People generally look at the face first. The second is the shoes and exactly next to the shoes what one observes are the socks, the safeguards of the feet, which prevent the feet from rubbing against the shoes, give the feet a tender feeling and add some style element in ones attire. As fashion has become more individualistic, every product that gives the look and reflects personality has drawn the attention of designers and fashion experts. From hat to legwear, every item worn by a person adds to the overall persona and appeal. In this varied scenario of dressing, every part of the attire has gained a makeover... legwear being the latest. Now various designing looks are given to the pair of clothing so that they have their own importance inside the clothing.

Knitted hose have been a part of clothing for the past 1,000 years. At the outset it was worn by men and not women. The first stocking knitted on a circular machine was made in 1589. The market has improved since then. The first nylon stocking was made in 1938 and the first tights were made in 1966. Over the years stockings have become less popular and, most recently, knee-highs and ankle-highs have become more popular because women now wear more of trousers rather than skirts.


Nowadays, the use of legwear increases with each season. With the introduction of design aspects in the legwear category and the aim of making one such product changing, the legwear production industry is experiencing a huge demand in the summer time too. Hot Sox, DKNY, Givenchy- licensed by JET, American Essentials- the licensee for Calvin Klein and Michael Kors, Leg Resource Inc., Infinity Classics International etc., are a few products that satisfy the demand of designer legwear. Many departmental stores have special hosiery departments that keep the best brands. Designers like Anna Sui, Marc Jacobs and Dolce Gabbana make legwear collections more appealing.

With many aspects of a jigsaw, the new collection offered on the shelves range from elegant classic and natural appeals to fascinating flamboyant styles. The new legwear styles take into consideration the several demands of the present trend and show off perfect style and beauty. The variety is so vast that legwear has appeared as a hip extension for designers to show their abilities. Since legwear is worn by everyone regardless of age, gender or profession, there are various designs that are made for each and every segment. The legwear market is gaining a specific space in the market, more so due to skirts and now dresses which have gained popularity as the hot fashion products. Legwear designers foresee a bright future for tights, sheers and socks.

Many producers across the globe are trying to renew particular styles in the legwear category in each and every season and market them for the season. Holiday- specific legwear that are aimed at holiday themes, patterns and designs specific only to the holiday season are now a thing of the past. Today, many legwear manufacturers target socks and sheers as they make a good gift due to its affordability and usefulness. The promotional market is another area where it is considered that legwear can solve the purpose.

Sheer with decorative backseams dotted with red flowers in both black or white or sheer red shapes and floral vine pattern are enormous. Sheer shapes are also being made with rhinestones: rhinestones decorate the backseams and are sprinkled on sheer black colour. Kayser-Roth Corporation in its HUE line, Fine Line Hosiery and The Randalman, NC Company are some of the companies that offer a design element to legwear. HUE came out with rhinestone backseams, tuxedo striped sheers in black or nude, lurex rib sheers, shimmer sheers in black, gold or silver; lace trim tulle thigh highs and stockings with built-in garters.

Traffic- stopping graphic prints, romantic openwork, textured legwear, solid opaque, school girl knee- highs, ladylike sheers and ribbed knits are a few of the latest vogue. Forecasted to hit the fashion field are knee-high socks that are anticipated to become one of the new fashion trends. Knee socks in bias plaids, classic argyles in both traditional and gloomy colours, contrast herringbone, heavy tweed styles, stripes and femme angora openwork are arrived in the market. Feature covers colour flecks, fur pom poms and embroidered stitching. In socks, surface attractiveness is vital with visible textures giving preference over patterns. Moretz has set up sock styles with a various tweed textures. Use of luxury blends with wools, angora and cashmere, and romantic affects continue to be the largest in ladies apparel, which provides another increment to the sale of tights and trousers.

