USUALLY I’m the one musing about the end of men.
But this time it was my friend John, who sent me an alarmed e-mail: “Crying Putin, manscara and now mantyhose. We are over.”
Not to mention the new romantic comedy, “Friends With Kids,” starring Jennifer Westfeldt (who also wrote and directed), along with her boyfriend, Jon Hamm, and other “Bridesmaids” stars. The movie, as the Times reviewer Jeannette Catsoulis noted, depicts a New York world “where men now knowledgeably discuss Kegel exercises and uterine droop.”
Russia was stunned by the tears in the eyes of Vladimir Putin, the rugged and steely former K.G.B. chief, on the night he grabbed a third term as president. His critics mocked him for crying in gratitude over an election they charged was stolen.
“That wasn’t tears,” said Garry Kasparov, the Russian chess champion who is now a liberal politician. “That was Botox flowing out.” (No wonder Pootie-Poot, as W. called him, doesn’t wince when he’s accused of voter fraud.)
Putin claimed the tears were caused by the icy Moscow wind. But his spokesman, Dmitri Peskov, demurred on state television: “Well, at least that was his explanation for what happened.”
Manskirts, manscara, guyliner and guylashes have all had their spurts, especially in Britain. (Yes, that’s you, Russell Brand and Capt. Jack Sparrow.) A British brand called Eylure started selling false eyelashes for men last fall, promising to create a “Hollywood gaze.” Next up: eyelash extensions, already a trend for Japanese men, who tend to have short lashes.
On a recent episode of “The Office,” Jim (played by John Krasinski) had to sub for Ryan, the small-town temp who thinks he’s an Apple-worthy tech marketer, at the launch of an Internet gadget called the Pyramid. Jim did the presentation in the dark wearing a Nehru jacket and guyliner.
“Time, space, gender,” Jim intoned. “There are no rules anymore. All boundaries are breaking down in the wake of the infinite future.”
During New York’s Fashion Week last month, Alexandre Plokhov, the Russian-born menswear designer, sent out male models walking awkwardly in long skirts and hair extensions; they were greeted with gasps from the audience. Paul Marlow, the designer for Loden Dager, put eyeliner on his male models.
“They hated it at first and were joking with each other how pretty everyone was,” Marlow recalled. “Then they went out for a smoke, came back and were totally into it.”
Franceso Cavallini, the vice president of the Florence-based upscale legwear company Emilio Cavallini, told Women’s Wear Daily last week that there is “a cult following for mantyhose,” also known as “brosiery” and “guylons.”
The company introduced a unisex tights collection in 2009, a knitted blend of cotton and nylon that has more “breathability” for men, who perspire more. Purchases by men now make up 2 to 3 percent of the company’s annual production of one million tights.
Cavallini told Women’s Wear Daily that men in Europe wear tights with shorts and “for warmth under pants during cold weather months and also at home to lounge around in.” Prints for the tights include skulls, stars, stripes and a checkerboard pattern.
“The unisex tights are mainly black and white,” said Lisa Cavallini, a company executive and Francesco’s sister, “but I believe the men buying these tights want to make a fashion statement.” Their mantyhose are most popular with customers from Germany, France, Scandinavia, Canada and the United States.
Can tights be manly? As the “Robin Hood: Men in Tights” song goes, “We’re men, we’re men in tights; we roam around the forest looking for fights.”
A Web site dedicated entirely to men’s hosiery, e-MANcipate.net, offers an illustrated guide on how to put on pantyhose, starting with Step 1: “Take a seat. Be sure that the nails on your hands are at least in fine condition.”
I asked pretty 41-year-old Sara Blakely, who started Spanx with her $5,000 savings and just made the Forbes billionaires list as the youngest female self-made billionaire in the world, whether mantyhose were on her agenda.
“I never say never,” she said. “Men are starting to become more and more vocal about what they need. We’ve been getting calls from stylists who tell us that A-list actors and top musicians are squeezing into our Spanx bodysuits for women for movies and music videos. And women are telling us to please do something for their husbands and boyfriends, who are squeezing into large and extra-large women’s sizes.”
She already sells men’s undershirts, made of cotton and spandex, and underpants for men featuring “a better designed pouch.”
Perhaps men are emboldened now that the Y chromosome, which has been shedding genes willy-nilly and shrinking for millions of years, has steadied itself. The Y has reached, as the Times science writer Nicholas Wade put it, “a plateau of miniaturized perfection.”
Miniaturized perfection in skull tights. What could be better?