Count Basie, leader of the Count Basie Orchestra, circa 1955 courtesy http://upload.wikimedia.org.
I'm hip, I'm lucky to have
Someone so endowed;
A girl half as lovely would made
Lots of fellows proud
I love all of her charms
But one's really a ball:
I love those shiny stockings most of all.
(An excerpt from "Shiny Stockings", a jazz tune composed by Frank Foster in 1955 and performed by the Count Basie Orchestra.)
Everybody has heard of D-Day, but who has heard of N-Day? It was on this day in 1940 that the Du Pont Corporation first came out with nylon stockings. The hosiery quickly became a bestseller amongst American women. European women appreciated them as well: the stockings were the favourite gift for American soldiers to give to British women when they were stationed overseas.
However, with the entry of the United States into the war in December of 1941, Du Pont stopped making the stockings and started manufacturing war materials like parachutes and aircraft tires. A severe shortage for the product soon developped. The stockings which had previously sold for just over a dollar, were being traded on the black market for $20 a pair. Investigators of a murder in the United States quickly ruled out robbery as a motive since the perpetrator left six pairs of nylon stockings behind.
In August of 1945, with the surrender of Japan and the end of World War II, the DuPont Corporation returned to its pre-war production of stockings. However, each time a store had a sale, they were sold out before day's end. Mobs of women surrounded the department stores; fights broke out and the police had to be called. These incidents became known as the "Nylon Riots". In Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, the mayor received a petition with the names of 400 women on it demanding that the nylon product be more readily available. The mayor arranged a stocking sale: 40,000 hosiery-hungry women lined up for 13,000 pairs. Another Nylon Riot ensued.
It wasn't until March of 1946, when the DuPont Corporation started producing 30 million pairs of stockings per month that supply met demand. And America's women were happy once again.
Photo of line up for nylon stockings on May 15, 1940 courtesy http://4.bp.blogspot.com.