Friday, 23 September 2011

Exclusive interview with Pretty Polly LEGS ELEVEN finalist Tom Marshman

I recently blogged about the final of the Pretty Polly LEGS ELEVEN competition. It was great news that Pretty Polly had shortlisted a guy, Tom Marshman, as one of the finalists.

Hosiery for Men has just completed an exclusive interview with Tom and we are now pleased to publish it.

Can you tell us a bit about yourself Tom?
I am a performance artist I am based in Bristol. You can see a little bit more about my work at my website, which is still being developed but it gives you a little flavour of my work. My work in essence is low camp; often theatre based shows, (often involving a lot of dressing up and down) but always has an element of autobiography within it. The pieces are playful and heartfelt.

Why did you decide to take part in the Pretty Polly 
LEGS ELEVEN competition?
This year, I had both my legs operated on, to remove my varicose veins, it’s a condition that is hereditary and whilst recovering I decided to make a performance about 'legs'. I see legs as metaphors for journey’s pathways and life choices, and there was something about the medical language used that fascinated me. I saw metaphor in blood flow and surgical knifes breaking skin. I decided to call my show Legs 11, quite catchy and familiar I thought. Then my housemate showed me a competition on Facebook, which was about the quest to find Pretty Polly’s LEGS ELEVEN ambassador. 

Pretty Polly is a brand that has a childhood nostalgia for me; it’s associated with whizzing around the supermarket as a little boy in the back of the supermarket trolley while mum shopped for tights. And foodstuffs of course! It’s a brand that I felt was quintessentially English, which I appealed to me.

The competition was also called LEGS ELEVEN; it was a hard decision, to enter this one! Basically I entered it partly as research for my new show of the same name, but also because I was genuinely curious to see what might happen if I, a man who’s getting near 40, intervened in a system that wasn’t intended for me.

Why did Pretty Polly choose a guy to take part in the final?
The users of Facebook voted for the best pair of legs and I was voted in because I had a lot of votes for me. I was very encouraging to all my friends to vote for me.

How was the experience of taking part?
I think there have been lots of raised eyebrows, about what I have been up to. I think a lot of people have found it a lot of fun. There are a few serious points I am making, not just with entering the competition but with the show itself, about beauty and embarrassment for your body (I am also due to appear on Channel 4’s Embarrassing Bodies, 26th September). The act of entering the competition and the fallout from it works on a few levels, but my intention was to be a playful agent provocateur (and I am not talking about the lingerie manufacturer!)

In the Pretty Polly video of the final you stated that 'tights are for everyone'. Can you expand on that?
I believe that we all have the right to express ourselves in the way that feels right to us (as long as it doesn’t hurt anyone else). I like wearing tights, I also like wearing sailor’s uniforms, swimming trucks, roller blades, outrageous sunglasses, wigs, and cowboy hats... the list is endless. I have always loved dressing up and so I believe that I have the right to wear hosiery. It also feels nice against bare skin; I know this has been well documented.

There has been some interesting discussion on the thread that follows the YouTube film, which in part reinforces that there are some small minded people in the world, but I try not to let that stop me doing exactly what I want to.

Are there any kind of tights you particularly like?
I really like the tights I wore in the final; they are gold with stars on designed by Henry Holland. They are outrageous, but also quite chic. I guess I also would love the new limited edition bingo tights - they are a Henry Holland/Pretty Polly collaboration. They would be great for my show!

I also host a regular night in Bristol called Beacons, Icons and Dykons. It’s a night where we show a film that has a strong affinity with queer culture. You’ll usually find me wearing tights on that evening. I guess I want tights and stockings to be bright and bold. I like to just wear them on there own, or maybe with just a pair of roller blades.

Where do you usually purchase tights from?
Well I was given a goody bag from Pretty Polly so that will keep me amused for some time. The next Beacons, Icons and Dykons night I do is Marylyn Monroe themed so I guess I will wear Pretty Polly’s Super Suspender, which are made from really good quality fabric and are Marylyn-level sexy! 

Tom - thank you so much for speaking to Hosiery for Men. It has been a real pleasure talking to you and congratulations again for reaching the LEGS ELEVEN final. It's also great to see a major UK hosiery manufacturer showing an inclusive attitude towards men who wear tights.


  1. Good One... I am going have to try some of them Henry Holland tights..

  2. Congratulations on getting the interview. It's a sign of achievement.