We've put together a comprehensive glossary of hosiery terms to help you make the right choice. If there's anything not covered here that you would like to know about please don't hesitate to get in touch.
Actifresh – A hygiene product that is added to hosiery to give a feeling of freshness, especially during warmer weather conditions. This takes the form of a lightly fragranced anti-perspirant and often a lavender-softening product is also added to give a smooth feel and a delicate perfume.
Boarding – A process that is used in hosiery manufacture to improve the final presentation. This is usually done after dying, when the damp hosiery is pulled over metal forms (originally made of wood – hence “boarding”) and subjected to pressure and steam. The high temperatures combine with the yarn used to ensure that the shape is set.
Cotton Gusset - Cotton or cotton compound fabric sewn into the gusset or crotch of tights to add comfort and allow them to “breathe”.
Comfort Top – Usually referring to knee or ankle highs, the elastic is designed to spread the pressure over a deeper portion of the leg or ankle to avoid discomfort and excessive marking.
Cuban heel - A rectangular designed reinforced heel, usually with a reinforced toe, sole and backseam. Most Cuban heel stockings are also fully-fashioned.
Denier – The fineness of the yarn, which, in turn, relates to the sheerness of the hosiery. The finer the yarn, the lower the denier and the sheerer the hosiery. 10 denier is sheerer than 15 denier.
Fencenet – Similar to fishnets, but with a much wider net structure. Sometimes worn with other hosiery underneath, such as matte or opaque, to give a different look in finish or colour.
Fishnet – An open net structure that is made on specialist knitting machines.
Flat Seams – Flat seams are handmade and tend to indicate a product of better quality. The seams lie flat against the wearer’s skin and give a more comfortable fit with fewer marks to the body.
Footless - Tights that finish at the ankle and are available in a range of deniers and designs.
Fully-Fashioned - Vintage style Stockings made on original flat bed machines, where the stocking is knitted flat and sewn together at the back. These stockings are usually knitted of 15 denier 100% nylon yarn with no stretch. Fully-Fashioned stockings always have a top welt made by doubling over the top fabric and sewing it back onto itself. A finishing hole (loop) is always left in the middle of the seam, at the back of the top welt, which allows the stocking to fit better on the thigh. The fully-fashioned stocking often comes with a Cuban or Point Heel and is seamed at the back.
Fully fashioned stockings will look long when taken from the packet, but the volume of the leg will reduce the length. The thicker the calf and thigh area, the more the length is lost. If you are very slimmed legged, it might be advisable to try a smaller size. Please refer to the size chart and bear this in mind when ordering.
Gloss – A high shine finish
Graduated Compression – The main requirement for correctly made support hosiery is that the level of compression varies along the length of the leg. The maximum compression will be at the ankle, with a reduction along the leg. This is important in promoting blood flow back to the heart.
Hold Ups – A term given by “Pretty Polly” to self-supporting stockings. They never registered this term and it is now recognised to mean stockings with an elasticated band at the top that enables them to stay up without the need for a suspender/garter belt.
Hosiery – Defined as “knitted covering for the feet and legs”. Recognised as a general term applied to stockings, hold ups, tights, pantyhose and socks.
Lace Top - Stockings and hold-ups that have a lace top, which gives a pretty finish.
Ladder – A broken yarn or mis-formed stitch causes a loop to collapse into straight lengths of yarn, running in a vertical line up/down the hosiery item.
Lycra® - Lycra is Du Pont’s registered trademark for elastane fibre. A man-made fibre that can be made into a wide range of deniers and different products. It can stretch up to five times its original length and then fully recover. During the knitting process the control of the tension can, in turn, control the strength of the Lycra’s elasticity. Lycra can be single covered or twice, double covered. Covering the Lycra increases the thickness and handling characteristic. It also adds to the durability. Lycra can be mixed with Nylon by air jet, which is an alternative to covering it. These air intermingled yarns are widely used in support hosiery. The use of Lycra in hosiery includes waistbands and control tops. It is also “laid in”, as in 15 denier hosiery, where it is laid in every third row to enhance fit. Lycra 3D transforms the way hosiery looks and acts. With this technology a very smooth and comfortable fabric is produced, which gives stretch in all directions and an excellent fit. As well as exceptional comfort and clear, even colour coverage, it has a unique softness and silkiness.
Matte – A flat look that has no sheen. This is due to the use of multi-filament yarns in production that don’t give off light reflection.
Mock Seam – A false seam that is sewn or printed onto the back of seamless hosiery.
Nylon – Nylon is a polyamide yarn. With basic ingredients originating from the petro chemical industry, it is man-made fibre. It is bright, but it can be given an appearance that is dull or semi-dull. It can also be produced to give different texture and appearance.
