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Tights were once considered revolutionary, when showing off your legs was scandalous. Warhol muse Edie Sedgwick was famously photographed in hers, with Life Magazine observing that she was “doing more for black tights than anyone since Hamlet.” Now they’re as standard as the white sock — though in talking to tights-obsessives, it became obvious to me how many opinions there are about the “right” black tights. Some like their tights super-sleek and opaque (as sheerer pantyhose might feel too much like grandma’s hosiery) while others favor playful pois styles. But there was agreement on one thing: It’s worth it to spend a little more up front on tights that won’t snag at the mere sight of an unfiled nail, rather than buying cheaper drugstore pairs that are basically disposable. (There’s only so much a dab of clear nail polish can do.) Read on for their favorites, from an “indestructible” Instagram sensation to a layerable pair made by an Italian company that also happens to be in the lingerie business.
What we’re looking for
If you’re a regular Strategist reader, you know that size-inclusiveness is one of our top priorities — so I wanted to feature tights that come in a wide range of sizes. Still, because tights tend to come in combination sizes like S/M andM/L — and brands often have their own size charts based on different heights and weights — you’ll want to read sizing info carefully to ensure you’re getting the best fit for your body. And on the subject of fit, since tights are meant to stretch, you might consider how much stretch (specifically elastane) a pair has. Cora Harrington, author of In Intimate Detail: How to Choose, Wear, and Love Lingerie (formerly known as the Lingerie Addict) explains that the standard stretch percentages of 10, 15, or 20 “will all feel very differently to the leg, and it’s impossible to say which is ‘best’ for any one person.” For that reason, I didn’t consider the amount of stretch as its own criterion; instead, I asked tights obsessives to describe how their favorite pairs feel as much as possible. It’s also worth noting that Jessica Cadmus of Wardrobe Whisperer advised that more stretch can make for a shinier appearance.
You might notice a number on the packaging of a pair of tights next to the word “denier.” Officially, denier is synonymous with durability, referring to the weight of the yarn used to knit the tights, says Gabrielle Arruda, a designer-slash-blogger who competed on Project Runway. The higher the number, the more durable the tights should be. But Harrington explains that the technicalities of denier can be complicated, so she thinks of the measurement as the thickness (or thinness) of a pair, “that is, its degree of sheerness or opacity.” Generally, most of the tights you’ll see on the market will have a denier between 5 and 100. (Though I’ve seen the occasional 200 denier pair, like this sold-out one from H&M that’s a favorite of costume designer Alison Freer.) Harrington gave me the simplest scale of denier to follow to know where your tights fall: super-sheer will be under 20, sheer will be below 40, between 40 and 50 marks the transition from sheer to opaque, opaque will be in the range of 50 to 70, and over 70 counts as super-opaque. I will note that sometimes brands don’t list the denier of their tights — whenever that happened with the pairs below, I made sure to describe their opaqueness in the text.
Once you stare at enough tights, you can become convinced that all are the same. I thought it was important to include the features that separate a given pair from the rest. I zoomed in to find details like back seams. I checked whether a pair has reinforced toes. I also looked at waistband styles — a control-top will give you something of a shapewear effect. These specifics are highlighted so you can easily shop through this list.
Best overall black tights
Sizing: XS–3XL | Opacity: Denier not listed | Design: Compression waistband, reinforced toes
Hosiery upstart Sheertex (a Canadian import) earned the most rave reviews from those that I talked to, even more than classic labels like Falke (from Germany) and Wolford (from Austria). Strategist senior writer Liza Corsillo probably puts it best: “If you’ve seen ads for Sheertex on Instagram and wondered, Is it really that good? the answer is yes.” The buzz around the company comes down to the “basically indestructible” nature of its tights, which are made from materials typically used in ballistics and climbing equipment, Corsillo explains. And those who recommended the brand’s tights marveled that they last for years.
So when it came down to choosing which pair would get the best-in-class blue ribbon, Sheertex was the clear frontrunner. (I even did an unofficial poll among my colleagues in a company Slack channel and was overwhelmed with Sheertex praise.) The Classic Sheers were the most-mentioned pair. Nadia Chaudhury, an editor for Eater Austin, loves how they slide on like a glove. Brittany Nims, associate director of e-commerce partnerships and business development at Vox Media, describes them as “gently sheer,” with a generous helping of stretch and a comfortable, compressive waistband that doesn’t roll down. Content creator Carrie Carrollo appreciates that “It’s easy to forget that they’re on.” Carollo also told me about one quirk the tights have: She once noticed some strange scrunching in the fabric, and a chat with customer service revealed that sometimes the fibers can get twisted, but pulling the surrounding material is a quick fix. “They were instantly revived,” she says. (This issue has come up in the BuyItForLife subreddit, so I thought it was worth pointing out.)
