Before the 1920s, stockings, if worn, were worn for warmth. In the 1920s, as hemlines of dresses rose, people began to wear stockings to cover the exposed legs. These stockings were sheer, first made of silk or rayon (then known as “artificial silk”), and after 1940 of nylon.
The introduction of nylon in 1939 by chemical company DuPont began a high demand for stockings in the United States with up to 4 million pairs being purchased in one day. Nylon stockings were cheap, durable, and sheer compared to their cotton and silk counterparts.
When America entered World War II on December 11, 1941, DuPont ceased production of nylon stockings and retooled their factories to produce parachutes, airplane cords, and rope. This led to a mass shortage and creation of a black market for stockings. At the end of the war DuPont announced that the company would return to producing stockings but could not meet demand. This led to a series of disturbances in American stores labeled the nylon riots until DuPont was able to ramp up production.