A stocking (also known as hose, especially in a historical context) is a close-fitting, variously elastic garment covering the foot and lower part of the leg. Stockings vary in color, design and transparency. By analogy, the term is also used to describe a type of horse marking in which the white coloring extends from the horse’s hoof to just above the knee.
Today, stockings are primarily worn by women for fashion and aesthetics, usually in association with mid-length skirts. They can also be worn for increased warmth. They are also sometimes worn by men, and in cross-dressing and fetishism.
Stockings are sometimes preferred to pantyhose for a number of reasons. These may include the perception that stockings, and the associated use of garters, lace, high fashion, appliqué and the exposure of the thigh, are more aesthetically pleasing, or sexually attractive, than pantyhose. They are also regarded as cleaner and healthier, while pantyhose tends to create a humid and warm environment in the crotch area, increasing perspiration and potentially promoting fungal and bacterial growth. Stockings, on the other hand, provide ventilation in the crotch, resulting in a reduction of fungal and bacterial growth. Unlike pantyhose, they can facilitate sexual intercourse without having to be removed.
However, stockings have a drawback in colder weather, because more skin is exposed to the cold compared to pantyhose. Also, pantyhose does not require garters and garter belts, does not need to be adjusted as much, and leaves a smoother line under form-fitting clothing.