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M&S tights have been a wardrobe staple of mine ever since I was at school. Back then I had to wear grey woolly ones as the head nun (or should that be honcho?) at our school deemed the black ones too "seductive" to grace the legs of 13-year-olds (we're talking late 1990s here, not 1950s!). Now I don't know how I'd get through autumn or winter without my collection of black M&S 60 denier opaques. It seems our Sister wasn't wrong - they are quite sexy.
Why wear them?
These tights really are the Little Black Dress of the hosiery world - suitable for all occasions from job interviews to clubbing, they can be teamed with various different styles and colours of shoes, and look fantastic with leather or suede boots. At 60 den the tights are thick enough to stop the skin showing through but not so thick that they make your legs look bulkier. Being uniform in colour and matte in texture they streamline your pins while helping conceal all manner of imperfections such as stubble, cellulite, knobbly knees, thick calves, thread veins... you get the (slightly scary) picture! These tights can lend a new lease of life to summer/ spring skirts and dresses and cropped trousers, and when the weather is particularly nasty they can also be worn comfortably under trousers, since they're not at all bulky. I've also worn old ones as an extra layer under under leggings when doing sports such as outdoor running, rowing or cycling in the winter, and never found that they chafed or slipped.
The tights have a reinforced toe to prevent snags at the tip and added stretch to stop them ripping easily. They do wear out after about 2-3 years of frequent wear; usually at the toe or in the general foot area, where they tend to develop the odd small hole. They can also go a little bobbly in the same area, especially if socks are worn on top of them (e.g. under boots). Nevertheless, they last a lot longer than similar tights by other brands and I have hardly ever had a pair ladder, since they're silkier and stretchier than other makes. They're by no means loose but they do have a little more give in them than your average pair of tights, probably because they're 81% polyamide and 19% elastane lycra.
I used to buy the 60 denier opaques separately but nowadays they come in a 3-pack costing £8. The 40 denier at the same price are also good quality but a little thin for my taste. A few times I've made the mistake of buying the 60 denier 3-pack for £3. Though they look just like the more expensive tights they are 100% polyamide and quite scratchy, so are more prone to snagging and laddering. It seems you get what you pay for at M&S.
This is always my bugbear when shopping elsewhere as I have a 34 inch inside leg. The M&S size large goes up to 6ft according to the packaging; I'm slightly taller and find that they fit perfectly. The extra-large size actually seems to be shorter than the large - as with so many stores, M&S like to make their bigger sizes wider but not longer. The large size fits my mum and sister too, who are quite a bit shorter than me. The waistband sits comfortably either on the waist or lower down on the hips (e.g. for wearing with lower-waisted skirts or under hipsters): the crotch never ends up halfway down my thighs but stays in place even when I'm running or dancing.
The opaque tights can be machine-washed, preferably separated from the rest of the washing by a laundry net or similar. They dry very quickly - even the waistband - so there is no need to tumble-dry them (putting the in the dryer makes them go static anyway).
Other M&S hosiery I've tried over the years:
Body sensor tights - supposed to keep you cool when it's hot and hot when it's cool. Can't say I ever noticed a difference.
Opaque diamond - funky pattern and the most hard-wearing tights I've ever owned. Slightly thicker and warmer than the others.
Control top tights/ Body Shaper tights - they do hold things together around the midriff area but the flesh just ends up popping out higher up and creating a muffin top. They can be painful to wear after a large lunch!
Coloured opaques: these have a similar degree of softness and stretchiness as the 60 denier black tights, but are more transparent. Blue tights with my pasty skin shining through give me a frostbitten look - perhaps they are better for ladies with shorter legs, as their tights won't be as stretched..
Ribbed: These have lasted me over a year so far; they are softer and a little thinner than the classic opaques but the ribs are thicker and so make these tights cosy to the touch. The size large also seems a little longer. They are useful for adding a bit of interest to an outfit of plain leather boots and understated skirt.
Other uses: A girl I know used to make cropped tops out of black M&S opaques by chopping off the feet then cutting a hole in the crotch and sticking her head through it, using the legs as sleeves. Went down a treat at goth nights! Other people use them to store onions in. I'm not sure which is stranger!
Marks & Spencers have been my one stop shop for tights for as long as I can remember. I absolutely adore their black opaque tights and refuse to buy them from anywhere else - the M&S ones are silky soft and really comfortable. They're durable too - never have I had a pair ladder or get a hole in! Unfortunately, this means that my mum and sister like to steal them when they go in the wash!
I also really like the woolly school tights in the kids range - there's always an advantage to being small! They come in black, grey, navy, red and green and are so comfortable and warm; perfect for covering up in winter for trouser-phobes like myself!
Aside from these, M&S do so many different ranges of tights that it's often quite daunting stepping into a shop! They have stockings, tights and socks of every dernier and every colour imaginable. They have a special 'non-slip' range that is perfect for wearing with shoes that are just a shade too big, a climate control range which I've been putting to good use this summer, and of course their fashion range which includes fishnets and other patterns.