Pantyhose Nation

Januhairy is a celebration of female body hair. The originators want you to grow it long and donate the money you save by not removing it to organizations that empower women. Sounds liberating. I remember cutting myself shaving my legs in the bathtub, and that uncomfortable feeling of having my pantyhose pull my stubble backwards. Does Januhairy mean pantyhose face extinction? I hope so.

When I was 12, my mother finally allowed me to wear nylon stockings for special occasions, purchased at the drugstore on Main Street with my babysitting money. She thought I would take better care of them if I paid for them myself. Thus began the ritual of wearing garters and hooking them, front and back, to each stocking, ignoring the discomfort, and praying I wouldn’t snag the sheer fabric, or worse, run them.

Nylon stockings were delicate, easily blemished by a splinter on a church pew, an errant upholstery tack, or a ragged fingernail; high maintenance compared to knee socks, but the social status was priceless. Then came pantyhose, the most wondrous of modern inventions, and garter belts were left to lingerie shops and porn stars. Once a girl learned the trick to getting into them, there was no limit to how short a skirt could be. Pantyhose were the gateway accessory for miniskirts.

My earliest fashion icon was Marlo Thomas in the TV show That Girl. She had the coolest clothes, the kind none of us had out in the cornfields of Illinois. I set my long hair in orange juice cans to try to make it look like hers. I rolled up my skirts to make them shorter. I hopped a commuter train to Chicago where I could walk by myself on Michigan Avenue and practice being independent. Now I’m trying to picture that girl with hairy legs and I can’t do it. Long leg hair in sheer stockings is like vacuum packed seaweed.

Billie Best Blog post: Pantyhose Nation
Marlo Thomas as That Girl

At the time I didn’t think of shaving and pantyhose as oppression. But of course, there’s a reason we never saw Marlo Thomas, or Elizabeth Taylor, or any movie star, name one, pulling on her pantyhose. The awkwardness of snaking her legs into them, stretching them over her thighs and wriggling that waistband up to her ribs, would have become a meme for women’s slavery to fashion. Pantyhose are not sexy.

In 1974, I waitressed at a disco in New York City where we girls were required to keep an extra pair of pantyhose in our locker in the dressing room. Our waitress uniform was polka-dot halter tops and very short miniskirts with matching undies, provided by the proprietor. Our heels had to be high, our nail polish perfect, and runned stockings were against the rules. Having shaved legs was simply assumed. That was life in Pantyhose Nation, and I was complicit. Now just the thought of it makes the hair on my legs stand up. I’ve been celebrating Januhairy for years.

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