Boys' Ballet Costume Garments: Tights

Figure 1.--Black tights are commonly worn for practive, but white tights are the most common color for ballet performances. As this boy is wearing a "T" shirt, this is probably a practice costume.

One of the colors most associated with ballet are tights. They are especially suited for ballet because they allowed the audience to see the incredible lyric beauty of boy movements in classical ballet. Thet provide the dance freedom of movement without the restrictions of cumbersome clothing while providing a modicum of modesty.

Ballet Tights

Clasical ballet developed in the 16th century as a styalized court dance. Tights-like garments were worn at the time by men. HBC has little information on the garments worn by early dancers, but presumably they were tights as tights were still commonly wore as part of male dress. Tights continued to be worn in the 17th and 18th century as tights passed from the male fashion scene. Tights provided a freedom of movement necessary for dancing while at the same time a necessary level of modesty. In our modern age, however, while girls do not seem to mind wearing tights for dancing, often boys interested in dance are shy about tights.

Main Tights Page

Tights or garments looking like have been worn for centuries. Over most of this era they were worn by adults, mostly men, and not children. They fell from style in the late 16th century as men began wearing knee breeches. They appeared again in the 19th century for specialized wear such as theatricals and athletics. They did not become coomonly worn children's clothes until after World War II in the late 1940s and early 50s. Children wore over the knee stockings in the early 20th century, but these were usually stockings and not tights. Conventions for wearing tights have varied from country to country. Very young boys might wear tights in America and England, but they were mostly worn by girls. In continental Europe and Japan it was more common for boys to wear them.


At this time HBC know two basis types of ballet tights, fotted and unfooted. The footed type appear to the the most common, especially for performances. Footed tights are also more common for practice, but many boys also wear the unfooted type. There appears to be no gender destinctions as to whether footed or unfooted tights are worn. The unfooted style are commonly black.


Boys' ballet tights come in many colors. In America boys most often wear black tights for practice. Black tights or black shorts are commonly used for practice in other countries. Other colors might be worn for practice. One Broitish school, for example, has burgandy tights for practice. White tights are probably the most common color for performance, although a wide variety of colors are worn depending on the costumes. Clown costumes, for example, might involve a wide varidety of colors--bright colors like red, yellow, and green.

Sagging Problem

Many boys report problems with sagging tights, both in practices and performances. The problem can be corrected with a belt, not to be confused with a dance belt. The dancewear stores which handle danceing garmets should also carry external belts. They are quite inexpensive. One dancer reports using a belt about 3/4" wide, webbed plastic, with a strap-type buckle. It looks far too small, but stretches. If it is too loose, I adjust the strap. Another dance also reports a webbed belt. His is black elastic, less than an inch wide, somewhat adjustable. He reports that it was so short I thought it wasn't long enough to go around his neck, let alone his waist. He rolls the top of his tights over the belt. Some tights may stay up this way without the belt, but don't count on it. First, hitch your tights up as far as they will go, and get any looseness out of them. Start at the ankles and work your way up, your tights will be really really formfitting by the time you're done. You will have enough material then to roll over the belt several times without making the tights seem to ride low on your hips.


There appears to be no difference between boys and girls tights. Major American companies like Capezio advertize children's tights and not boys' or girls' tights. HBC believes that this is also standard in Europe.


HBC has noted the following questions about ballet tights from parents.

My 7 year old son is going to start ballet in the fall. I am having trouble finding tights for him that you cannot see through. I have even been to the dance wear shops. Can anyone help? A dance school teacher replies: Your 7 year old son should not need to wear tights. The uniform generally worn in America for a child of that age is tight white t-shirt, black cycling style shorts and white socks. However in the unusual event that your son is required to wear tights, they only appear to be see through. The best make for tights is of course Debut and should be either white or black. The white ones are slightly more see through but in addition to tights your son would also need to wear a male support. It is very unusual for fully fashioned tights to be worn by boys in class these days, all most all boys will either wear a combi-tard or a uni-tard of either spandex lycra or cotton lycra. Tights are generally only worn for show/performance work. You should find out which organisation examins your son's school and then order the regulation uniform which will not include tights. Hope that this is of help to you.

Boys Reactions

Dancers have provided HBC the following details about their dancing experiences and wearing ballet costumes.

I'm 12 and have just started ballet lessons. (My mom thinks I'll get injured playing soccer!). At my class the boys wear their tights under thier leotards. Is this the regular way or do boys where them on the outside??

I did ballet for many years and always wore tights. I guess its silly to think that tights are for girls only.

I'm 14 and have been taking ballet for 6 years, and I've never seen a boy wear a leotard over his tights. I never even seen a boy wear a leotard. Not in my class. My teacher is an old fashioned Russian teacher. Boys MUST wear black tights (or unitards) and white tee shirts. Girls MUST wear pink tights and black leotards. NO EXCEPTIONS!!!!

My name is Steve, and I've been taking ballet lessons for 6 years now. I just came on line today. I was given this webtv unit as a birthday present, and I immediately found this great site for young ballet fans. I have long loved ballet. But it wasn't until I was 8 years old that I took my first class at the urging of my older sister. I was very reluctant at first. And yes, I had a big problem about wearing tights to class!!!! But my sister and the other girls in the class made me feel right at home. I love being in ballet. I have performed in several recitals as well. I want to talk to all other dancers out there male and female about the joy and passion we all have for ballet.

