Ballet Tights for Men

by David on September 20, 2009

Part 2 of the Men’s Dancewear Tutorials

Mens Ballet Tights

Mens Ballet Tights

View Part 1 Here.

View Part 3 Here.

Where do I buy men’s tights?

Men’s ballet tights are available online, through dance-wear catalogs, and in many dance-wear stores.  It can be helpful to purchase your tights from a store that can help you find the right size.  But sometimes a smaller ballet apparel store won’t be familiar with helping a male.  I suggest that you try visiting a dance apparel store if there is one near where you live, particularly if you live in a larger city.  Dance stores in large cities will have more chance of catering to male dancers.

If you go into a dance store and they seem to be confused by a male ballet dancer, or they seem to be trying to offer you some tights that are not made for men, I suggest that you find somewhere else to buy or order online.  I have run into a couple stores that are really trying to help, but just don’t understand the difference between men and women’s tights.  Women’s tights are too thin for men and they are too see-through.  Men’s tights are thicker and more like tight leggings than pantyhose.  If a store recognizes that you need men’s tights and they offer to order some for you, this is acceptable.  It means that they probably know what you need, and again, they can help you with the sizing.

If you feel more comfortable ordering from a website or catalog, it is not hard to figure out your sizing.  Your dance studio probably has ballet apparel catalogs (although there will probably be only one page for men’s stuff, if you are even lucky), and many great apparel websites have sizing charts online (see resources at the end of this article).  Refer to the manufacturer’s sizing charts when you are choosing your tights.  In stores these charts are often printed on the back of the tights packaging.

How much do men’s tights cost?

Men’s ballet tights usually cost somewhere in between $15-$30 for each pair.  There are definitely more expensive tights, if you want something that is very trendy or fashionable (see resources), but your basic tights will fall within this price range.

How many pairs of tights do I need?

If you are dancing just twice a week, you can probably get by with one pair of tights.  If you dance more than that, it will be helpful to have at least two pairs.  Having more than one pair will allow you to wash and dry a pair while you still have a pair to use.  Over time you will surely accumulate quite a few pairs of tights.

How long do ballet tights last?

A decent pair of tights will last you several months if you use them a couple times a week and wash and take care of them properly.  As tights get older they will start to wear and get some holes.  The first holes usually show up in the feet of footed tights, much like a pair of socks gets holes.

What kind of tights do I buy?

Buy your tights according to the color and style recommendations of your dance studio.  If they do not specify, I highly recommend a pair of black tights.  Black is pretty much the default color for men’s classes and practice.

There are a few different popular styles of men’s tights available.  Tights can be footed, footless, or convertibleFooted tights go right down over your feet, like those children’s footie pajamas.  Footless tights go down to your ankle, or stop even higher, somewhere between your knee and ankle.  Convertible tights can be either footed or footless. They have a hole in the back of the ankle so that you can roll them up off of your feet if you want.

Footed tights are often used in performances.  What you use in class will probably come down to a matter of preference.  I personally prefer footless tights.  They are cheaper and I find them more comfortable.

There a quite a few different brands that make men’s tights.  Most likely you will buy what you can, perhaps until you find a company that makes a pair you really like.  See the resources at the end of this article for a list of some companies.

How do men wear ballet tights?

The most important thing that men must do when they wear ballet tights, is where a dance belt underneath.  In the next Ballet For Men post I will cover everything you need to know about a dance belt.  Know right now that you shouldn’t wear tights without one.

How do I put tights on?

Putting tights on is pretty simple.  The easiest way to do it is to roll up each leg of the tights before you stick your foot in.  Don’t just try to pull them on like a pair of pants.  You may rip them, and they probably won’t go on evenly.  Roll up the leg by reaching your arm down to the bottom of the tights.  If they are footless, grab the ankle, if they are footed, pinch to toes from the inside and pull them up to the waist of the tights.  It is like you are pulling them inside-out, but stop before you get to the point where they would start becoming inside-out.  Here you can stick your foot into the foot of the tights (or through the ankle if they’re footless), and pull the tights up, releasing the bunches so that they go on pretty evenly.

You’ll notice that once you have your tights on, and pull them all the way up, they can go high up.  They waistband could probably go up to your chest.  If you put the waistband around your waist, you’ll probably notice that they might bunch around the crotch.

How do I keep my tights up?

