Continuing my discussion of skating equipment, I thought I would focus today not so much what goes on the skate, but what goes over or under it – namely, the skating tights. For those of you who aren’t skaters you must be wondering how tights can be considered equipment, but for those of you who spend many hours a week in this pricey leg wear, you know how important having comfortable tights can be.
While it seems that ice skaters (and some roller skaters) have gone to using yoga-pants style leggings for practice, most roller skaters wear skating dresses and tights to practice at their home rinks, and always wear full dress with tights and costumes for practices at regional and national competitions. Most skaters have many (many many) sets of “practice tights” that have various numbers of holes, runs, and other flaws, while keeping a few sets of “competition tights” that are as clean, neat, and perfectly conditioned as possible. Because falls are met with even more friction than in ice, holes and runs are an even greater problem for roller skater’s tights than for ice skater’s tights. Finding tights can be difficult as skaters tend to prefer a specific style, while needing to find a good match for their skin tone, and wanting something that will last well without running easily or getting holes. Most ice rink pro shops will carry some tights (mainly in child sizes), or you can sometimes find them at dance supply stores, but often finding what you want is difficult, and many skaters have turned to the internet as a supply source.
I plan on keeping my discussion and opinions about the styles of various skate tights out of today’s post (I do want to have a discussion on the controversy of over-the-boot tights vs. in-the-boot tights vs. stirrup tights at another time however) and instead I am going to focus this post on the various brands that offer tights specifically geared towards skaters, and discuss the pros and cons of each brand.
*Disclaimer* I want to state that all of my reviews are opinions formed based on personal experience and are not meant to be an ultimate guide or reflect negatively on any of the companies or products I am discussing. I am only offering my opinions in the hope that someone might find my comments useful or offer their own suggestions in the comment section. Everything I have tested I have borrowed or bought myself – no sponsorships or anything like that. Like buying a high-end sewing machine, skate equipment needs to feel right to a skater, and what I like might not be the best for someone else. However, I have been skating a long time on a lot of different equipment, so I feel like I do have something valid to contribute to the discussion.
So – let’s get to the tights:
Danskin tights are the most used and most beloved skate tights in the roller skating community. At least they were until the company stopped making skate tights. The Danskin skate tights haven’t been produced for over a year now, and finding a pair is like looking for a needle in a haystack. I, luckily, stocked up before they went out of business, but my dwindling stash is becoming more and more precious and I am searching for alternatives to use on a day-to day basis for practices and eventually competitions. I have heard rumors that the company had some problems but is still in business, but that they are only producing dance tights, and I have also heard that the company re-start is based in China and that the newer tights are not the same quality as the older styles. I don’t know how much of this is true, but regardless, every day at the rink there is a large discussion over tights and brands and what works the best and what everyone should use now. There doesn’t seem to be a consensus. I do know that the old Danskin skate tights sold for around $20, but I have heard of people paying upwards of $50 for a pair on the secondary market. It is a lot like trying to buy Patrones magazines – sometimes you wonder if the obsession is leading you towards a path where you might be dealing with selling kidneys in shady alleyways.
Pros: These tights came in footed and over-the-boot varieties. They were soft, stretchy, and had a decently sized waistband. They were the perfect thickness for competition – not so thick and to be fuzzy, but not so thin as to show the skin’s imperfections (aka bruises) under the tights. The over-the-boot sort had the perfectly sized opening for the boot – not so big as to constantly slide up the leg, but not so small as to not fit over the boot. The elastic around the bottom of the opening kept the tights in place, but there were optional hooks that could be sewn on if necessary. The optional hooks made placement for custom sizing very easy, but most people didn’t use them because they didn’t need them. These tights also came in several colors – Light Toast (for medium skin tones), Classic Light Toast (a slightly deeper tone with more red, great for darker skin or very tan people), and black (good for skaters on precision teams who need to match or need black tights for specific costumes).
Cons: These are no longer produced. If you are lucky and have a small child you might be able to find a child’s small on the internet (most probably in black), but it is impossible to find any adult sizes anymore. When these were sold, there were two child’s sizes and two adult sizes for over the boot, and four sizes for children and adults in footed tights. Having an even larger over-the-boot would have been nice, but these tights seemed to work well for most people in any case. Once they got a hole or run they did tend to shred up fairly quickly, but I have also had a few pairs last for years and were only tossed once the crotch seam ripped appart.
