In reading the letters from others who you've posted on "the other side-of corsetry" I find many parallels in my own personal nature. And as with the others I am just as much at a loss for understanding the cause for such an interest. Suffice it to say it simply "is."
I grew up in the 1960's as did many of the men who've contributed to your "letters" column. This time-frame might have some bearing on the subject as in those days women wore dresses almost exclusively. And with those now vintage fashions came all that vintage lingerie. It's interesting to note that irregardless of whatever time period a man was born in since or before then, our "type" of individual always seem to gravitate to that period of 1950's fashion. A hyper-feminine display and lifestyle that has over the passage of time put the memories of such clothing in nearly a pure "fetish" range.
I think what got me started was in seeing that first pair of nylon stockings hanging over the shower rod in the bathroom. It was the mid 60's and I was barely 10 years old. I noticed the shiny sheerness of the delicate fabric and how the sunlight would catch it. I would feel the sheer material between my fingers and marvel at it's slipperiness. This was the secondary cause of my effect so to speak, and what eventually put me on the path of wanting to investigate further the full range and complexity of women's lingerie.
In being around women a lot during my formative years I noticed the hairdos, the makeup, the nail polish and of course the dresses and high heels. But, back then that was standard dress, and the way it was. Women wore dresses and heels and men were never without shirts and ties and suit, coats and hats.
I think the first thing I noticed in looking at the many women I grew up around was that zipping sound, that "shick-shick-shick" whisper of their legs as they moved and wiggled about their high heeled shoes clicking with each step. I heard the sound of tinkling jewelry and could always smell the perfume floating in the air whenever they were around. But it was the sound of the lingerie that fascinated me. The creak of a tight control girdle, the susurration, that slipping sound of a lace trimmed nylon full slip sliding under the dresses and against the satin paneled foundation garments. But it started with the nylon stockings.
In hearing that whispering swish when they walked and then hearing that loud frictionless "zip" when a woman would sit and cross her legs as she smoothed her skirts I noticed the incredible shine of those flat-knit hose, and the delicate muted colors that shaded their legs. The sound of the nylons sounded "silky" and in my clandestine trips to the bathroom to feel the stockings themselves it confirmed my suspicion.
Why would a boy even go there!? To this day I still have no idea. And in reading your "other side" articles I too was interested in seeing women in lingerie and would often peruse the Sears, Montgomery Wards and Pennies catalogs for hours relishing each page of the lingerie section. But I too took it to the next level because I wanted to see and experience what it would feel like to actually wear all that stuff. The shiny paneled fabrics, the tight straps and garters, the hooks and laces, all those lacy slippery shiny fabrics.
I tried to put those thoughts out of my mind but with women livng in the house it was too much of a temptation. I still remember that afternoon over 40 years ago now that I gave in to my interest and tried on my first pair of nylons.
Now, the way they used to make nylon stockings in the "old" days was either fully fashioned with a seam or the "boarded/carded" circular knit. These "flat knit" sheer nylons had that gleaming shine and that slippery feel. The cheap brands that emerged in the 70's and beyond which looked like dried balloons and felt like steel wool looked dull on the leg and felt as scratchy as sand paper. These held no interest for me whatsoever. Back "in the day" all they made was flat-knit hosiery.
I remember trying on my first pair of nylons. Since I was only ten they fit all the way up, like opera hose. I could feel my shortness of breath and feel my heart pounding as I put them on then used safety pins to garter them to my shorts (which didn't work). I then tried venturing out of the bathroom wearing them under my slacks but in fearing everyone could see right through my trousers it became too much and I soon directed my secret activities to the bathroom or my bedroom and only continued my interest when I was sure I would be alone for at least a little while.
I remember feeling the taut stretched fabric on my young hairless legs and how the fabric shined and colored my legs. I then rubbed my thighs and calves together and crossed my legs emulating the way I'd seen ladies do it thousands of times before. I then felt the near frictionless sensation of the cool taut nylon, noticed the shine, and then heard that familiar silken zip I'd heard many times before. It was intoxicating! Still far from puberty there was no sexual connotation or urges, but the sensation went right to the core of my mind. It seemed to fulfill something I longed for or something I needed for reasons I still don't understand. But, I was hooked now!
I graduated from safety pins which didn't work and soon found myself in a long line firm control panty girdle! I remember hooking up the front garters to the stocking welts but having trouble with the back hooks. I thought they were put on backwards but soon learned that since the garters were facing the other way I'd just have to learn how to do it. All my dressing was of course independent of any feminine help. I often felt jealous of seeing the girls my age in their frilly dresses and nylons and all fixed up and how they'd had tutorial help from mothers, aunts or other women that brought them along. It was unfortunate but I knew this had to be a solitary dalliance, one I would have to learn about all on my own.
Within a year or two I'd found enough time alone at a relatives place to actually dress fully, from head to toe and from the skin out without a stitch of male clothing. Everything I was wearing I noticed was made of nylon! After filing that thought away I was free to try my new total but albeit very temporary look. I still remember stumbling around the attic on those high stiletto heels that by now were a bit too small but I made them work. I carried a purse that matched the dress and shoes and even tried on a hat that matched the outfit! And I was now wearing it all! The panties, the brassiere stuffed with extra nylons, the tight long legged paneled panty girdle, a tight waste cincher too. And over all that lingerie a white lace trimmed full slip. I then with great effort I managed to zip up the back of the green rayon dress.