After hearing these recommendations, I asked Sheertex to send me a pair. Though these are billed as sheer, I consider them more on the semi-opaque side, in that you can see some leg, in an effect that shows off thighs and calves, giving them a more shapely appearance. But I like that there’s also a slight darkness to them, so they don’t feel too bare. And I find the tights comfortable to wear, like they are working with my body, rather than against it; even though they have a compressive waistband, there isn’t any unpleasant squishing.
Best black tights for plus-sizes
Sizing: S/M–5X/8X | Opacity: 80 denier | Design: Matte finish with no gusset or paneling
We Love Colors is known for its colorful tights (this pair comes in more than 50 shades) and its incredible size-inclusiveness, with pairs going up to a size 8X. (There are actually two plus sizes on the site, as the brand buckets 1X–4X and 5X–8X separately.) Emma Zack, founder of curve-friendly secondhand shop Berriez, recommended these tights because they don’t have a control-top, making them comfortable and freeing to move in. “I used to religiously wear Spanx tights to hold my tummy in, until I realized that I don’t want or need to hold my tummy in,” Zack explains. “I felt like I couldn’t breathe every time I wore those tights.” These are also super-opaque — Zack believes sheerer ones tend to be stiffer. “I don’t like to be uncomfortable when wearing tights,” she says. “I wear tights to be comfortable.” And more than two years after buying her first We Love Colors pair, she’s added multiple pairs to her collection. “I will never go back to buying drugstore tights after having worn these,” Zack says.
Best super-opaque black tights
Sizing: One size | Opacity: 120 denier | Design: Lower waistband inspired by yoga pants
Sister-founded Wade + Belle is another newer addition to the tights-scape. The company’s Not Too Tights are its signature style, boasting the highest denier of any pair on this list. Andrea Morabito, director of branded content at Vox Media, calls them a true “basic black” (though you can also get them polka-dotted, criss-crossed, and diamond-patterned). The tights feature the company’s patent-pending waistband (much of the brand’s branding is around the “pinchless” design), and Morabito likes that it lays comfortably flat without rolling. “The name says it all — not too tights,” she explains, so when she takes them off, she doesn’t feel as though “I’m releasing myself from a girdle.”
Sizing: 1–5 (equivalent to XS/S–XL/XXL) | Opacity: 100 denier | Design: Wider waistband with a control top
You can frequently find legwear label Hue at department stores and off-price retailers like T.J.Maxx, where Strategist writer Lauren Ro stocks up whenever she has the chance. Her latest pair are the brand’s “blackout” style — she describes them as “fade-into-the-background kind of tights,” that are “actually opaque” and “black as night.” Despite their very high-waisted control top, the waistband is not as constricting as she expected, and the legs have some compression that feels similar to leggings, giving her a supportive effect that’s still comfortable. Since she buys them for cheap, Ro doesn’t have to be precious with her Hues — though she calls them “durable, as tights go.”
Best opaque black tights
Sizing: XS–XL (equivalent to 4–20) | Opacity: 66 denier | Design: Matte finish, control top with shaping for hips and thighs
Wolford has been around for more than half a century and has a rather luxurious reputation. (It was second only to Sheertex in shoutouts.) Alisa Richter, vice president of public-relations agency No. 29 Communications, calls hers “the Tesla of tights.” Marina Larroudé, co-founder of shoe company Larroudé who’s also worked as a fashion director at Style.com and Barneys, says that the company is “known as a best-in-class” in the industry. The brand’s 66-denier tights are among Larroudé’s most-worn pairs. These are designed to resemble velvet, and she likes that the texture and thickness are in line with the brand’s “impeccable quality.” Larroudé adds, “I can always rely on these tights,” as they seem like they won’t ever tear. Those who might be in search of tights with a little more texture might consider this ribbed pair, which Wolford recently sent me to try out. These were supremely soft and breathable from the moment I put them on (I’ll be reporting more on them once I give them our full “testing, testing” treatment, so stay tuned for the next update of this guide.)
Best (less-expensive) opaque black tights
Sizing: S–XL | Opacity: 70 denier | Design: Matte finish, raw cut waistband, cotton-lined gusset
These tights from Commando, which have Arruda’s approval, are similar to the brand’s underwear, with a raw-cut waistband that feels almost as if it isn’t there. You won’t feel any of the pressing and squeezing you might get with other tights, Arruda explains. She also commends the weight of this pair, which she says is “thick enough to feel substantial and get the coverage I want in opaque tights without feeling too warm or tight.” That’s in part because of their 70 denier, according to Arruda, which makes for a closed, heavier knit. Another Commando convert is Madison Roll, a senior revenue contract analyst at Vox Media who recommends the “sheer, cute and surprisingly durable” Sexy Sheer style — it’s topped with lace that’s pretty enough to peekaboo.
