The Great Debate: To Wear Or Go Bare


Last week, I read a very interesting story in the Wall Street Journal debating whether woman should be wearing panty hose in the office.  The question was asked as the weather grows warmer, “Are bare legs proper?”

The writer of this article, Christina Binkley responded to a request by the president of a small financial institution in Wichita, Kansas with approximately 50 employees spanning several generations.  The business until four years ago prohibited women from wearing boots, mules or backless shoes; and hose were strictly enforced.  Now, the president of this Credit Union is finding it increasingly difficult to enforce his company dress code concerning stockings.

This pressing issue came to the forefront when Mr. Holt hired a 28 year old executive director of administration and human resources, about a year and a half ago.  According to the article, Ms. Spear informed her boss that “wearing hose to professional events sometimes made her stand out awkwardly.”

To say the least.  In doing a little research, ABC television did an unofficial survey and discovered “that most large companies, including Coca-Cola, Microsoft and insurance giant AFLAC, do not require women to wear hosiery. Women in New York also said that virtually no one they know wears pantyhose to work, and if they were required to, there might be an uprising. ‘I think there would be a definite lash out by the women,’ said one New York woman.”

This brings us back to Mid American Credit Union.  It appears after speaking with the WSJ, along with Ms. Spear’s survey of 17 other financial institutions (75%  polled did not require stockings), Mr. Holt is relenting.  “I didn’t want to be so old-fashioned that people would be like, ‘Do you require corsets, too?’ ” he said.  In coming weeks the company plans on holding meeting to roll out a new policy on wearing panty hose.

stocking ad

Nearly 6 years ago when I worked in the insurance industry, there was no question about whether or not to wear hose to work.  The answer was always.  I had a female office manager in her 40’s who frowned upon wearing mules, open toes or sling back shoes as well.

When dealing with opinions of stockings, the WSJ article, infers that stockings have a generation gap.  If you are a woman who entered the workforce before 1990, you may consider “hose…as necessary as underwear.” 

I have to say that I am just a little conflicted on this topic.  Generally speaking, I hate wearing pantyhose.  That being said, I think a woman wearing a suit with a skirt should wear hose.  Call me old school, but I think a business suit is really dressy and conservative, lending the same invitation to your legs. I recently spoke about this with a friend of mine and she seemed a little taken aback that one would even consider wearing hose in the summer.

So if you are going without stockings at work, I think you should keep a few things in mind. First, keep your skin well hydrated.  Use lotion everyday to keep your skin looking soft and healthy.  Ashy, scaly skin is not attractive.  Further, if you have varicose veins, several mosquito bites or bruises, wear stockings or cropped pants.  It just looks bad at work.  You want to look polished and professional, not like you just left a rugby match or a hiking expedition.

Also, if you are wearing sandals with open toes, YOU MUST HAVE GROOMED TOES!  Ok, sorry for the screaming, but I just can’t stand to see women with 6 month old chipped polish and untrimmed toe nails.  You don’t have to pay for a pedicure, do it yourself.  (This could be a whole new post, so I will leave it at that, but please keep this in mind.)

So now I’m interested to know how you feel about this topic.  Does your company have a hose policy?  Do you think it’s fair?  Should panty hose be banned?  Leave a comment!

By the way, I would be remiss if I didn’t direct you to the fantastic site that I found these vintage advertisements, Found In Mom’s Basement.

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Filed under Advertising, Beauty, Business, Fashion, Fashion Sensei, pop culture, retail, Style

21 responses to “The Great Debate: To Wear Or Go Bare

  1. Great topic! And particularly timely, given the sweltering heat we’re having here in the Northeast.

    I’ve never worked anywhere that required hoisery, but working in consulting as I do, it comes up when visiting clients from time to time on whether or not it’s necessary. For the most part it’s not required (and could be perceived as fussy on our end if we’re overdressed compared to them), but if I really need to wear something, I’m more likely to pull a pair of dark knee-highs on rather than tights or stockings. I hate stockings with a burning passion–I always have. They make me feel really itchy and I always snag them somehow after one wearing. And I would rather die than try to wear them in this weather–I’ll take my chances with a pant if it comes down to that!

  2. LucyAndTheBeasts

    I must admit I am surprised that this debate continues in the workplace. I was suprised to learn that my cousin who worked as a bank teller in Texas was still expected to wear nylons in the height of the summer. This certainly in no way ensured or improved her performance, in fact, it was more of a distraction for her as the bank wasn’t cooled properly making her uncomfortable. I work for a global search firm and we embrace the “bare” approach with the understanding that a professional look is the only acceptable look. In an office of 70+ people with a large female contingent, there haven’t “bare” blunders but there are professional, productive, and happy employees.

  3. I believe bare legs are just wrong almost anywhere with a few exceptions, including the beach and other outdoor locations.

  4. fashionistadanie

    I’ve actually never heard of having a hose policy. I’m 23 and just entered the workforce. It seems weird to me actually. I only wear them for job interviews or when it’s cold outside. I think they look worse than bare legs, personally.