I am 13 now and have dance ballet for 5 years, I started wearing white leotard underneath biack shorts, white sock and black shoes. The girls wear blue leotard and pink tights and shoes. Since we move up to RAD intermediate, I have to start wearing grey tights over my loetard. Since I am the only boy in school, I get laughed at but I dont mine as I like ballaet and my mom also likes for me to dance and I pratice at home also for her to watch. My older brothers call ne sissy, but I dont mine as my mom tells me she want me to dance. So i love dancing. I am the only boy in our dance class. My teacher always says I dance very well, and better than most girls. I dance in Johor Baharu in Malaysia. I do not know of any other boys in Malaysia doing ballet.

My mum made me do ballet when I was younger, and I hated to do it. The boys at school made fun of me, but it wasn't that bad, because they got bored after a few weeks. I hated wearing tights and lycra legging. I think I protested in part because I thought boys were susposed to object. I used to make a big fuss before I put them on. Now my mum is making my little brother do ballet like me, and I can see all the same things happening to him that happened to me, he has been picked on at school because of it and he makes a fuss about wearing the clothes. But he wears a unitard. I never wore one when I did ballet.

I hate ballet, but I like modern dance. My older brother was made to do ballet as well, but now he has left he has given up. Its no use moaning about the shorts, I got to put up with them, so I just get on with it, and enjoy dancing. Also I don't care what people say.

My mum allways does the food shopping on sunday morning after me and my brothers ballet class. I'm 11 and my brother is 8. My brother hates being seen in his ballet uniform outside of class, so he takes joggers to change into. Last Sunday he forgot to take them, and mum made him walk around the superstore in his white sneakers, tracksuit top and black lyrac tights. He had a big tantrum outside the shop and mum ended up pulling him around the shop by his hand.

My mother also dragged me into my twin sisters ballet class when I was 8 years old. I hated to wear tights, and especially that dancebelt!!

My brother takes ballet at first he liked it but since his friends have been teasing him he hates to go. My mom won't let him quit until the end of the session. Every week he complains about going. Yesterday he hid is tights. My mom was mad she was fed so fed up that she punished him. He got mad and tore his tights in two pieces my mom dug out an old pair of my tights and told him your wearing these or your going in your underware and your paying for those tights. I couldn't beleive it but he really has been making my mom mad about this for a while. I think she was fed up any way. He had to wear my pink tights and he was embarased in front of the class. Next week i think he will do what mom says.

Girls of all ages above 5 are required to wear pink tights and a black leotard over the tights at my ballet school. Boys MUST wear either a black footed unitard, or black footed tights and a white tee shirts

My mum has just bought me my first unitard, because I was using my sisters old one before. But not all ballet classes allow you to wear unitards. I prefer to wear a lycra spandex turtleneck unitard instead of tights. My teacher won't allow boys to wear leotards. When I wore my tights to my ballet class, they'd loosen up and slip during class. But since I started wearing my unitard, I don't have that problem anymore.

I loved Center Stage, it reminded me when I was in th ABA summer camp, it was great. I hope it comes out un video or dvd so I can buy it, I hope they could do more movies about academies, like the Royal Ballet Academy for example it would be great. I have a documentary, The Children of Theater Street, about a ballet school in Russia. Its interesting because it shows the ballet classes of boys and girls at an early stage in their training. The uniforms which were the same as I had when I started 5 years ago, I relly like to use a leotard and socks, I hate tights its better to have your legs free when dancing. I have to go to my ballet class now, my teacher is very strict.

I recently entered your site and I'd like you to put this in the Boys Reactions column. I'm 12 years old and my younger brother is 9 and we've been taking ballet for 2-3 years now, of course we're both boys. My mom always takes us shopping with her after our ballet classes and that's why we both bring a change of clothes with us. But one time my brother forgot his and my mom told him that she wasn't going to turn back and go home so he could change. She made him walk all through the mall in his white tennis shoes, his warm-up jacket, and his black long-sleeved ballet unitard! I bet he felt so embarrassed! He pulled the jacket over his head everywhere we went. I felt like laughing but I also felt bad for him too. I was happy though that that didn't happen to me. Anyway, I hope you put this on your webpage and I have my brother's approval.

Figure 2.--This British cadet is one of the boys who swapped places with ballet students. He didn't like the idea of wearing tights.


The British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) in the 1990s did a cildren's TV documentary where ballet students swapped places with army cadets and vice versa. The idea was to give each an idea of the phyical requirements that their counterparts faced. Generally speaking, the cadets had no idea how phyically demanding ballet actually was. The boy illustrated here is one of the army cadets, who when his time came to enrol in the ballet school for a week did not much like his garishly coloured tights. He preferred combat trousers and army boots!


One reason boys may be a little shy about dancing in tights is that it leaves them open to criticism about their phisique. Boys are especially shy about this because so many girls are involved in ballet. HBC noted the following critique by a girl dancer. "I went to watch Swan Lake yesterday. Here is what I thought: The lead dancer (Prince Sigried) wasn't very good. He didn't have straight knees when he stood around. I didn't think he had much expression and he didn't seem to jump high and be strong. He semed really graceful. The swan she was okay but she really didn't seem all that great. There was one dancer in the four cygnets who was quite good. Anyway during the part with all the fuettes and the fast music yeah? well the audience started clapping to the musiic and i think that was really dumb. Then when she finished the audience clapped so loud that they stopped the music untill it shut up and then they started it again. I wasn't too impressed with it but my teacher told me it was really good and all this. Zara "

Girls Comments

Most of the pupils in a dance school are girls. Some boys are concerned about the girls in class might think about them wearing tights in class. Some girls doing ballet have provided their thoughts about boys in their classes wearing tights. One girl comments, "There's no shame in wearing tights or dancing ballet. A lot of guys really enjoy wearing the tights, surprisingly. you look cool and feel good. good luck."--Shon.

Christopher Wagner

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Created: July 22, 2000
Last updated: July 30, 2002