Think of how many times you put on a pair of tights only for them to snag in the middle of the day or rip right as you put them on. Xenia Chen was working as an investment banker on Wall Street when she started growing tired of impromptu drugstore runs and shopping for expensive pairs of tights.
“I had a really hard time finding a brand that I really loved. I felt like I was either spending 10 dollars at the drugstore for a pair that was not comfortable, didn't match my skin tone... or you spend 50 or 60 dollars for a pair of high-end tights,” she says. “It's not accessible for the average person, and when you think of the number of women out there that wear tights every day for work—whether you're in the corporate world, or you're a flight attendant, or you work in the service industry. I was just really shocked there wasn't a brand out there that really spoke to me."
Inspired by what she saw as a need in the market, Xenia Chen started Threads in 2018 while still working in finance. She dedicated herself full-time to the brand a year later. Today, she is preparing to launch Threads for Men, a new line available on August 25th.
After discovering that roughly 50% of her customers were men, Chen knew there was much-needed representation in a market that mostly targeted women. “Once we discovered that demographic, we spent a lot of time just talking to our customers and figuring out what they want,” she says. “We came to the conclusion that a lot of these men will wear tights that are marketed for women, but there's currently nothing out there right now that's catered to men specifically.” With Threads for Men, Xenia Chen wants to change that.
The new hosiery line from Threads is adding features specifically geared towards male proportions and the male anatomy. A front pouch was added to all designs to offer more room, taking into account comfort and practicality. All tights have extended sizing, geared towards people with longer legs and a boarded feet area. “It should be a lot more comfortable for them,” says Chen. “For the past 10 months, I've been working with a group of 150 of our male customers to iterate and design the perfect pair (of tights) for them.”
How It's Made
Although based in Canada, all Threads tights are manufactured in Castel Goffredo in Northern Italy. The town has been known for its textile craftsmanship since the Middle Ages. “They are true masters of their craft,” says Xenia Chen. “My whole mission with Threads is to provide this wardrobe staple at the best quality possible, at the lowest possible price. So I knew that if I wanted to get the best product, I would have to go to the place where they were the most experienced.”
For Chen, offering a quality product to her customers goes hand in hand with respect to ethical production. Threads have two OEKO-TEX certifications. This means that every step of the supply chain process has been audited and deemed safe for the environment. It also certifies that they use no harmful substances for the human body, “which is really important because it's such an intimate product." Chen also notes that the brand does not use animal products and that the family-owned factory in which the tights are made employs fair labor practices.
The Threads founder hopes that this new line will lead to greater acceptance and eventually challenge what is considered traditionally masculine. “Right now is an interesting time for fashion because we're moving away from women's fashion and men's fashion. There's a huge increase in genderless fashion or non-binary fashion,” she says. “You see people like Harry Styles or ASAP Rocky on the covers of Vogue and GQ, and they're wearing pieces of clothing or accessories that have traditionally been deemed feminine. I think that’s super cool. We really want Threads for Men to be part of that.” Chen hopes that in the future, no one will deem a man wearing tights or a skirt as inappropriate. “At the end of the day, it's literally just a piece of clothing.”
Men have worn tights in the past too. Hosiery was a must-have fashion item among the European nobility of the 17th and 18th centuries. The tights of that time were often made of silk, an expensive fabric reserved for the upper class. “When you go to museums, and you see these paintings from like 500 years ago, men are wearing tights,” says the Threads founder.
Chen says she frequently receives emails from her male customers, asking how many men wear tights or sharing that they’ve been keeping it a secret because they are afraid of what people might say. “Individually, they buy tights, but they're so siloed because there's no greater media acceptance and brand acceptance,” she says. “What we're trying to do is just really take down the silo and be like, ‘hey, look, here's a product, and it’s because you guys all requested it.'"
The Threads team also created Tights for All, a Subreddit where users can share their love of tights without criticism. It was created so that community members can interact anonymously and not face social stigma. “After we started that Reddit, a lot of people have been posting [testimonies like], ‘This is the first time that I'm connecting with others even though I've been wearing hosiery for 30, 40 years,'” says Chen.
“We want people to know that they're being seen and heard and validated. And then, we really hope that this is the first step to a renewed definition of what being masculine is”.