You’ll wan’t your tights to be pulled up tight to your crotch, and be giving you a wedgie (you’re already wearing the dance belt anyways).  If it doesn’t give you a wedgie, you’ll get a uni-butt, which looks like you have one big butt-cheek and it looks weird and unnatural.  Here are 2 good options for keeping your tights held up:  suspenders or a waist-belt.

Tights can be ordered with suspenders on them, or you can put suspenders on your own pair.  To put suspenders on your tights.  Get some 1/2 inch or wider elastic.  This is sold in many fabric and department stores.  Put your tights on and pull them all the way up.  Cut some pieces of elastic long enough to go from the front of your tights waist to the opposite side of your back tights waist.  So you should have a piece go from your left side of your tights, below your left nipple, over your shoulder to your right side back, below your shoulder blade.  Do the same thing from your right side, to your left back side.  This will allow the suspenders to cross behind you, and keep them from slipping off of your shoulders.  Mark the length of the elastic so that they are stretched, but not so tight they can’t stretch anymore.  Take your tights off and sew these elastics to the waist band just they way you measured them.

The problem with suspenders is that you have to wear your tights so high.  You could wear them under a shirt, but then the elastic will rub on your bare chest.  Find the softest elastic you can in this case.  If you wear a shirt under the suspenders, you will have to tuck it in to your tights, which are pulled up really high, and that can look a little strange.

The other option is to use a waist belt.  You can either use a thin belt you would use for your pants, or again some elastic.  My favorite method is to get a thick length of elastic, at least 1 inch thick.  Measure the length by pulling the elastic tight around your hips.  Pull it so tight you can’t pull it anymore and add 2 inches to that length.  Cut that piece and use the 2 inch extra to overlap the ends of the elastic to make it a circle.  Sew the two ends together at the overlap.  Then put your tights on and pull them all the way up with the waist as high as it goes.  Take your elastic belt you just made and step into it.  Pull it all the way up (it will be tightest around your hips, but not so tight you can’t pull it up).  Pull the elastic up to be 1 inch below the waist of your tights.  Roll the waistband of your tights over the elastic and then continue rolling it down, flipping over the elastic so that it wraps up the extra waist of tights.  Keep pulling your tights up so that it stays tight in your crotch, and roll down until the elastic makes a waistband roll of tights that sits at a comfortable level.  Instead of using the elastic, you can use a thin leather belt, but I find the elastic is easiest to use.  This method creates a thicker waistband around your tights, but it still allows you to tuck in your shirt, holds your tights up, and looks pretty decent.

Taking care of your tights

How do I clean my tights?

It is best to hand-wash your tights, but you can also wash them on a gentle cycle in a washing machine.  People often say that hand-washing your tights will extend the life of them, but if you are dancing a lot, you will probably damage your tights more from dance than washing in the machine.  However, when washing tights in a machine, you can often be left with soap residue on your tights, which you can shake or wipe off after they have dried.  It may come as a shock to you if you grab a washed pair of tights and throw them on that you have white powdery soap streaks all over your tights.  Some tights may be subject to this more than others.  Washing your tights in a loose mesh bag can also prevent them from getting tangled in other items.

Leave your tights to hang dry.  Dryers can be more damaging than your washing machine.  It can take more than a day for your tights to hang dry, so plan ahead, especially if you only have one pair, or are washing all of your tights.  It sucks to go to ballet without tights, but it possibly sucks more to wear tights that haven’t fully dried.

How often do I wash my tights?

Wash them whenever you get a chance.  Maybe more often than that.  Your tights get pretty intimate with all of your sweatiest areas, and you better be sweating in ballet.  Get tights washing on your schedule, probably your weekly schedule.  If you take 2 classes a week, you could have one pair and wash them every week.  If you take 4 classes a week, maybe you should have 2 pairs and wash them once a week.  No one will get mad or think less of you if your tights are always clean.  You don’t really want to smell in ballet class.

How do I take care of my tights and what about holes?

The first sign of aging tights is a hole.  It doesn’t take long for an unattended hole to turn into a big hole.  The worst place to get a hole is in the butt or crotch, for obvious reasons.  While some holes can be sewn, I usually retire a pair if I get a hole there.  Even sewing a hole is temporary, and most likely when that sew rips, you will be left with an even bigger hole.  I would rather buy a new pair of tights than expose my dance belt.  If the hole is on the knee or leg, I will usually stitch it up.  I like to use dental floss to stitch with, because it is strong, cheap, and easier for me handle than a tiny thread.  I stitch across the hole just how a doctor stitches skin back together.  To make the stitch less obvious, I usually color the floss in black with a marker.  Stitching a hole will keep the hole from getting bigger right away, but the hole will probably come back.  You might want to start saving for a new pair of tights.

