The rise, fall and riots of nylons: A sheer success 83 years ago today

Breadcrumb Trail Links

Published May 15, 2023  •  3 minute read

Today (May 15) in history in 1940, women’s fashion changed forever. Nylon stockings went on sale for the first time on this date. Photo by Calgary Herald/The Albertan/Getty Images/Postmedia files

Article content

So long, silk stockings. The new thing was nylons! The year was 1940 and nylons went on sale for the first time on this day in history (May 15) in Wilmington, Delaware. That’s where the chemical company DuPont was based and one of its scientists had developed the synthetic material that was taking the world by storm. DuPont had patented nylon in 1938 and just two years later, it was about to cash in on the invention — big time. On that first day of sales in Wilmington, 780,000 pairs of nylons were sold the first day. Within two days, four million pairs had been scooped up, and in that first year? Sales totalled 64 million pairs of nylons.

Advertisement 2

This advertisement has not loaded yet, but your article continues below.

THIS CONTENT IS RESERVED FOR SUBSCRIBERS ONLY

Subscribe now to read the latest news in your city and across Canada.

  • Unlimited online access to articles from across Canada with one account.
  • Get exclusive access to the Calgary Herald ePaper, an electronic replica of the print edition that you can share, download and comment on.
  • Enjoy insights and behind-the-scenes analysis from our award-winning journalists.
  • Support local journalists and the next generation of journalists.
  • Daily puzzles including the New York Times Crossword.

SUBSCRIBE TO UNLOCK MORE ARTICLES

Subscribe now to read the latest news in your city and across Canada.

  • Unlimited online access to articles from across Canada with one account.
  • Get exclusive access to the Calgary Herald ePaper, an electronic replica of the print edition that you can share, download and comment on.
  • Enjoy insights and behind-the-scenes analysis from our award-winning journalists.
  • Support local journalists and the next generation of journalists.
  • Daily puzzles including the New York Times Crossword.

REGISTER TO UNLOCK MORE ARTICLES

Create an account or sign in to continue with your reading experience.

  • Access articles from across Canada with one account.
  • Share your thoughts and join the conversation in the comments.
  • Enjoy additional articles per month.
  • Get email updates from your favourite authors.

Article content

Newspapers across the country had been reporting on the discovery of nylon for a number of months. The following news story in the Calgary Herald called nylon one of the “most interesting of new discoveries.”

Article content

Calgary Herald; May 30, 1939 Calgary Herald; May 30, 1939

Widespread buzz was generated over the use of nylon as the new fabric of choice for women’s stockings. At the DuPont company, employees there had been successfully wearing prototypes of nylon stockings for months. The marketplace was eagerly awaiting their turn to try nylon stockings.

The Albertan; June 19, 1939 The Albertan; June 19, 1939

When nylons went on sale, demand far exceeded available product. Newspapers across the continent wrote about this latest fashion trend, including the Calgary Herald and The Albertan.

The Albertan; May 29, 1940 The Albertan; May 29, 1940 The Albertan; May 21, 1940 The Albertan; May 21, 1940

Alberta made a play to become home to a Canadian plant that would manufacture nylon, but the plant was ultimately awarded to Kingston, Ont.

Calgary Herald; Oct. 21, 1940 Calgary Herald; Oct. 21, 1940

As nylons began being distributed, the Second World War — which started in 1939 — was having a dramatic impact on the availability of goods and supplies. With silk and wool needed for a variety of supplies for the war effort, consumers were warned that silk stockings would be unavailable by half-way through the following year. Wool stockings would also be hard to obtain. The below article that appeared in Calgary also noted that it could be about two years until nylon hose would be available in the city, and likely at a high price of $2.50 per pair.

Article content

Advertisement 3

This advertisement has not loaded yet, but your article continues below.