Nylons - Hosiery that is made of 100% nylon.
Opaque – Higher denier yarns give an appearance of opacity (you can’t see through them)
Pantyhose – American definition for a panty and stockings that are made into one piece that is a waist high garment that extends from the waist to the toes (see under tights).
Patterned - Hosiery that has a pattern.
Plain Top - The top of the stocking or hold up will be plain with no fancy decoration or lace.
Point Heel – Also known as a French heel, a pointed reinforcement on the back of the heel area on seamed hosiery.
Queen Size – Sizing for larger sizes. Considered to be an extension of the standard size range, rather than fuller-figured, which is considered a separate category.
RHT - This stands for "Reinforced Heel & Toe" and means that this area has a slightly more dense weave to improve the wear rate and prevent runs. The heel and toe area will appear slightly darker.
Reinforced – Describes parts of a garment that have been strengthened to give extra durability.
Ribbed – Often in the form of vertical patterns of alternating ridges. The design may be formed by differences in yarn weight, knit stitch or opacity.
Run-Resist – A method of hosiery manufacture that means damage does not normally result in laddering.
Sandal Toe - This means that the toe area is identical to the rest of the leg, with no colour difference or visible reinforcement. Ideal if you are wearing open toe sandals.
Seamed - This means there is a seam running down the back. This can be purely cosmetic and decorative (i.e. added after the hosiery is completed) or part of the manufacturing process, and represents where the stocking is joined.
Semi-Boarded – A manufacturing process that improves the presentation of the finished article. After dying, the hosiery is pulled over equipment and subjected to heat. This procedure removes creases and gives the hosiery a smoother appearance prior to packaging.
Semi-Opaque – Hosiery that ranges between sheer and opaque. Hosiery within the denier range of 25-35 usually falls within this category.
Shadow Toe – A type of reinforcement that offers less of a visual difference in the density of the fabric, but still offers durability.
Sheen – A surface appearance that gives iridescence or a slight lustre.
Sheers – Generally refers to hosiery within the ranges of 10-20 denier.
Sheer to waist - Tights that have the same sheer finish all the way up to the waist, with no reinforcement around the panty area. This style compliments mini skirts or dresses with a high slit.
Shiny – Hosiery that is made with trilobal or flat yarns that reflect the light. This has the appearance of a very shiny look on the leg.
Silicone Top –Most hold ups have an elastic band sewn to the top that is backed with silicone on its inner surface. This ensures the hold ups stay in position because of the elastic and the friction of the silicone against the skin. The silicone can become ineffective by contact with body lotions, oils and talcum powder, as they all reduce the friction of the silicone.
Slight Sheen – A look that gives a slight reflection of light that evens out the appearance of the colour on the leg. It can give the impression of a touch of moisture on the leg. This is due to the use of filaments that are less shiny and softer.
Soft Shine - Hosiery that has a subtle shine. Not as shiny as gloss, but a definite sheen.
Stockings – The modern term definition - a close-fitting garment covering the foot and leg. Different to hold ups and tights, in that they aren’t self-supporting and need to be attached to a suspender/garter belt to prevent them slipping down. Available in a range of deniers, colours and styles.
Tights – A one-piece garment that covers from waist to toe and includes a range of deniers. In the USA this term usually refers to a heavy opaque one-piece garment that covers from hip to toe and can be worn for dance/exercise.
Thread (Pull, Snag) – This occurs when the hosiery is damaged, usually by contact with something rough (a surface or a fingernail). Individual filaments or the whole yarn can be pulled away. Small imperfections are often called snags or threads. In severe cases the pulled thread can cause damage to the fabric and result in laddering.
Torque – A type of nylon yarn that has been processed to give a high level of twist. This gives a yarn with some recovery, but without bulk. A style made from these yarns is sometimes called Voile. Fabrics made from torque yarns have excellent sheerness for their denier and a bright surface appearance.
Under Welt – The band that sometimes appears beneath the double knitted fabric of the stocking top (the welt). This can appear as a plain band or may sometimes be decorated.
Ultra-Sheer – Hosiery made of a fine denier fibre that gives the ultimate in sheerness – usually ranging between 5-10 denier.
Voile - A very fine weave that gives a glamorous appearance, with the illusion of a darker outline defining the contours of the leg. (See Torque above).
Welt – Specifically relating to stockings, this is the double thickness at the stocking top that attaches to the suspender clip.
Yarn – A generic term for a group of natural or manufactured filaments or fibres that are laid or twisted together to make a continuous strand for use in production.