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A run on nylons after the Second World War

The Story

The battle of the nylons was fought this week and, luckily, there were no casualties. Women started lining up early in the morning outside clothing stores across the city as nylon hosiery came back on sale for the first time since 1939. As we hear in this brief radio clip, one merchant took no chances, erecting barricades in case of a riot. The sale went off, however, without a snag. 

Medium: Radio
Program: Overseas Extra
Broadcast Date: Feb. 24, 1946
Reporter: Dick Diespecker
Duration: 0:23
Photo: TV Little Studios/Library and Archives Canada/361546

Did You know?

• Nylon stockings were unavailable during the war because the raw material was needed to make parachutes, medical sutures, flak suits and flak curtains. Silk stockings were also sacrificed to make parachutes. Some women put make-up on their bare legs to give the appearance of hosiery, complete with a black line up the back.

• Cities across Canada experienced consumer giddiness as hosiery came back on the market. The Hamilton Spectator reported that the first shipment of 25,000 pairs of nylons sold out on the first day they returned to the shelves. "The crowds were handled in orderly fashion; the stockings were sold considerably before noon and the next nylon shipment will not reach Hamilton for another month," the newspaper reported.

• Many other products were either unavailable or extremely scarce during the war while production was diverted to military purposes. Rubber tires, oil and gas, meat and butter and liquor were among them.

• Ration books were issued and a black market developed for hard-to-get goods.

• The end of the war, rising prosperity and the gradual return of fully stocked shelves ushered in the consumer culture of the 1950s. For example, car registrations doubled in Canada between 1947 and 1952.

• With the war won, women were expected to return to the feminine ideal. In February 1946, ex-servicewoman Chris Foley reported some good news for CBC Radio -- "Curves are back!" Now that the soldiers were back home, she said, "pin-ups and glamour girls are no longer dream dust to the boys. This year the sweet sophisticated girl will ring the church bell."


Welcome Home, Soldier! Life in Postwar Canada more