Written by Rachel

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Bare feet

Bare feet are okay for a yoga class (Indian) or a karate class (Japanese), Pilates (UK/USA) but not a tai chi class (Chinese).
In fact, publically showing your bare feet for tai chi is culturally offensive to the Chinese. Men wear socks, and women wear very thin tights. Taijiquan slippers are usually also worn. But never bare feet!
Looking like Frodo Baggins is not dignified...
See comparison: https://crumpetkitten.blogspot.com/2020/03/which-look-best-with-or-without-tights.html


There is a reason why the female dress code is the way it is. Chinese arts encourage grace, elegance and poise. Tai chi is considered to be refined art; dignified and sophisticated.
Yang Cheng Fu described the poise as being "majestic".

Cultural practice

Asian women adopted the practice of wearing thin tights/stockings centuries ago. How come? Modesty, leg health, protection, improved circulation and aesthetics.
Tights to serve to accentuate your femaleness...


If you wear shoes with bare feet, your sweat will eventually permeate the footwear; making the shoes smell.
Eventually, the shoes transfer the odour back onto your feet whenever you wear the shoes - it is a vicious cycle. This doesn't happen when you wear hosiery.


Low denier hosiery protects the skin from the elements. Women who live in a cool climate usually suffer dry skin. This is caused by the weather.
Wearing hosiery provides a barrier than maintains moisture levels; akin to wearing cream on your face?

10 denier

Low denier (10 denier are less sweaty) 100% nylon tights are great. These are usually the cheapest pairs sold at the supermarket.
There are some great sheer-to-waist styles available which are really comfortable.

No lycra

Lycra hosiery was designed for fat people who want to give the illusion of having toned/firm legs when quite the opposite is true. In fact, lycra is an impediment to health.
It compresses the bones and muscles and this restricts movement. It limits circulation.
A good test is toe flexibility... if you can't easily separate the toes, then the hosiery is either the wrong size for you or it contains lycra.

Military trick

Female students are advised to wear very thin tights beneath their martial arts trousers. Wearing hosiery beneath your uniform is an old military trick intended to reduce friction.
Hosiery minimises friction, reduce the risk of blisters and keeps you warmer (vital when you exercise) whilst allowing the skin to breathe. It's a great tip for women who exercise a lot!

Not socks

Inner thigh abrasion is the main concern when doing exercise. Socks won't stop abrasion. Pop socks/sneaker socks won't work - even if they're made of nylon.


In Asia, socks are considered aesthetically ugly for female tai chi exponents. And, thin hosiery make your 'softer parts' far harder to seize during chin na practice.


Women often suffer from circulation issues. Typically: cold hands, cold feet. Thin hosiery improves circulation by creating subtle pressure on the legs.

Leg power

Wearing hosiery encourages you to feel your legs more. To be more leg conscious. More lower body conscious - which is essential - since this is where we want to get much of our strength.

Where to buy?

For everyday wear, I buy the cheapest multipack non-lycra hosiery from the supermarket. They cost less than 5 and fit great.

My favourite nicer tights are Golden Lady seamless. Expensive tights are probably worth the money but cost a LOT more.

Further reading

Dress code
Dress code & ego
Dress code for women
Female feet
How to look good in tights
Asian women


school database

Page created 26 November 2007
Last updated 16 January 2021