a way of insisting on something, as Susan Sontag said, and black tights felt like giving up, like throwing in the towel.
In the noughties, when Prada was all about a knee-length skirt, and through the 2010s, when the midi skirt ruled, going bare-legged didn’t mean being cold. I could wear ankle boots with socks, a long-ish skirt and a coat, and I was technically bare-legged but only a tiny bit of flesh was exposed.
But now the mini is back. Not just in the theoretical, fashion-week sense, but in real life. Skirts and dresses are shorter – on magazine covers and in shop windows but also on the street, on the bus, in the park. And going without tights while wearing a skirt that ends above the knee calls for a double dose of bravery, not only in the face of cold but in feeling exposed and naked. Which is why, while hemlines have been creeping upwards, tights have been making a comeback.
“’Tis the season to start wearing hosiery again” ran an American Vogue headline in September, a declaration that would surely not have had a green light from editor and bare-leg warrior queen Anna Wintour before this year.
The black tights renaissance began with polka-dotted sheers, or tights plastered with graphic logos – fancy, fashion-forward hosiery being a way for opaque-sceptics like me to start wearing tights again without losing face. Amina Muaddi – Rihanna’s favourite shoe designer, and 100% the kind of hardcore fashionista who wouldn’t have been seen dead in tights until recently – has designed a range for Wolford that includes a pair with one black lace leg and one plain sheer leg, and stirrup-footed dance tights in high-shine latex.
But the crystal dots and the fishnets are just the gateway drug to the hard stuff that is luring us all back in: the true black opaque tight. Bare-leg bravado has been left behind in the olden days, along with spur-of-the-moment city breaks and mask-incompatible lipgloss. Reader, I’m back in my tights. M&S Autograph 100 denier merino wool, since you ask. The world has truly changed.