In truth, I missed the anniversary by a few days, which is a sadly typical behavioral trait of one part of my whole self. I’ll make it up to you next year honey, I promise! In any event, May 15, 1940 marked the day that the late and lamented Gimbels department store introduced, for the first time in human history an affordable, attractive synthetic alternative to traditional silk stockings.
DuPont had debuted nylon fabric to the world at the New York 1939 Worlds Fair, but given that its prior merchandising had been for fishing line and toothbrushes, this was an invention still manifestly in search of the Killer App. Thankfully it was found for Killer Legs.
The sales numbers are to me shocking. This product introduction makes iPad sales volumes look more like the Quick-Chop©. According to reliable sources over 64 million pairs were sold in Year 1 at $1.35 a throw ($19.85 adjusted for inflation).
Nylon stockings represented a democratization of sex appeal that I believe speaks to the very heart of American genius for commerce and innovation. A vast new market was created, and happy swarms of middle and less-than-middle class women had access to advantages of appearance that were before then, the exclusive province of the well-to-do. And O, how their happy partners, admirers and we, their descendants, have benefited from the general beautification of the world wrought from this giant and pretty stride for womankind.
All those tales about WW II G.I.’s wooing European women with nylons now make a little more sense. Gimbels (and Macy’s and etc..) had fortunate proximity to New York Harbor Naval docking facilities. This helped ensure a steady stream of shore-leave opportunists ready to stuff their duffle bags with sexy inducements to foreign hospitality. No doubt, more than a handful of nylons found their way up less shapely legs too.
For me, nylons were a very potent gateway drug, the very first thing that alerted me to the beautiful differences between men and women. My lifelong fascination with and admiration of the opposite sex was sparked in large part by what I saw on legs all around me. This fascination has over the years, resolved itself in my rewarding part time life en femme. What was a fetishy attraction to the object has ripened into something integral, found well beneath my sometimes shimmery surfaces, where former opposites now make a (mostly) happy whole together.
Further reading on hosiery in general can be found by clicking on “Petra’s Pantyhose Parade” on the Tag Cloud in the column to your right. Other ramblings on Stockings specifically can be found here and in a guest post on The Lingerie Addict here.
I would like to thank the wonderful people at Stockingirl, and Cervin whose blog posts alerted me to this landmark 70th anniversary, and whose products I can (from very satisfying personal experience) highly recommend to you, whoever the gift is intended for.