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Man vs. Tights

We subjected eleven pairs of opaque tights to three days of torture-testing at the hands of Sean Cormier, a professor at F.I.T.’s Textile Lab. His takeaway: The most expensive tights aren’t always the toughest.

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Photographs by Danny Kim


FABRIC WEIGHT
The thicker the tights’ fabric, the more likely they’ll keep you warm. While Cormier couldn’t test overall insulation, he could measure the weight, in ounces, per square yard. Not surprisingly, the cheapest pair, from Forever 21, was also the lightest (more perplexing were the pricey Fogal tights, which came in second to last in his test). Kate Spade’s tights, on the other hand, are the ones you want on when the weather turns.
Winners: Kate Spade (7.9 oz. per square yd.)
Urban Outfitters (6.9 oz. per square yd.)
Losers:
Forever 21 (3 oz. per square yd.)
Fogal (3.1 oz. per square yd.)


PILLING
Cormier put each of the tights through 1,000 cycles on a Martindale pilling machine, which rubs the fabric together until pill balls form. A high propensity to pill may indicate a looser knit. “On a scale of 1 to 5, you’re looking for a grade of 4 or higher on this test,” says Cormier. Six pairs passed with flying colors, while the Fogal tights again scored poorly. “This means they would develop a significant amount of pill balls in a shorter amount of time—they’re going to look rattier quicker.”
Winners: Commando, Duane Reade, Wolford, Topshop, Kate Spade, Urban Outfitters (score: 5)
Losers: Fogal (score: 1)
Forever 21 (score: 2)


STRETCH AND RECOVERY
All the tights were composed of nylon and Spandex, Elastane, or Lycra. (Hue and Xhilaration had the most Spandex—meaning more stretch—and Kate Spade had the least.) Cormier sewed a one-pound bar into a ten-inch sample from each of the contenders and allowed them to stretch for a half-hour. Afterward, he removed the weight and let the fabric relax, approximating how the tights would bounce back after repeated wear. “You’re looking for a 95 percent recovery rate,” he says. “If the fabric has high stretch and low recovery, you’ll end up with baggy knees.”
Winners: Wolford, Commando, Duane Reade, Topshop (95% recovery rate)
Losers: Hue, DKNY, Urban Outfitters (80% recovery rate)


TENSILE STRENGTH
Cormier used the ball-burst method, in which a marble-size ball is forced through the fabric to measure how much force it can take before tearing.
Winners:Urban Outfitters (51 lbs. of force per square in.)
Wolford (40.9 lbs. of force per square in.)
Losers: Hue (27.7 lbs. of force per square in.)
Forever 21 (31.2 lbs. of force per square in.)


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