Fantastic Nylon Stockings: Popular Types

In a previous post, I discussed the history of nylon stockings but I didn’t cover an important detail: nylon stocking heel types. Many people tend to gloss over different heel types, but these different heel designs actually are very important for historical accuracy and also for the structural integrity of the stockings.

When nylon stockings used to be made with real seams on special machines (of which there are only a few left in the world), it was necessary to reinforce the heel and toe area in some way. In this area, you will notice that the weave of the stockings is a different color, usually darker than the rest of the stocking, and it is also thicker.

This ensures that the heel and toe area does not wear down so quickly when wearing shoes or when walking around. In the past, stocking manufacturers struggled to figure out how to transition the dark weave of the heel area to the lighter color of the rest of the stocking. The answer was to create unique designs.

In the 1940s and 1950s, vintage lingerie in the form of nylon stockings came in many unique designs.

Nylon stockings

Fully fashioned stocking heel types are no longer necessary for modern pantihose and stockings because modern stockings are made differently and are overall more durable. In the past, fully fashioned nylon stockings were held together by an authentic seam (rather than a decorative seam) down the middle.

Keep reading to learn more about these different nylon stocking heel types.

Cuban Heel Nylon Stockings

If you want a true 1940s look, you should opt for fully fashioned stockings with Cuban heels. Cuban heel stockings have a strip of reinforced nylon that rises up the back of the ankle and ends with a flat top. The result is a thin, rectangular shape that follows along the Achilles tendon.

The rest of the stocking’s seam continues from the top of the Cuban heel design. The Cuban heels slowly became less popular in the late 40s and early 50s due to the introduction of the French heel. It is important not to confuse the Cuban heel with the Havana heel which is similar in shape but thicker.

Cuban heels may also sometimes be referred to as Spanish heels.

French Heels

French heels are also known as pointed heels because, well, they end at a point. As with Cuban heels, they follow the back of the heel but instead of ending with a flat top, these heels end with an elegant point. French heels became very popular in the early 1950s and throughout the rest of the decade.

This is because prominent fashion houses in Paris such as Dior started to use this design instead of the more traditional Cuban heel design. Since many women wanted to incorporate a bit of luxury and foreign influence into their everyday clothing, they immediately loved the French heel design.

Unsurprisingly, these heels were especially popular among the high-class ladies of Paris at the time. Besides the difference in shape, another difference between these heels and Cuban heels is that Cuban heels tend to end higher up on the leg. However, the height of the heel design may vary depending on the manufacturer.

Manhattan Heel

Stocking manufacturers at the time decided that Paris couldn’t have all the fun, so the Manhattan heel was invented. This heel is also known as the Empire heel as it is meant to emulate the Empire State Building.

It is more decorative due to its incorporation of a more blunt pointed heel. Instead of a smooth point, the Manhattan heel begins as a straight line and then comes to a shallow point at the top. There is also a decorative strip of dark nylon that surrounds this shape to emphasize its sharp edges.

Other Nylon Stockings

There are a few other heel types that are more niche in the world of vintage fashion. Some heel types were especially decorative and incorporated dots, butterfly designs, diamond shapes, and more. These designs were far more exclusive and expensive in their heyday.

For example, the Memphis heel is especially decorative and consists of diamond shapes and zigzags. Whatever the case, if you want to take advantage of the details of vintage fashion, it is important to pay attention to the different types of stocking heels.

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