Black Tights That Don't Rip: Do They Exist?

Update: Black tights: Can't live with 'em, can't live without 'em. Since winter is here (even though we don't want to face it), we tested out five pairs (of varying prices, textures, and fits) to know exactly which ones you should be adding to your wardrobe this season. Consider this your cheat sheet to keep your legs warm the next few months.
This story was originally published on October 29, 2014.
It doesn't matter if you only wear black tights when you really need to or if you've advanced to Zooey Deschanel-levels of doesn't-matter-if-it's-July-give-me-my-tights levels of obsession: No one likes a flimsy pair of hose. And, if you're a woman who falls on the clumsier end of the spectrum, holding onto a pair of tights for an entire season feels like a feat that deserves a merit badge.
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We've adopted habits to get around accidental snags (raise your hand if you only file your nails after cutting them during black tights season). We've avoided buying certain clothes and shoes, and even choose to avoid suspect seats out of a fear of snags. Add to that our insistence on only wearing truly opaque tights that 1. don't give us crotch sag, and 2. can actually make it through a spin cycle without unraveling, and you're dealing with a set of variables that can make one seriously consider the Taylor Momsen school of style.
The hosiery market isn't a small one, and there are literally thousands of weaves, blends, elasticities, and fibers to confound you. But, among them all are a handful of cult faves to which tights-wearers have sworn allegiance (and if you know a tights-wearer, you know that she's fanatical). We stretched these tights to the limit, committed ourselves to abusing our legs, and provided our honest-to-Lycra reviews.
Ahead, the no-bull truth about tights that'll never fail you.
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Illustrated by Anna Sudit.
Uniqlo

The Pair: Women Heattech Tights
The Price: $10
The Durability: These felt much sturdier than drugstore tights, but there was enough inelasticity in the material that I immediately felt like I needed to be careful with these (and after catching a knee on a coffee table edge and starting a tiny rip, it was evident that being careful is necessary). If you're a tights-abuser, the weave on these will snag easily enough, and you'll end up with long, thick runs that'll render them useless. However, the real pro to these are Heattech technology. It wasn't cold enough when I was testing these out to really see it work its magic, but I have friends who swear that Uniqlo Heattech tights are warmer than jeans during NYC winters.
The Opacity: These are very black and very, very matte, but if there's any sign of stretch (especially at the knees), you'll come across some sheerness issues.
The Sag-Factor: Uniqlo tights only come in two sizes (S/M and L/XL), which is unfortunate, because both run short. Luckily, if you're on the shorter end, the control top keeps them hiked up and in place all day. But, for any longer-legged sisters, you'll definitely have drop-crotch issues.
The Verdict: If fit and longevity is a big concern, you might want to skip Uniqlo.
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Illustrated by Anna Sudit.
Spanx

The Pair: Blackout Tights
The Price: $38
The Durability: Full confession: These were my go-to brand of tights before this experiment. As a cheapie-pair-only wearer for years and years, I was forced into buying a pair on a very cold November day since the shop didn't sell anything else. That years ago. I still own these tights. I have gone hiking in them, assembled furniture in them, and bruised myself against pointed corners in them. They developed two small rips in the left toe and upper thigh during Year Three, but because of the weave, they haven't gotten any bigger than a quarter inch.
The Opacity: They're a true, deep black — completely opaque — but have a slight sheen to them that gets shinier with wear.
The Sag-Factor: They're vise-like, to a fault. For the first two months of wearing them in, your hips might be sore at the end of the day. For that reason, don't buy the extra-high waist one unless you have masochistic tendencies (or don't need your diaphragm to breathe). However, after dozens of washings, they're still very elastic and never budge.
The Verdict: No pain, no gain, right? I'm constantly amazed at how durable these tights are, but the break-in period can be brutal. I now own two pairs of these, and I made sure to size up two sizes…but still. Ow. Out of all the tights I tried, these are (probably) the only ones that allow you to jump into a swimming pool filled with steel wool and emerge sans snag.
4 of 10
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Illustrated by Anna Sudit.
DKNY