In pink, white and black, there are various categories available with contrasting trim and seed stitching on the top of the feet with a flower around ankles. Tattoo sheer pantyhose, checkered thigh highs, cotton knee highs with bows, lycra mesh stockings, lace leggings, skulls and crossbones midcalves, fuzzy multi stripe, striped tigers, argyle clock, micro velour diamonds, shark bite 3D socks, rugby 3-striped, surprise rib and branches tights are a few sets that perform the genesis of designing element spotted on the 'essentials', as accepted by today's generation. The persistence of beadwork, embroidery and crochet in apparel and accessories compliment the net/ crochet designs and opaque textures used in a sizable way in legwear. Opaques (dark and ribbed) and cable knit tights, men'swear patterns and footless tights are anticipated to have a huge market share.


For many producers, collection of fashion tights covers bold plaid opaques, textured tights in leopard, houndstooth and herringbone, antique openwork, crochet and nets and colourful, crazy tights motivated by Pucci's graphic designs. Fine Line Hosiery offers many plated tights in diamond, floral heather patterns and ribs. The beauty of legwear is further enhanced with the use of colours in the perfect mix. Browns command the colour palette along with affluent burgundies, warm greens, gold and robust tones. Attractive palettes of blue cover turquoise and teal. Inky blues offer a sophisticated casual look with a laid-back attitude that matches the best with denim wear and offer a break from the khaki family. Colours of inky blues include Rio, Wonder Blue and Midnight. Metallics have become the new mortals.

The new transparent lines of curved hosiery from Hanes are available in many flesh tones that are transparent enough to facilitate consumers to harmonize their skin tones with superior support. Captivating its influence from movement in the beauty industry, which is blowing up with products meant to offer a tanned, shining effect to the legs, Hanes also deals with Sheer Radiance, a line of edge that offers a slightly tanned and shining look to the leg. Leg Resource Inc., which makes legwear for Anne Klein and Via Spiga, among others, is all about facets with zigzags, curlicue motifs and sewn-on lace. Items from Infinity Classics International, a Brooklyn-based producer and marketer of hosiery for Italian line Levante and British import Jonathan Aston cover ultrasheers and sheers; opaques in chevron, spiral or diamond patterns and fishnets in mini and maxi weaves. Silhouettes include a regular growth or an unusual low-rise 'hipster' cut.

The legwear market covers only a small fraction of the total apparel business, the US imported legwear worth $ 1.24 billion in 2004. Canada imported $ 120 billion while EU imported Euro 2.66 billion, a 21 per cent, 20 per cent and 10 per cent increment, correspondingly over the previous year. Though, India could raise its share only in the EU market from 1.39 per cent to 1.47 per cent.


US market of legwear

US import of legwear boosted by 20 per cent in 2004

Legwear, including hose, pantyhose, tights, socks, stockings and other hosiery products and a necessary apparel items are quite popular world over. The US imported such items worth $1.1 billion in 2003. The imports rose by about 20 per cent to reach $ 1.3 billion in 2004. Legwear imports add just 2 per cent to total import valued at $ 65 billion of apparel into the US.


India and other neighbouring country's share of exports of legwear products to US

US Import Data reveals that among the competitors of India, China stayed as the leader in exporting legwear to the US. Imports of legwear from China (having a legwear market contribution of 19 per cent) in 2004 raised by over 141 per cent in value while the raise was about 147 per cent in volume. Another big leader in 2004 was Pakistan (having a legwear market share of about 6 per cent), from which country imports rose by about 67 per cent. Imports from Bangladesh also rose by about 31 per cent but from India (having a market contribution of 0.2 per cent) there was a decrement of over 24 per cent despite a raise of 13 per cent in volume terms.



Stockings and Tights - UK market

Today's hosiery market is divided between sales of tights (84%), stockings (3%), hold-ups (4%) and knee-highs (9%).