Mondor is probably the most popular skating tight manufacturer today. They definitely have the largest selection of styles, and widest range of colors of any tights on the market today.
Pros: These tights come in footed, over-the-boot, footless, and stirrup varieties. They also come in several thicknesses (the thicker ones for long ice-skating practice sessions, the thinnest ones might be used under a second pair of tights) and various fibers (cotton, bamboo, and nylon options mixed with Lycra are available), and they come in shiny and matte varieties. Most styles come in several colors (all seem to come in Suntan and Light Tan, with a few also coming in Back for costumes or Brown to match dark skin tones), and many of the over-the-boot styles have pre-attached snaps or velcro. These tights also come in 4-5 child sizes and 4-5 adult sizes for each style, which might make it easier to find an appropriate size. I have heard that the Evolution style tights (numbers 3337, 3338, and 3339) are the most popular for competition. I have recently gotten a pair to try, so I can’t comment on their longevity, but I will say I think that the over-the-boot style has a good sized opening and good placement on the snaps.
Cons: Most roller skaters don’t like having the pre-attached snaps (they are much more difficult to fasten between a boot and wider skate plate than between a boot and narrow ice blade) but the tights often ride up when the snaps are not fastened. Also, velcro on tights tends to be a very bad idea for obvious reasons. I have also heard that these tights tend to run easily, and most people complain that the thin tights are too thin, while the thick tights are too thick. Some people don’t like their texture, and others complain that the waistbands don’t have good recovery (too big or too small). Also, because there are so many styles in so many sizes it can be difficult to find exactly what you want as many places won’t carry the full line in all of the style/size/color options. It can even be difficult to find some of them on the internet, although I found a fairly good source at SkateBuys.
Capezio is a company that mainly seems to sell dance wear, shoes, and tights, though they branched out into skating apparel when Michelle Kwan and Tara Lipinski took the skating craze to new heights. They still sell footed and over-the-boot skate tights, but don’t seem to offer as many skating practice costumes as they have in previous years.
Pros: These tights come in two colors (nude and suntan) and four sizes for adults and children. Most dance stores stock Capezio brand tights, so these are often easy to find. They also seem to be slightly more resistant to runs, but they do tend to get holes easily if a skater falls.
Cons: Although there are two colors available, the nude usually looks too pale, and the suntan too red. The opening for the boot is massively large, and the material usually feels stiff and somewhat scratchy. I don’t think the legs are as stretchy as other brands, so you would want to go a size up for length, but this would exacerbate the big-foot problem. I had someone give me several pairs of these tights for free because they tried them and did not like them. I wore them once. I don’t even like to use them for practice. Probably my least favorite tight.
These are (as far as I am aware) a fairly new tight in the skating world. I can only assume they are going to try and fill the void left by Danskin. I recently just got a pair to try for experimental purposes. The Body Wrappers brand seems fairly popular with the dance crowd, so I am hoping that their skate tights will be equally amazing.
Pros: The brand is, in general, highly recommended by dancers. The tights have been described as soft, warm, durable, and comfortable. My first impression is that these tights have the most comfortable waistband ever. The tights themselves are soft, but perhaps just slightly on the thin side, especially for skate tights. For competition one should probably consider wearing 2 layers of tights. They come in over-the-boot and footed varieties, but the company also makes a footless dance tight that can be used as well, though it is very thin. I really like the footless tights to wear under a second pair in competition because they add warmth without adding too much bulk. Also, these tights are made in the USA, so huzzah for supporting the garment district and local manufacturing.
Cons: At the moment these tights only come in one color – Jazzy Tan – which, if you are pasty white like me, should be ok (actually a great color for my fairly pale skin tone), but won’t look good on people with darker skin. The thin-ness of these tights might be considered a negative. Also, these tights only come in two sizes for children and two sizes for adults. These tights come with the hooks pre-attached, but for a roller skater the hooks are very difficult to attach together and the front hook is far too back on the tights to be practical. I am going to have to adjust these hooks before I wear the tights, as it is already apparent that these tights won’t stay down around the boots without the hooks to help hold them in place. I haven’t worn/tested them yet, so no word on durability – I shall have to give an update at some point. They are difficult to find (mostly, I assume, due to their new-ness) but I found a source at SkateBuys. I am hoping that these will be my new replacement for Danskins, but as with most things you can’t really know until you try.