Best semi-sheer black tights
Sizing: XS–XL | Opacity: 40 denier | Design: Control top, flat seams, reinforced toes
“I feel like I never want to wear pants ever again” when wearing these tights, says Michelle Li, stylist and former fashion and beauty editor at Teen Vogue. Originally gifted to her by the brand, the Annas eventually became one of her favorite pairs. She describes them as thoughtfully designed, with a control top and a gusset that doesn’t have to be constantly pulled up. The tights are knitted from the same recycled yarn that sustainability-minded Swedish Stockings (which designs its hosiery in Sweden and makes them in Italy) uses for many of its offerings — and Li says they have held up great for two years. “They’re the same as when I first opened them,” Li says, even as she has been “really reckless” with them. I also heard about the brand’s best-selling cashmere Alice tights from Tess Lins, a senior software engineer at Vox Media. Lins depends on hers when it’s cold “and I want to low-key pretend I’m not wearing winter clothes.”
Sizing: XS–3XL| Opacity: No denier listed | Design: Half opaque and half sheer, reinforced toes
The Essential version of Sheertex’s Rip-Resist Tights are semi-sheer in the truest sense: semi-opaque from waistband to thigh, then sheer down to the toes. This means you get a “hint of your skin tone peeking through” even while the tights “still clearly appear black,” explains Annalise Mantz, senior editor for branded content at Vox Media. Like Carrollo from above, Mantz doesn’t even feel like she’s wearing tights when she has these on. The Essentials don’t feature the same level of compressiveness as our top-pick Sheertex tights (so the waistband on this pair looks less like a cumberband that you’d see worn with tuxedos).
And as further proof of Sheertex’s power: I heard about two more of the Montreal-based brand’s pairs from Mia Leimkuhler, former Strategist audience-development senior manager (who’s already an on-the-record fan). She owns the even sheerer version of our best overall, along with a back-seamed pair she calls her “sexy tights.” Leimkuhler has been surprised at how these haven’t snagged on her, as she hasn’t exactly been delicate with the pair the result of “being a professional ballet dancer and hustling through quick change”).
Best sheer black tights
Sizing: XXS–XXL | Opacity: 20 denier | Design: Shimmer finish, wide logoed waistband, almost invisible reinforced toe
With the lowest denier on this list, these sheer Wolford tights are your best bet if you’re going for tights reminiscent of pantyhose. (You can choose between a number of flesh-toned colors, too.) Whenever Cadmus is wearing a higher hemline with skin exposed, she turns to these, and says they are as satin-y and soft as their name promises. She points out that they have a hint of shimmery finish, as opposed to the matteness of some of the others recommended on this list. Though Cadmus has traditionally bought more opaque versions of the company’s tights — and says some of hers have lasted more than a decade with careful hand-washing — she assured me that these are durable despite their sheerness.
An additional sheer pair that I thought deserved an honorable mention was the Thirty Five from Heist — specifically because the British brand offers a range of sizes up to an equivalent U.S. size 20. Arruda has always had trouble finding sheerer tights that don’t tear easily, but these are a notable exception. Though the tights are lightweight, they don’t “fall victim to rogue hangnails,” Arruda says. But she does suggest being a little more delicate with them; she rolls them on carefully just to be on the safer side.
Best (less-expensive) sheer black tights
Sizing: XS/S–L | Opacity: 30 denier | Design: Cotton gusset insert
Strategist writer Rachael Griffiths introduced me to the Italian brand Calzedonia (which is part of the same parent company that owns intimates line Intimissimi). One of her favorite tights from the label are these, which have a denier slightly higher than Wolford’s. She purchased several pairs with the intention of layering them over top of a pair of nude figure-skating tights for extra warmth. She describes them as “suitably opaque” so they don’t make the tights underneath them seem so obvious. And when Griffiths isn’t layering them, the Calzedonias feel “slinky — the type of slinky that makes you want to rub your feet together.” They have become a reliable staple in her wardrobe; she has only ever snagged them after a snafu with a Docs zipper. (You should also check out the company’s patterned tights as Griffiths has an extensive collection of them.)
• Gabrielle Arruda, a designer-slash-blogger
• Jessica Cadmus, stylist known as the Wardrobe Whisperer
• Carrie Carrollo, digital content creator
• Nadia Chaudhury, editor for Eater Austin
• Liza Corsillo, Strategist senior writer
• Rachael Griffiths, Strategist writer
• Cora Harrington, author of In Intimate Detail: How to Choose, Wear, and Love Lingerie
• Marina Larroudé, co-founder of shoe company Larroudé
• Mia Leimkuhler, former Strategist audience-development senior manager
• Michelle Li, stylist and former fashion and beauty editor at Teen Vogue
• Tess Lins, senior software engineer at Vox Media
• Annalise Mantz, senior editor for branded content at Vox Media
• Brittany Nims, associate director of e-commerce partnerships and business development at Vox Media
• Alisa Richter, vice president of public-relations agency No. 29 Communications
• Lauren Ro, Strategist writer
• Madison Roll, senior revenue contract analyst at Vox Media
• Emma Zack, founder of secondhand shop Shop Berriez
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