In 2004 the fine hosiery market was about 250 million; with more than half a million pairs of tights, stockings and hold ups being purchased every day. Legwear is the most regularly purchased item of clothing with women purchasing on average of ten pairs a year. The average price of a pair of tights in 2004 was 1.19; though. In UK Pretty Polly, Elbeo Levante etc are the leader in tights and stockings.


India's legwear market in the EU's perception

For legwear in the EU market, China with a contribution of 1.5 per cent was better than India and all others in the Indian subcontinent. Though, legwear imports from China in the year 2003 decreased in value terms by over 4 per cent despite a raise of about 13 per cent in volume terms. Here again, Pakistan with a contribution of over 1 per cent was at number two position and imports of legwear from Pakistan raised by over 46 per cent in the year 2003 as against 2002. Among China and other competitors in the sub-continent, India gained number three position with making 0.55 per cent contribution to the legwear market in the EU. In 2003, import of legwear from India rose by about 13 per cent.


EU a large market for legwear

The market for legwear in the EU is quite larger than the US. The EU imported legwear worth Euro 2.66 billion in 2003, increased by 3.6 per cent from Euro 2.57 billion in 2002. Legwear imports add to the total apparel imports valued at about Euro 83 billion of the EU to the size of 3.2 per cent.

Over the last two years, the business from India has increased significantly. Many producers have got a growth of almost 40-50 percent in their business. Experts believe that the export market of India will keep up provided the manufacturer can produce the products with latest trends with other yarns that are no longer restricted to any particular weather, besides cotton legwear. Though in cotton legwear still manufacturers have to move fast to sustain in a long run.


India has colourful presentation for buyers in Legwear - Cotton still well demanded

Europe is a larger market as compared to the US in legwear with advancement in blends and designs. Though, India has only a 0.5 per cent of share of legwear worldwide with its strong existence in the cotton socks segment.

The US imported legwear amounted to $ 1.3 billion in 2004, while EU imported Euro 2.66 billion worth in 2003. In the subsequent periods, Indian exports raised by about 13 per cent to the US and 38 per cent to the EU in that order. The total quantities exported in legwear from India to the US and the EU accounted to 21.32 per cent and 94.44 per cent respectively, which were cotton legwear. With increased incursion of Asian countries, mostly China, the US Socks Industry is susceptible to rising imports. US manufacturing plus outward processing of socks decreased 13.2 per cent from 2001 to 2003.

Though China escorts offensively with new machines pursued by innovations in yarn, compositions and blends, India has begun building a strong existence with huge exporters investing in socks production and the traditional exporters aiming at expansion. Even foreign investors are peeping at India as a feasible manufacturing hub with application of a variety of yarn blends though cotton remains the key potential.

Colour, prints and new designs were the most accepted legwear fashion for 2005. As many fashion accessories are used in various designs and styles, likewise legwear also has a preference with various designs and looks with many interesting styles. Plains, plating, ribs, links, sports terry, anklet, various motifs are some of the regular designs made from India under the legwear category for both the domestic and the export market. From black to pastel to light colours, there is no substantial variation in the types that Indian producers are offering to both the markets. Besides the stylish and gentle like hosiery, novelty yarns like Lurex in soft colours, short shorties and knee high with delicate embroidery combined with appliqus have made the legwear more trendy and stylish.


At the end of the quota regime, Delta Galil Industries, a foremost producer of intimate clothing, supplying to brands like Calvin Klein, Hugo Boss, Nike and Ralph Lauren, started a $5 million socks factory in Silvassa in the Union Territory of Daman, Dadra & Nagarhaveli (INDIA). The factory will use over 200 looms plus specific finishing equipment to satisfy a target of one million pairs of socks per month. The company considers that the factory's production will make $ 15 million with buyers in Europe and the US once it is fully operational. The company penetrated the Indian zone in an attempt to locate low-priced production locations to increase its competitiveness with an objective to develop business.

