Hose give women a run for their money

November 19, 1992|By Kathleen Parker | Kathleen Parker,Orlando Sentinel

It's not often that women find a true hero. I've found mine in the state treasurer of Idaho.

Her name is Lydia Justice Edwards and she has single-handedly tackled the bane of working woman's existence.

Hose. Stockings. Those miserable, imminently obsolete second skins without which working women are told they are not complete.

In an effort to wring quality and fairness from the hosiery industry, Ms. Edwards wrote a scathing letter to Hanes (as "the leader of the women's hosiery industry") venting her frustration.

She then sent a copy of the letter to consumer advocate Ralph Nader, who ran it in his syndicated newspaper column.

"This is discrimination against women in its very worst form," she wrote Mr. Nader. "And I do expect Hanes to justify it."

Some of you men out there are probably shaking your heads. There they go again, trying to find something else to complain about. Let me clue you in, fellas. This is a serious.

Women are victimized by the fashion industry at every turn. No need to rehash tired debates over hemline lengths, padded shoulders and decollete. I'm willing to grant that women do not have to refurbish their closets on a seasonal basis.

Besides, in some neighborhoods, being unfashionable is quite fashionable. We could always relocate.

But stockings are a different matter. If a woman isn't wearing stockings, she isn't quite dressed. It would be like a man wearing a suit, tie and wingtips, but no socks.

The essential difference between men's socks and women's stockings is that socks work and stockings don't. They run at the slightest provocation.

You can ruin a pair of stockings even as you put them on because your hands are still rough from breakfast dishwater. You can run them by grazing an open glove compartment, a gear shift, a table leg. Cross paths with a pebble in your shoe or a toast crumb on the kitchen floor and you're out a $4 pair of hose.

No matter the cost or the alleged quality, the life of a pair of stockings in my house has never exceeded four day's wear. Most of the time, it's more like one day.

A pair of stockings with runs is useless. The only thing to do with that pair is toss them in the trash or, as my Aunt Elaine does, store your onions in them.

Ms. Edwards expressed in her letter the widely held suspicion that stockings are designed to run. Planned obsolescence is the American way.

In frustration, Ms. Edwards saved all her pantyhose for one year -- 130 pairs. At an average cost of $4 per pair, she figured she had spent about $520 on hose.

She compared that to what men spend annually on socks. Generously figuring men buy about 24 pairs of socks a year at an average cost of $6.50 a pair, she arrived at a total annual cost of $156.

The $364 difference between good quality men's hosiery and good-quality women's hosiery could have been invested if not spent on pantyhose, Ms. Edwards wrote the folks at Hanes. At 7 percent interest, Ms. Edwards could have earned $25.48 on her investment.

"We all know the technology does exist for narrowing this gap between women's and men's hosiery usage," Ms. Edwards wrote. "This is a cruel joke being played on American women and is the lowest form of discrimination -- it penalizes by costing more for those who earn less because of other forms of discrimination."

Hear, hear!

Ms. Edwards, who described herself as a fiscally conservative state treasurer, noted that she can better afford this foolishness than many young women who are trying to present a businesslike appearance on $1,000 a month wages with children to support and a day-care center to pay.

"If Hanes offered a strong, reliable product, from which I could expect a reasonable amount of wear," said Ms. Edwards, "I would be a Lady who prefers Hanes for life."

(Kathleen Parker writes a lifestyle column for the Orlando (Fla.) Sentinel.)

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