A Brief History
On August 15, 1769, Napoleon Bonaparte was born. He would later go on to be known for many things but not his tights! Much has been written about Napoleon, but somehow this piece of clothing was always deemed too insignificant for historians to mention. Since multiple men have made their mark on the world while wearing tights, this article will be dedicated to this particular type of leg gear – a first of its kind!
10. Lazare Carnot
Lazare Carnot was a French solider during the French Revolution. He was appointed by the Committee of Public Safety in an effort to help France win the war against Austria and Prussia. Lazare Carnot did so well that he earned a seat in the Directory as one of its first members. Not only was he a really great solider, but he also knew how to work a pair of tights!
9. Louis XVI of France
Louis XVI was King of France from 1774 until 1792. His attempts to be a good king put him into debt because he took out international loans rather than tax his subjects. This forced him to implement radical fiscal reforms that the people were not too thrilled with. Although he did not earn a place in his people’s hearts as he had wished, he earns our admiration for the amazing accentuation of his thighs! Still, his tights did not save him from execution in 1793.
8. Jacques-Pierre Brissot
Jacques Pierre Brissot worked as a lawyer and journalist and founded many European newspapers. He was devoted to the cause of humanity and was an anti-slavery crusader. A huge supporter of the French revolution, Jaques-Pierre Brissot was also imprisoned for a short while for publishing anti-government materials. As a member of the Legislative Assembly’s diplomatic committee, he played a large part in the war against Austria, Prussia and Great Britain. Despite his huge body of work, it’s his legs that make the most headlines!
7. Henry IV of France
Henry IV was crowned king of France in 1594. Originally Protestant, he converted to Catholicism as a condition of accepting the throne. In his own words, “Paris is well worth a mass.” Known for his many mistresses and illegitimate children, getting in and out of his tights came just as easy as changing his religion.
6. Frederick V of Bohemia
This Protestant leader had a short reign and was nicknamed the “Winter King” for the one season he ruled Bohemia. He died in 1620 while fighting Catholics at the Battle of White Mountain. Originally a German prince from Heidelberg, his stockings might be considered a fashion equivalent of sausage, albeit a slender one.
5. Philip III of Spain
Philip III was King of Spain from 1598 to 1621. An extremely dull and undistinguished monarch, his only virtue was “the total absence of vice.” He did love to hunt on horseback, however, and this must have looked great in tights!
4. Henry VIII of England
This king of England had six wives. A popular rhyme describing his marriages goes, “Divorced, beheaded, died. Divorced, beheaded, survived.” Although he criticized his fourth wife for her appearance, he was no raving beauty himself by that point in time either, but he still made sure that artists emphasized his huge codpiece and well-defined, tight-wearing calves in their portraits of him.
3. Gustav II Adolf of Sweden
This Swedish king won a Protestant victory over Catholic Imperialists and saved the Protestant cause in the Thirty Years’ War. He had led his Protestant army against invading Catholic armies but died during the campaign, probably wearing tights. Nevertheless, he is one of the more famous military leaders in history.
2. Philip II of Spain
Philip II ruled Spain during its Golden Age but also contributed to its decline when his Armada suffered a demoralizing naval defeat to the English. Not only did he lose his ships, but he lost over 10 million ducats with them. To compensate for these losses, Philip borrowed from Italian bankers and put Spain into huge debt, eventually causing the country to go bankrupt. He may not have been able to keep his ships or his country afloat, but his tights certainly rock our boat!
1. Napoleon Bonaparte
Napoleon started his military career as a strategically and tactically brilliant officer. He applied classical principles of war that included skills, ingenuity and audacity that left his opponents stunned. He was also a romantic. Napoleon was madly in love with Josephine and wrote her beautiful letters while on campaign. With passion like that, it is a wonder how he kept those tights on.
Though these men come from different backgrounds and nationalities, they all have one thing in common – that being tights. Throughout their lives and all the accompanying highs and lows, their tights always held up.
Question for students (and subscribers): Who is your favorite statesman who wore tights? Please let us know in the comments section below this article.
Your readership is much appreciated!
For more information on fashion in general during the eras of the men above, please read…
Barreto, Cristina and Martin Lancaster. Napoleon & the Empire of Fashion: 1795-1815. Skira, 2011.
Nunn, Joan. Fashion in Costume 1200-2000, Revised. New Amsterdam Books, 2000.
For more information specifically about tights in history, please read…
Barber, David W., Dave Donald, et al. Tutus, Tights and Tiptoes: Ballet History as it Ought to be Taught. Indent Publishing, 2012.
And if tights are not your thing, then perhaps you are better off going with those elastic pants…