UNLESS you're fully committed to the bare-legs-no-matter-what mantra, thick black tights are a winter fashion essential, up there with camel coats and tartan scarves in the timeless classics stakes.
If you are going to wear opaque tights day in day out for half the year, splashing out on a few high-quality pairs makes sense in the long run – or does it? Are more expensive tights really better, or will they all end up bobbly and laddered no matter what they cost?
After years of buying cheap tights that are thrown away and replaced every year, we wanted to find out, so we decided to compare three price points.
Here's what we discovered when we put three pairs of opaque black tights to the test.

1. Expensive: Wolford Cotton Velvet Black Tights, £35, UKTights: You can tell you're paying for quality fabric with Wolford because these are definitely the softest of the three pairs. They feel like breathable (they're 49 per cent cotton), not synthetic at all. At 80 denier they aren't quite as thick as the other pairs, so you can see the weave of the fabric, whereas the others look totally opaque, so little nicks in the fabric do show up more easily, but they're just as warm.
I was told the sizes run big with Wolford and they definitely do. I'm 5'7 and usually a size medium for tights, but I got size small and they're still plenty long.
After lots of wears and washes the tights still look soft and smooth, but the only drawback for me is the comfort. The other two pairs of tights had 'shaper' waists that are very stretchy, whereas the Wolfords have a regular waistband that's about an inch wide, so I find that it digs in a bit. But that might just be me - if I so much as look at a piece of bread I get bloated, so comfort is top of my hosiery priority list.

2. Mid-price: Gipsy Bum Tum and Thigh 100 Opaque Shaper Black Tights, £9.99, UKTights: In super-stretchy thick nylon, these 100 denier tights have a truly matte black look that I love and that doesn't show any signs of wear after three months.
The shaper top is so flattering – they suck in my tummy (but aren't restrictive) and give a gorgeously smooth silhouette that looks particularly good with figure-hugging skirts and tight jumper dresses in winter.
Because of the slimming effect, these tights stay up really well – there's no danger of having to yank them up throughout the day. These might just be the best tights I've ever owned.

3. Cheap: Primark 100 Denier Bum and Tum Shaper Tights, £3.50 (in-store only): Very similar to the Gipsy pair, these Primark tights come in a stretchy, thick black fabric that feels more synthetic than the Wolfords but is also thicker and more matte. The shaping element is just as effective, meaning a smooth line under my clothes and tights that don't droop or sag.
After a season's worth of use, I thought this bargain pair would be starting to look worn, but they're actually still going strong. The only small downside is that, because of the shaping element around the thighs, there's a seam which could be visible on the leg if you wanted to wear very short skirts or shorts, for instance.
The verdict: I was expecting there to be a vast difference in the quality of the three pairs of tights, but actually there wasn't. If soft, natural fabric is what you're after you're going to have to shell out for an expensive brand, but if like me, a dense, matte look is preferred, you needn't spend a lot.
I was also surprised that even after three months of repeated wears and washes, there wasn't a clear winner in terms of longevity, so I'm calling it: the perfect black opaque tights shouldn't cost you more than a tenner.

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