Boston.com’s definitive guide to tight legwear

Chestnuthill Mall, Various stockings. 8\21\01
Various stockings are displayed at the Chestnut Hill Mall.Suzanne Kreiter/Globe Staff

The “what constitutes appropriate legwear” debate has been huge as of late. It seems like everywhere you look, it’s yoga pants this and leggings that. Schools are trying to ban them. Twitter accounts and Facebook pages are popping up dedicated to discussing all things yoga pants. Everyone who’s anyone is talking about yoga pants, leggings, and everything in between.

If you’re not familiar with the terminology, it can get a little overwhelming trying to keep track of all the questionable legwear options.

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Here’s Boston.com’s Definitive Guide To Tight Legwear:

Skinny Jeans: First introduced in the 1950s, skinny jeans have gone through many incarnations. They have always had a slight air of social rebellion. The earlier versions were more slim fit than today’s skintight versions. Rest assured, skinny jeans are, in fact, pants. They have a button. And a zipper!

Jeggings: A rung below skinny jeans on the pants or not-pants ladder, jeggings combine the look of skinny jeans with the advantage of an elastic waist, allowing the wearer to eat until their gut explodes. Not sure if you’re wearing skinny jeans or jeggings? If there’s an elastic waist, no working pockets, and/or a denim print material as opposed to actual denim, you are dealing with a pair of jeggings. (Jeggings are a close relative to the “pajama jean.”)

Yoga Pants: Yoga pants are designed for workouts, including – but not limited to – the actual practice of yoga. Yoga pants can also be worn to give the appearance that the wearer is the type of person who practices yoga, even if they do not. In March of 2013, the Lululemon sheer yoga pants debacle brought yoga pants to the forefront of the American cultural conversation. Yoga pants are technically pants, but should only be worn when actually working out or taking a yoga class—or when you want someone to think you work out or take yoga classes.

Leggings: Leggings are footless, thicker than tights, but thinner than actual pants. Leggings are typically a cotton/spandex blend and are opaque, unless you wear a pair that’s too small, in which case they will be stretched beyond capacity, becoming sheer enough to be mistaken for tights or even pantyhose. Whether or not leggings are pants has been the result of endless debate. If you look down at your leggings and wonder whether they fall into the pants category, the safe answer is probably not. Leather, pleather, and fleece leggings are a bit more acceptable as pants, as they’re made of thicker material so they won’t show every lump, bump, and ripple of your legs and undercarriage.

Tights: Tights cover up your feet, may be thinner than leggings, but they are generally more opaque than they are transparent. Tights are to be worn under skirts, dresses, and even shorts. They come in a myriad of colors, patterns, and designs to match any outfit or mood. Tights are definitely not pants. Wearing tights as pants is the quickest way to let all of the other humans know you are completely insane, or that you just escaped from a serial killer’s basement dungeon.

Pantyhose: The thinnest of the tight legwear, pantyhose are very sheer and are worn to match the color of the wearer’s bare skin. Sometimes known as “nudies,” pantyhose popularity took a nosedive with the younger set some time ago. They have recently made a mini-resurgence after Kate Middleton was photographed wearing them. Obviously Princess Kate was not wearing them as pants, because she is Princess Kate, not Britney Spears.

Stockings: People who don’t know any better commonly use the terms “stockings” and “pantyhose” interchangeably. They are actually different pieces of hosiery. Stockings, or “thigh-highs,” are typically made of nylon or silk and are held up either by garters or an elastic strip at the upper thigh. Think sheer thin socks that go up over your knees. The main difference between stockings and pantyhose or tights is that stockings feel like someone is strangling your thighs and pantyhose and tights feel like someone is strangling your waist.

Bonus round for the boys!

Men’s Skinny Jeans: We’re not talking slim fit, but actual skinny jeans similar to the variety worn by the Jonas Brothers. Cautionary note: skinny jeans can cause urinary tract infections, twisted testicles, bladder weakness, and general groin discomfort in men. They also make you look like an insufferable hipster, which might be worse than the twisted testicles.

Broga Pants: Broga is a real thing, so it was only a matter of time before broga pants made their way into the American lexicon. “Broga” is defined as “a yoga class geared for men (where it’s okay if you can’t touch your toes).” Broga pants are tight, stretchy pants for yoga practicing bros.

Meggings: These are exactly what you think they are: man leggings. If regular old lady leggings aren’t pants, I really have no idea what to classify meggings as other than an abomination.

Now that you know about all of the major players in the tight legwear game, you’re ready to speak with authority the next time the topic arises.

(Read more about America’s war on yoga pants here.)

Follow Heather @HotelFoxtrot.

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