The Pair: Super Opaque Control Top Tight
The Price: $16
The Durability: Soft, but still snug (you definitely get the feeling that you're in a pair of tights with these), the DKNY felt like a hardy pair that don't immediately snag. However, after a week's wear with ankle boots, I did develop slight pilling around the ankles. Also — and I take full responsibility for this because it says on the package that they're hand wash-only — I machine-washed and -dried these tights. When brusquely pulling them on in a sleepy haze the next morning, my fingers ripped clear through the left side. Oops.
The Opacity: Slightly sheer. There's no sheen to these, but they weren't as aggressively opaque as I like.
The Sag-Factor: No sagging! If anything, there was a bit of extra length in these (for reference, I'm 5'3" and typically wear a size 25 pant). The feet are slightly squarer than most, and might leave you with paddles for toes, which means you can't wear them with open-toed shoes.
The Verdict: These aren't a bad choice of tights for women who are a little more delicate with their clothes and don't maul their stockings when they put them on. And, for $16, you're getting a ton of quality for the price. These tights also come in a huge range of sizes, unlike most brands out there.
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Illustrated by Anna Sudit.
Commando

The Pair: Opaque Control Tights
The Price: $402
The Durability: It rained hard the first day I wore these tights and since I somehow managed to leave all my rain boots at the office, I had to wear an old pair of waterproof boots with a ragged edge that has a reputation for completely destroying cheap tights. After a day of abuse, I stripped off the wet tights, quickly washed them, and hung them up to dry. In the morning, they were like new. Seriously!
The Opacity: Despite what the name might say, they are not "perfectly opaque," though they are perfectly matte. The weave of these tights is also of high quality, and so fine and silky (without been shiny) that I could nearly overlook the slight sheerness.
The Sag-Factor: Commando's whole thing is that their products feel invisible. And, these tights were, out of the bunch, the softest, gentlest tights I tried. However, that also meant that they weren't very good at controlling my top and started sagging by mid-day of the first wear. Throughout the day, I ended up with a one-inch gap, which — while not terrible — was pretty annoying.
The Verdict: For ladies who hate the feeling of wearing pants, you'll probably appreciate Commando's tights for how soft and non-pinchy they are (a couple hours in, I forgot that I was even wearing tights…and that's while they were still wet from the rain). If you've got longer legs, you might have issues with sagging, but size up if you suspect that's the case.
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Illustrated by Anna Sudit.
Wolford

The Pair: Mat Opaque 80
The Price: $61. The Rolls Royce of the bunch.
The Durability: For how soft these are (and they are definitely luxuriously soft), these were also surprisingly resilient. TMI alert: I put these on after clipping my finger and toenails, which would have normally decimated a cheap pair of tights, but there was nary a fray. After running them through a washing machine spin cycle, they emerged exactly like new.
The Opacity: Here's the thing. These are opaque, and don't have even a hint of shine. However, the Mat Opaques are not perfectly black (in certain light, they look navy or brown). This can drive some people crazy, and yet be totally cool for others. Different strokes.
The Sag-Factor: As someone used to The Squeeze (see: review for Spanx), I was completely perplexed when I put these Wolford tights on for the first time. They were so stretchy, so lightweight, and so soft that they barely felt like I was wearing tights as all. However, by the end of the day, they were beginning to show signs of crotch sagging. By the end of the week, I was tugging at the hemline every time I stood up because they kept sliding southward.
The Verdict: For those that prefer a more luxurious-feeling tight that won't fritz out on you, these are your pair. They'll last you years, but if you're on the taller end or have a narrow waist, be forewarned that you might have crotch-fit issues. For $55, these are definitely expensive. But, I know women who've had their Wolfords for half a decade — think about all the cheap $5 hose you've destroyed in that long a time.
10 of 10
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