Hosiery guide: understanding denier


Denier is the term used to describe the density of tights, typically meaning the higher the number, the thicker the appearance. But it is not always that clear cut. As Sue Harrison, tights buyer at Fenwick of Bond Street puts it, “denier can be a minefield”.
Advances in technology mean that certain brands can class tights that have a five or eight denier appearance as a 12 denier, because of the strength of the yarn. The finish also affects the appearance on the leg, as Harrison explains: “Matte tends to look heavier than sheer, so if you have a 10 denier in sheer that has a slight shine to it, this will generally look lighter than the matte equivalent.”
Five is the lowest denier available on the market and 200 is the highest. At the very start of the scale, tights that are 10 denier and below are very delicate and classed as ultra-sheer, creating a barely-there look to help smooth any blemishes. Sheer is applied to anything between 10 and 20 denier and tends to be slightly less fragile.
Semi-opaques are thicker still, ranging from 21 denier to 40, while opaques – usually around the 50-denier mark, tend to be the most popular. “But if you want your legs to be completely blacked-out you have to go higher” advises Sue Harrison, suggesting a 70 or 80 (sometimes referred to as a thick opaque).
Choosing the right size is crucial to achieve the desired finish; opting for a pair that is too small will encourage stretch and will make the coverage of the tights weaker. Similarly, tights that are too big will appear denser and quickly become baggy.
If you are not sure whether to opt for a sheer or an opaque style, it is best to test samples across the back of your hand by stretching them and working down the numbers.
All tights are fragile and should be handled with care, but as opaques are heavier, these do tend have a longer life. That said, investing in premium brands for sheer tights that are made with strong yarns can also prove to be a savvy investment in the long term.

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