Article content

The Albertan; Dec. 14, 1940 The Albertan; Dec. 14, 1940

Nylon stockings arrived in Calgary in 1941 — a little earlier than expected and at a slightly more affordable price than predicted. By this time, manufacturers’ initial claims that nylons would not run had been debunked. Nylons could run and snag, just like any other stocking out there. Despite the price of $1.65 per pair, nylons were being snapped up across the city. Stores were asked to limit sales to two pairs per customer due to the pent-up market demand for the stockings.

The Albertan; Jan. 28, 1941 The Albertan; Jan. 28, 1941 An Eaton’s ad in the Calgary Herald on April 9, 1941 An Eaton’s ad in the Calgary Herald on April 9, 1941 A Calgary Herald ad on April 9, 1941, from a store on 8th Avenue called Binnings Limited. A Calgary Herald ad on April 9, 1941, from a store on 8th Avenue called Binnings Limited. Calgary Herald; Jan. 18, 1941 Calgary Herald; Jan. 18, 1941 An ad from The Bay in the Calgary Herald on Jan. 20, 1941 An ad from The Bay in the Calgary Herald on Jan. 20, 1941 Calgary Herald; June 10, 1941 Calgary Herald; June 10, 1941 Calgary Herald; Nov. 6, 1941 Calgary Herald; Nov. 6, 1941

An August 1941 news story noted that in their first year of existence, nylon stockings accounted for 20 per cent of the stocking market; that number was expected to double in the coming months; and within a few years, it was predicted nylons would comprise the vast majority of stockings sold in North America. The news about nylons spread across the ocean to Europe and demand became so great overseas that it led some unsavoury types to start  smuggling stockings to make a few bucks.

DuPont, however, needed to use its nylon for the war efforts — creating parachutes, shoelaces, ropes and other items — so the availability of nylon stockings decreased. When production of nylons ramped up again after the war, demand soared. It even led to what became known as nylon riots, as consumers fought to purchase the sought-after stockings.

Advertisement 4

This advertisement has not loaded yet, but your article continues below.

Article content

Calgary Herald; Nov. 7, 1945 Calgary Herald; Nov. 7, 1945 The Albertan; April 12, 1946 The Albertan; April 12, 1946

It wasn’t just women’s stockings that were benefiting from the miracles of nylon. The synthetic fibre was being used to manufacture everything from sporting equipment to household items, as seen in the below ad for the “first toothbrush ever made with thrilling new nylon.”

Calgary Herald; Nov. 7, 1940 Calgary Herald; Nov. 7, 1940 Calgary Herald; May 12, 1939 Calgary Herald; May 12, 1939 Calgary Herald; May 30, 1940 Calgary Herald; May 30, 1940

Nylon also began showing up as the fabric of choice in other apparel items.

The Albertan; Oct. 25, 1940 The Albertan; Oct. 25, 1940

The glory days of nylon stockings lasted for about three decades, but just as nylon led to the demise of silk stockings, a new invention began leading to the demise of nylons — pantyhose! Easier to put on and easier to wear, pantyhose rose to popularity in the 1960s and by 1970 pantyhose were outselling nylons. The more recent trend of bare legs has now largely squashed the sale of pantyhose, too, and nylons remain more of a novelty item than anything else. But in their day, nylons were chic and the must-have item in every woman’s wardrobe. Nylons, it can be said, had a good run.

***

Share this article in your social network

Comments

Postmedia is committed to maintaining a lively but civil forum for discussion and encourage all readers to share their views on our articles. Comments may take up to an hour for moderation before appearing on the site. We ask you to keep your comments relevant and respectful. We have enabled email notifications—you will now receive an email if you receive a reply to your comment, there is an update to a comment thread you follow or if a user you follow comments. Visit our Community Guidelines for more information and details on how to adjust your email settings.

Join the Conversation

Advertisement 1

This advertisement has not loaded yet, but your article continues below.



Images are for reference only.Images and contents gathered automatic from google or 3rd party sources.All rights on the images and contents are with their legal original owners.

Aggregated From –
Leave A Reply

Your email address will not be published.