The coveted title of 'inventor of Pantyhose' goes to Allen Grant Senior, of Glen Raven Mill, California, in 1959. The inspired idea behind 'pantyhose' was a combination of 'panties', the American term for knickers, and 'hose' , referring to hosiery, ie stockings. Grant produced these items, which were sewn together, with an opaque nylon top section doubling as knickers, thus eliminating the need to wear additional undergarments. By 1965, the production had been perfected and the garments were now literally 'seamless'. Coincidently, the swinging 60's saw the rise, literally, of the mini-skirt. Women could now wear very short skirts, without the worry of showing off their stocking tops or garter belts. The terms 'Pantyhose' and 'tights' are an Anglo-American point of contention.
In the UK the term 'tights' is used to refer to all 'tights'! A garment that covers your legs from the waist down, encompassing your feet (although recently there has been a renaissance of 'footless tights' for peep hole toe sandals). All tights are not created equal though and, as such, are classified and separated by 'denier'. Denier returns to the thickness of the material, ie 10 denier would be light, sheer, see through, whereas 70 denier, would be opaque, thicker and more suitable for winter wear and when one is required to keep warm. The term 'tights' stretches to include even children's woolly tights! In America, 'Pantyhose' refers to what in the UK would be classed as lighter denier, usually up to 40 denier, sheer, transparent tights. Either sheer to waist or often with a opaque knicker-like section at the top. They usually come in natural or nude shades, which means that your legs can look tanned all year round. Pantyhose or sheer tights are often seen as ideal formal work wear. They can compliment any outfit and create the appearance of a more professional finish. In the 90's in particular, Pantyhose or sheer black tights were very popular office wear. Pantyhose and sheer tights can however be extremely susceptible to rips, due to the delicateness of the material.
A handy tip for these 'ladders' (UK) or 'runs' (USA), is to apply some clear nail varnish to stop the ladder spreading further! Americans use the term 'tights' to refer to anything of a heavier material which can also be patterned, or woolen. Tights and Pantyhose are mostly manufactured from nylon or cotton, Lycra is typically included in modern blends to improve fit and comfort. The growth of the industry and the technological developments mean that tights (used in its generic format) are no longer just to cover your legs, there are now tights that hold you in, hold you up, shape your body, eliminate VPL (visible panty line), that are footless, crotchless, controlling, ribbed and even tights that are caffeinated to reduce cellulite! As fashion dictates, tights now come in every color and pattern imaginable. Tights have been developed to be tailor to all stages of your life, there are maternity tights, bridal tights, fishnet tights and even glittery tights!