While this company from Israel observed business benefits in India and entered all the way post quota, Trend Setters, a famous name in garment export from India already has a devoted 100 per cent export production socks unit since 1999. TSI Industries Pvt Ltd, Faridabad, makes cotton, nylon and cotton blended legwear with elastane for kids, ladies and men's category.

However, since the technology needed to produce ladies leggings is not available in India, the company ventured into cotton lycra leggings apart from its usual products. The total production capacity of the unit is 800 dozen pairs of socks per day. The company functions generally on the design patterns, colours and packaging offered by its buyers. With good output the company intends to put in Matec machines by 2006 to increase production and ranges.

In starting period of time, India made the export as well as the import market with only 100 per cent cotton items. It has also slowly started for other yarn compositions and blends. Some of the new compositions cover polyester, acrylic, wool, nylon, polypropelene and polyester viscose with a maximum of 5 per cent of spandex. Besides others, polypropelene is used only for the domestic market. Other yarn categories are intended both for domestic as well as export purposes. As other fashion accessories are offered in various designs and styles, likewise legwear has left the plain look behind and brought forth various appealing styles.

With a manufacturing capacity of 10,000 per/day, a New Delhi-based exporter of socks, Olympic Overseas Private Limited, produces socks for ladies and gents, as well as stockings. Apart form the common yarn types like cotton and nylon, the company even uses polyester viscose for both the domestic and the international market. The Rs 1.5 crores company supplies to France, UK, Germany and Belgium, working with importers and wholesalers like Benjamin SA, a key importer from France. Olympic Overseas offers only socks. They make stockings for the domestic market but not for international business. According to industry experts International demand for stockings is for fine quality yarn in which India is not that strong. Overseas has offers 'arguile' designs (shapes like diamond, rhombus, and triangle) and customized legwear in nearly 20 different styles. There are four set and size of legwear which they offer; the ankle length; the normal size that is 5-6" above the ankle; then comes the long set that is immediately below the knees and finally stockings. In the international market, long socks are offered in the size of 1" above the knee.

V. V. Hosiery is another Delhi-based legwear company of Rs 5 crore conglomerate, selling products under the brand name ASTRA. It mainly concentrates on ribs, links, sports terry, anklet and cutter motif styles. In addition to socks for gents, ladies and children, the company also exports stockings to various countries. It generally uses cotton and polypropelene. With a production capacity of 10,000 pairs per day, out of which 50 per cent is exported, the company has recently set up the export business of socks through importers in Dubai. Another hosiery producer who makes socks on demand is Office International Inc., the Tirupur based producer who focuses on children's winter socks made of cotton with embroidery and prints.

A Mumbai-based trading house, Lee-On Impex exports sports socks for gents to Indian exporters like East Asia Trading and players from Kuwait and Australia. White is the most popular colour preference for the category which they are working for. Dark colours are used for striping. The conglomerate supplies on an average 2,000 pairs of sports socks per day. In gent's legwear, navy blue, brown, black, light grey, dark grey, white, olive and green are the most popular colours which are in demand. With these shades, other frequent light colours are used for ladies legwear. School socks for children are patterned by shades of white, grey, navy blue and maroon. Pastel and baby colours like pink and rose are the preferred colour combinations in fancy socks.

New products for Winter 05 were remarkable. Many producers have created socks with air passages for Autumn Winter 05. Olympic Overseas has exported their usual products with specialized designs and looks for the season. Seamless stitching on toe, pre-shrinkage and softening finishes and antibacterial treatments were also well demanded in the season.

Fishnet stockings, fishnet thigh highs and micro-net are fashions in the stockings' market. Generally, nets provide airy comfort to the legs. In addition, a unique type of remedy like beading and ruffling, the international trend for legwear, includes some shoe treatments into legwear like gel bottoms to offer socks more of an athletic appeal. Attractive floral designs are ample in ladies' legwear. Many international companies who have arrived with these trends are Kayser-Roth Corp., Soxland International Inc, Levante, Hot Soz and Wolford, among others.