On footed tights, you will get a hole in the feet pretty fast.  When the holes get too big, I usually cut the feet off and roll up the ankle, turning them into a pair of footless tights.  When those tights get a hole in the leg, I’ll cut them into shorts and use them in hot summer classes.  It helps to save a little bit of money.

Tights Resources

Dance Apparel

The Ballet For Men Store – Dance Apparel

MotionWear Dancewear

Discount Dance Supply

Quality Tights Companies




Leo’s Dancewear

Cool Tights


We Love Colors (only the professional tights are wearable for ballet)

{ 12 comments… read them below or add one }

1 ralf September 21, 2009 at 5:22 am

Thank you. Well put, balanced and accurate, helpful information for the serious man interested in ballet. Keep the good information coming!

2 Gideon September 22, 2009 at 2:22 pm

Just started ballet, so this was very helpful. Thank you

3 Steven September 23, 2009 at 5:14 pm

This was very helpful. Thanks!

4 Erik September 29, 2009 at 1:35 am

Very useful and detailed information! I bought myself a pair of clip-on suspenders from a menswear shop (the kind you would get to keep your normal day wear pants up in stead of a belt) I just clip them onto the top of the tights and off I go. It is more expensive than buying elastic, but theres no sewing and I can use the same pair of suspenders with different tights.

Anyway, thanks for taking the trouble to blog this info, like Ralf said: keep it coming please!

5 David October 3, 2009 at 6:50 pm

Great suggestion!

6 Stitches212 October 10, 2009 at 8:57 am

Just discovered your site and I love it! As a costume designer there is not a lot of info out there for men in ballet and I am really hoping in the future you cover performance apparel. Men sometimes can be more picky than the women believe it or not and it would be great to hear from people as to their preferences in costumes regarding materials, movement, etc.

7 Sean Webb November 9, 2009 at 2:46 pm

I’m returning to ballet after a rather long absence. Today I went shopping for appropriate dance clothing and was very disappointed. There was never much of a selection in the dance stores in my area, but it has gotten much worse. It seems that there are almost no male dancers over the age of ten around here. I bought the only pair of men’s tights that they had. Another store tried to sell me jazz pants that were about five sizes too small. I still have some good shoes and dance belts but very little in the way of tights. I have one pair of MStevens that are more appropriate for performance than regular class, but I might just have to throw them on for my next class. Maybe I can run down to Toronto soon and do some shopping. Where have all the male dancers gone in Ontario?

8 David November 11, 2009 at 1:57 am

@Sean Webb
I hear your frustration! I think everywhere needs more male dancers. Hopefully we can promote and encourage enough to make it happen.

9 Stretchiness January 22, 2010 at 12:48 pm

Thank you so much for posting the reference to Yumiko! I had never heard of them before. This is a dancewear clothing company founded by Yumiko Takeshima, a renowned principle dancer who also became a designer of cutting edge dancewear.

Yumiko has a special design of tights unlike any other maker. I live rather close to NYC so I was able to stop by their Manhattan store on 46th St and try on a pair of their Felipe tights. Although made from an unusual pattern, they fit amazingly well. Not only do they work well for dancing, they simply feel great to wear. If they weren’t $50 a pair, I’d probably have a handful of them to lounge around in on the weekends during chilly months! ;-)

10 Hank April 27, 2010 at 4:07 pm

Not to be repetitive, but thx for this site. the info is most valuable!

I’ve returned to ballet after a 10 yr hiatus and am surprised that retail stores are still pretty clueless with regards to the male dancer. the info you’re providing will save many from a potentially bad purchase.

as for tights, I’ve gone the unitard route; you never need worry about droopy tights or a uni-butt.

11 Paul campbell January 14, 2011 at 9:59 am

Iwant to be a Balet dancer

12 K September 30, 2011 at 4:47 am

Great article! As we journey through our experiences in dance, we as male dancers find our footing and therefore the difference between men’s and women’s dancewear diminishes. For instance, I have found women’s dance tights to be cheaper, particularly if there’s a now out sale. Wearing two pairs of tights is not uncommon, particularly pairing a pair of footless tights with convertible tights. This may be hard to swallow at first, but like my first teacher told me when I showed up to my first class in shorts and t-shirt … “You’re not dancing in my studio, until you have the proper attire for dance!” To this day, I still thank her for her strict demeanor because I’ve learned to embrace dancewear as a tool for success!

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