This is an independent company that sells skating apparel and has their own line of skate tights.
Pros: These tights are soft, comfortable, and very durable. I have taken some hard falls on fresh plastic that would have shredded any other brand, but these held up with only some mild fuzziness on the knee and a very minor run where my dance partner kicked my skate. I think these tights have a higher lycra content than most, which adds considerably to their flexibility and comfort. They come in footed and over-the-boot varieties in four sizes for children and four sized for adults. The over-the-boot style comes with pre-attached snaps. Usually I hook the front snaps but not the back ones and I don’t have a problem with the tights riding up.
Cons: Because these tights are made by an independent company, you can’t easily find them in a store – you can only buy them online (or at skating competitions if the company is there). They only come in one color – it is a bit too brown to match fair skin, but too light to match dark skin. By aiming for a middle-of-the-road color it essentially matches no one and thus can look a little funky, especially in the lighting of the rinks and auditoriums where competitions take place. Also, the legs are so stretchy that the waistband seems slightly too small and restrictive by comparison. These will probably end up being my favorite brand of practice tights, mainly due to the softness, warmth, and durability, but the color will prevent me from using them in competition unless I run out of other options.
This is another skate company that decided to make its own brand of tights. I don’t have any personal experience with these tights, so I can’t make a full assessment, but I did want to mention them since the option is out there.
Pros: These look to be fairly thick skating tights, and there are many favorable reviews. They come in four adult and five child sizes in over-the-boot and footed. The over-the-boot have pre-sewn snaps, and the company claims they have been specially designed to easily fit over the skating boot. These tights are also made in the USA.
Cons: Again, it might be difficult to find these tights other than over the internet. I don’t have any personal experience, so I can’t say how well these hold up, or speak to how natural the color is. There is only one color available and it is difficult to determine how it will look on various skin tones based on the pictures available.
This is a brand of tights that isn’t widely available, though I often see them sold at skating competitions. The only time I see them being worn is when skaters forget to bring tights to said skating competitions. I forgot tights once (early in my skating career) and bought a pair. They were unbelievably thin and literally shredded as I put them on. Luckily, my mom was able to bring my normal tights and I had time to change before I actually competed. I don’t know if anyone would ever encounter this brand, but if you should I wouldn’t recommend it.
Bloch is a dance wear company that used to also make skating tights. These are no longer produced and were really too thin for skating, but I do sometimes use the Bloch Adaptatoe or footless tights as a secondary pair under my normal tights (especially during cold winter competitions). These tights do not run very easily, come in many colors, and are thin enough to wear under another pair of tights while still being thick enough to provide added warmth. The only downside is that the waistband is very very small – mine ripped the first time I put them on, but despite this the tights themselves did not run. At this point the waist band is mostly separated (I know, I know, I should just sew it back on) but the tights have held up well for over two years of competitions.
So, there you have it – my exhaustive knowledge of skate tights. I have been lucky that I have had a nice stockpile of Danskin tights to draw from, but I have been slowly branching out now that the need to search for a replacement has arisen. It seems that if you have fair skin, are fairly thin, and somewhat short, you have a lot of options for brands and styles. Otherwise you might be locked into one brand because of size or color limitations. To be fair, these companies need to produce products that will sell to the most people, but I often wish there were larger sizes or more colors available. Many people suggest buying a size up to prevent runs and other damage, but when you are topping out the size charts like I am, there isn’t really a way to do that. At least I have a wide variety of color options, but for skaters with darker skin there aren’t as many brands available. Also, it has become very difficult to find black, white or other over the boot colors for precision and synchro teams and more dramatic costuming.
So fellow skaters – which brand of tights do you like or not like? Do you use the same brand for practice and competition, or different ones? Do you have problems finding tights to match your skin tone or size? Do you stockpile tights like I do, or did the fall of Danskin leave you feeling like you were caught in the middle of an apocalypse? Does anyone have any experience with Body Wrappers or Rainbo? Discuss!