Thursday, August 05, 2021

The silk stockings crisis of August, 1941

Times of national crisis sometimes lead to shortages. As the COVID-19 pandemic launched during 2020, for example, it was toilet paper and other paper products --- for reasons not yet clear.

Back in 1941, as World War II approached, silk stocks were among many endangered products. In fact, the federal Office of Production Management's decision on Aug. 2, 1941, to seize the nation's supply of raw silk for the war effort led to panic buying at the nation's hosiery counters.

The Chariton Leader reported the situation in Chariton on Aug. 5 with a story headlined, "Women Rush to Buy Silk: Supply of Stockings Dwindling Here; sales of $10 are Common." Here's the text:


With the silk stocking market ready to fold up because of chilly relations between the United States and Japan, the rush to the silk stocking counters in Chariton was on this week.

Japan enjoys a virtual monopoly of silk and with this source cut off, silk stockings will soon be a thing of the past in women's wardrobes.

Local merchants this week report that sales of $10 and $15 are common as many women stock up "for the duration." Merchants here were quick to caution, however, that within 60 days it will become unfashionable to wear silk hose. Then mesh or some other type will be considered the thing to wear.

Local companies have been told by concerns from which they obtain their hose that such will be the case and the local stores in turn have been telling their buyers putting in big supplies that if the buyer wears silk hose too far in the future they will be unfashionable.

Stocks in local stores will be depleted in a few days but more can be ordered, the merchants said. At least for the time being.


Advertising, like the example above, suggests that silk hose still were available at Christmas, but vanished soon thereafter --- except on the black market.

Nylon hose had been introduced during 1939 and were gaining rapidly in popularity --- but then on Feb. 11, 1942, the government commandeered DuPont's output, also for the war effort, and hosiery options dwindled.

I'm happy to report that the Allies won the war, but silk never recovered its place in the stocking market. Nylon seems to dominate the sheer stocking market still, however.

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