When it comes to shopping for hosiery, one of the most common terms you’re going to come across is ‘denier’.
And after looking at enough pairs of stockings and tights, you’ll probably gather that it has something to do with how sheer or opaque the product is. But what exactlydoes denier mean?
The technical definition of denier is how much 9,000m of a yarn weighs in grams. Why 9,000m? It’s an old unit of measurement from medieval France. A single 9,000m strand of silk fibre weighs around one gram, which was roughly the same as a coin from that time called a denier.
A yarnis made up of multiple strands of fibre all spun together. If 9,000m of a silk yarn weighs 15g for example, hosiery or fabric made from it will be described as ‘15 denier’.
These 100% nylon stockings are 15 denier, meaning they’re made from nylon yarn weighing roughly 15g per 9,000m
Denier and durability
The same length of a fine, silk yarn will weigh rather less than something like wool. Hence, a lower denier denotes a lighter, finer fabric. And a higher denier means the hosiery will be heavier, thicker, and more opaque.
High denier hosiery will often be more durable too. However, certain fibres such as nylon are just inherently very strong, even though they don’t weigh much. So although sheers tend to be delicate by nature, it is possible to find low-denier hosiery that’s more hardwearing than most. Denier is linked to durability, but it’s not the entire picture.
Hosiery denier guide
So what do the different deniers actually look like on the leg? And which denier best suits each season or occasion? Hosiery can be roughly grouped by sheerness or denier, ranging from ultra-sheer through to opaque. Here is a guide to what you can expect from each.
Up to 10 denier: ultra-sheer
Hosiery is available from 5 denier, and anything up to around 10 is going to have a barely-there appearance. This hosiery is so fine, it’s not unlike a tinted moisturiser for your legs – it will subtly even out blemishes for a flawless finish, but lets your own skin tone shine on through.
Ultra-sheer hosiery is perfect when you want to achieve a bare-legged look. If you pick a nude style that’s a good match for your skin tone, the result can appear totally natural. An extra-low denier is also ideal for the height of summer, with the fineness of the fabric making it very breathable.
Between 10 and 20 denier, tights and stockings will be a little more visible, but nude tones in this range can still look very natural from a short distance. This hosiery will still be sheer enough to see your leg through it, and to keep you cool.
However, they are a bit more durable and run-resistant than ultra-sheer styles. Hence, many people prefer hosiery in the 15-20 denier range if they will be wearing it on a daily basis.
Between 20 and 40 denier, hosiery becomes less sheer but is also not completely solid. This is the perfect choice for spring and autumn – a little warmer than fully sheer hosiery, but not so much that you’ll overheat.
Semi-opaque hosiery is also, again, more durable in general. Good-quality hosiery in this denier range and above can last for years if cared for well.
Anything over 40 denier is generally considered opaque. However depending on the yarn and knit quality, you may need to go up around 60 or even 80 denier for truly solid coverage (i.e.the kind that would completely hide a leg tattoo).
Opaque hosiery is, naturally, the perfect choice for colder weather. It’s also great when you want something colourful that will really pop against your outfit, since it’s going to have a bolder, more vivid appearance than semi-sheer colours would.
Although all opaque hosiery is warm to some degree, when you really want to stay cosy in the depths of winter, a denier of 100 or higher is sure to provide that. Choose this denier range when you want ultra-solid coverage and the toastiest of toes.