  5. nothingfancy1

    Very interesting. I’m old school too. I believe that a business suit is classy and professional and needs hosiery to complete the look. That said, I wouldn’t dream of wearing hose with a sundress. So I guess it depends on the outfit and also the shoes. If you’re wearing pumps – don’t they just look odd without hose?

    I work in the finance industry. Our office has a business casual dress code. So outside of the big-wigs, most women do not wear business suits and I rarely see a dress. Although I must admit – those who wear suits, wear hose. Dresses? Summer – no hose. Winter – definitely hose.

    So my question is about the little black dress. I’m going to a wedding in July. I have my little black dress to wear. It’s sleeveless, a-line and hits just above the knee. I have some strappy heeled sandals to wear with it. My legs are so WHITE and well…dry and unattractive that I would feel more comfortable in hose. BUT…what is the rule here? What is IN STYLE? Do I go with a very light pair of hose to match my skin? Help!

    Anyway…good topic. Lots of room for debate.

    And let me just qualify everything I’ve written here, by saying that I’m a 43 year old fuddy duddy who’s trying to get rid of the fuddy and duddy.

  6. nothingfancy1

    Okay…one more thing. What about age? Do we really want to look at the bare legs of women over 50? Unless they are spectacular. . . I’d have to say ‘no’. How about women in the 40-50 age range?

    Pipe in, ladies!

  7. indianrosefashionista

    I can understand that bare legs may be frowned upon in particular working environments (such as the legal field), but how can we be expected to wear hoisery in such heat?

    IMO, it is more important for an individual to be dressed in a clean, smart and professional way. People shouldn’t be concentrating on whether so and so is wearing a pair of hose or not….they should be concentrating on their work!

  8. In reading everyone else’s comments, it seems that the summer heat is a reason for not wearing hose. I find myself freezing to death every day at my office and which I could wear a wool suit in the summer. Where do you all work and can I get your CEO to call mine? I have to chip the ice off of me at the end of each day!

  9. Toni Wilson

    I believe hosiery does add a lot to a womens appearance. I completes a look of style, sophistication and confidence. Most women wont wear them because they say they are too hot, too expensive or inconvenient, and the snags. Well I can answer all of them. Hosiery comes in different densities called denier, you can get hosiery very thin,cool and light to heavy and hot, so no excuses there. As for the expense, who ever said looking good is cheap.Hosiery comes in all prices. If pantyhose are inconvenient, wear thigh highs. If you buy them long enough, you wont have to worry about them showing and its abreeze to go to the bathroom. Lastly snags can be addressed by wearing hosiery gloves before putting on your hose. One last thing, I think laziness also plays a part. A lot of women dont want to take an extra 1-2 minutes to put them on.

  10. whatmenthink

    not in Los Angeles. That’s for sure.

    Hey Sensei! Would you mind weighing in on my What men think about women’s make up post???


  11. fashionistadanie

    re the post by nothingfancy1…I would maybe be tempted to use one of those body lotions that have a bit of self tanner in them. Then you can wear bare legs, which will look better with strappy sandals and is also more comfortable in summer, without looking pasty 🙂

  12. Hey everyone, thanks so much for all the feedback!

    A special hello to first time commenters, Toni Wilson, Removing Black Hair Dye, and Lucy And The Beasts.

    Lucy, it took me a little while to catch on, but I recognize who you are now. I’ve been so preoccupied, that when I first read your comment, I thought hmm, that sounds like someone I know. Duh! 😀

    Anyway, no I seem to be paying particular attention to other women on their way to work when I leave the gym in the morning to see if they are wearing stockings or not. 🙂

    Also, after I wrote this post, I remembered this childhood friend of mine who wore pantyhose under her shorts until she had a tan. I also remember other women who wore nylons under their shorts. Can you imagine?!

  13. Toni Wilson

    I myself cannot believe what I am reading. Everything I read just says I am to lazy to polish my look. What dont women care anymore? I do, I wear hose everytime I wear a dress. Yes their are exceptions, sundresses, sandals, but they even make hose for sandals with a little loop that goes between your big toe. I have great legs bare, but I just think it bumps them up a notch and also finishes off my look. Just from what I hear, it seems that all the excuses point to laziness. I think hose really makes a statement, a positive statement, saying I know I look good and so do others. Come on girls and ladies think about it:)

  14. I have to say that I prefer to wear stockings with a dressy outfit – particularly in the evening and with a suit…and in cold weather climates (like Chicago or NYC)…that is, of course, with a pair of closed toe pumps. I would never wear stockings with a sandle or open toe shoe.

    I live in LA and so I no longer work in a conservative work environment so I don’t find myself wearing evening wear or a suit very often – therefore do not have the need to wear stockings. But never say never ladies. Stockings – if worn the right way – can be another accessory to have fun with!

    Just none of that faux tan stuff. Which leads me to a point I haven’t seen listed here, I think that there is definitely a cool/sexy factor difference between black hose and tan. Wouldn’t you agree??


  15. oi break all the rules here…even when it was required of me to wear hose. i’ve learned the best way to escape this mess is a great pair of black slacks–you don’t have to worry about any of this (and get away with not shaving the chicken legs too).

    also this is a fun find from the NYT’s latest social q section:

    Pedicure, Please

    My assistant doesn’t do anything for her appearance — no make-up, hair pulled back (and looking greasy) and dumpy clothes. I try to set a good example by being put together. Now that summer is here, she’s wearing open sandals and doesn’t paint her toenails. Her feet look rather unkempt, and I think painted nails pull a look together — especially in summer! How do I have a conversation with her? She wants to move out into the business world in the next year or so, after she completes her M.B.A.

    N.T., Milwaukee

    It’s admirable to worry about your assistant’s career advancement, but I’m getting a whiff that you’re a little less concerned with her development than you are grossed out by her.

    I suggest keeping your beauty tips to yourself. Being a mentor doesn’t give us leave to cross the line of inappropriate topics.

    And don’t you suppose a woman who’s bright enough to finish her M.B.A. is capable of making her own grooming decisions? Moreover, would you ever suggest a pedicure to a male employee as a step on the road to career advancement? I didn’t think so.

    Advantage, Friend

  16. Pingback: Fashion Lesson # 20: First Impression in 1/10 of a Second « Fashion Sensei

  17. Rachel McCullough

    I for one am appalled by some of the girls that honestly believe they can go bare legged and pull it off. (Kinda like the low waisted “muffin top” thing.) I mean just because some millionare starlet has hit the genetic lottery and can go bare legged doesn’t mean that anyone can. Oh and those pics in the magzines are retouched. Sorry to burst anyone’s bubble here. I am so happy to see that trend is on the way out.
    Bare legs are quickly moving out of the fashion cycle, and about time too! Those excuses that they’re too hot (they keep your pants and skirts from sticking to you in the summer), they’re too tight (buy the right size, not the size you wish you were), they itch (there are even ones with lotion and aloe in them), they make my legs look fake (better than the bruises, cellulite, imperfections, and vericose veins you’re showing the world), just don’t cut it anymore.
    Ask any man which he prefers and he will tell you, “Hosiery, without a doubt.” I wear pantyhose every day of the week continue to recieve compliments. As a woman in my mid forties, pantyhose have been a staple of my wardrobe for almost thirty years. And should be in the top drawer of any womans dresser.

  18. Victoria P. Lahay

    Well, I think it is purely a personal choice on whether or not to wear hose. I’m sure that’s no longer a business requirement in 2009. It may keep you warmer for the winter times but I don’t think it is necessary (or preferrable) during summer. Feet get sticky in hot weather so going bare foot actually let your feet breath better. On a fashion standpoint, I personally think bare legging is having a more natural look as arms and legs are both having the same texture/color. May be that’s the reason why models in Fashion Magazines seldom wear hose! I guess if one is willing to keep her feet in good shape and reserve reasobable buget for professional pedicure, going stocklingless will always be my top preference for any occassion (even at my husband’s funeral last summer). Besides, the higher worn-out on shoes will always be a good excuse to buy new ones! Just turned 50 in February, I realize that I may need hose to cover up some day but I will delay that some day the best I possibily can.

    Moreover, being a lawyer living in warmer States, I have not been wearing hose for decades. It’s always been over 90 here in Phoenix and wearing hose is simply a form of torture. That’s why no women in my office wear hose to work and I don’t even wear hose to court. It is perfectly acceptable in the professional community these days.

  19. Bella

    I for one do not want to wear a dress without hosiery. So, like another woman said, she bypasses the issue by wearing pants.
    For years we women wore hose and I have never had a complaint about them. It was just the thing you did to have a polished look with dresses or suits. They do make your legs feel and look better.
    20 yr. olds can pull it off, but come on ladies, I have seen some real sights…bruises, veins, dry skin and bumps!
    Not very pretty. I agree that women have become lazy and just don’t care anymore what they look like. I also agree with someone else on here, that women or men who do not have their pedicures or take care of their feet have no business wearing open toes shoes. I always pray that I do not see someone’s gross feet when I got out to a restaurant or while I’m grocery shopping! It just makes me sick.

  20. stacy

    A bit late in the post to be responding but this was something I felt I should respond to.

    Wearing pantyhose is a given. You are at work, you are meant to look professional. There are so many styles of sheer, barely there, cotton rich out there for those who feel that wearing pantyhose could leave them sweltering. I find that in the summer, it is easier to wear hold-ups rather than full tights which gives me some breathing room and I find that the sheer, barely there styles work well for summer. I find the idea that a skirt/cropped pant is worn without polished leg wear, either pantyhose, a shimmery tan or sporting healthy, silky, soft looking skin is a big no-no. As some others have said, it signals some laziness.

    That said, I have never come across a hosiery policy in any place I have worked, neither a policy on is generally accepted that mules, flip flops etc are not appropriate.

  21. Dave

    From a guy’s point of view I would say that bare appears too casual. If pantyhose is uncomfortably hot in the summer then follow stacy’s example and wear hold-ups.

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