Delirious with sensation I began my walk around the attic past the boxes and trunks and past the other dresses and coats hanging on a clothes rack. I felt the constriction of the foundation garments, how they held me, how they creaked and how the straps pulled in an ebb and flow as I moved. I also felt the forbidden sensation of the sheer nylon stockings as well, how silky smooth they were, how they shined on my legs and how they zipped with each step I took and how the garters would tug pulling them tight. That "shick-shick-shick" metronome sound was dizzying, mesmerizing as I moved along. With that sensation along with being encapsulated, strapped, hooked and zipped and molded in all that other lingerie and how the collection of fabrics swirled and slid as they moved against me, it was all indescribably intense. I was able to do that exactly once, as the opportunity for a young boy being unsupervised is rare indeed. It was years, decades later actually until I got another opportunity. Until then, I would have to be satisfied with only nylon stockings whenever I got the chance.
My interest waned for a few years, which to this day makes me wonder why. It might have been the hassle or the guilt in exploring such a hidden/forbidden pleasure. But when I tried those sheer nylons on much later they no longer felt the same. The fabric pulled against my now hairy legs and as those stockings remained the same size I had gotten taller until the stockings barely came to knee high. I thought I would give up the practice but the thoughts persisted and grew in intensity until I once again satisfied my urges. I knew I'd have to shave my legs but there was simply no way. As a grammar school student I had gym class and surely everyone would notice smooth hairless legs! But then one year during the winter before Christmas break I found I indeed had the time so I decided to take a chance. I wasn't all that hairy and I'd found a pair of my aunt' s stockings that she'd cast off. In searching through the bag I managed to cobble together a useable pair although the colors didn't quite match. Once toweled and dry after my bath, and with longer nylons and now totally hairless legs I once again tried my exploration with ladies nylon stockings.
The thrill and excitement were still there but it wasn't the same now, not at my age. It weighed heavily on my mind. In the beginning it could have been passed off as simple experimentation but now, if I continued it would be much more than that and I knew it but I continued on. I carefully rolled each stocking up and once getting my feet in them worked them up my legs pulling and smoothing them tight until to my amazement found them once again near the tops of my thighs! And the smoothness! Without a hair to be found on my legs and their more mature shape I had "lady legs!" I sat stunned, transfixed at the shine and the glassy smoothness of the sheer hose and as I crossed my legs I could hear that familiar zip and swish as well! My head spun with sensation and excitement and I knew that at this new phase there was no longer any going back!
The end of high school came and went as did my military obligation and then my college years. Once out on my own and with a place of my own I started my own lingerie collection and added many dresses and skirt and blouse combinations and loads of lingerie and classic hosiery. Finding large enough ladies shoes with high enough heels was difficult at first, as was finding that old style of hosiery and lingerie and control garments but my urges and wants were soon satiated. The amazing thing was in getting fashions that fit for my size I could now experience the ultimate sensation of being "properly" dressed. I added jewelry and did a stint with hairdos and makeup but was never very good at either. I settled on a stylish wig and left it at that. It was the clothing that mattered.
So now, we're here, in the 21st century. Women don't act like women these days, they're too macho and they certainly don't dress like women either, not the women that I fondly remember. And the women I have asked about nylons, or pantyhose and why they never wear them anymore answer that they're "too hot" or "too expensive." They never mention the shine or the slippery sensation. Such a shame. They can wear anything they want but they treat sheer hose as a man would consider white "sweat socks!" Why are we burdened with this strange tactile fashion-sense? Maybe it was the ordeal of that "high maintenance" look that caused the demise of ladies fashions, or maybe it was a societal change. Men certainly don't wear suits or hats as much anymore, if ever, and the petticoats and seamed nylons and black patent leather heels and the pearls are now, sadly long gone. Or maybe it's simply been the passage of time. Will a time such as the 50's or 60's ever come again? Doubtful. But as I enter the latter stages of my life I am quite content to continue on in my little corner of the world, on the sidelines with my extensive collection of vintage hosiery and women's fashions always ready should those particular urges arise yet again.
As far as there being any "pivotal" females in my life I would say there were several. I only had two sisters and all my cousins were female as well. On both sides of my family there were only 3 boys including me but they lived distantly and I didn't grow up with any of them! With my father working long hours and working nights I rarely saw him either with the exception of weekends. He was a great dad and was always there for me when I needed him and to play catch on weekends and such but with him gone so much of the time working I was pretty much on my own and looked after by women.
My mother was a great person and I had a couple aunts I considered my favorites. I was never caught with my little "hobby" and I doubt any of the women ever suspected it. Part of the protection being that it's such a far-fetched and "strange" thought of a boy "hitting-the-silk" that it goes un-noticed, it's too embarrassing a subject to even talk about, embarrassing to everyone, not just the perpetrator so it usually goes unmentioned.
If there were ever any thoughts towards those lines it was never mentioned in the hopes it was just a phase or maybe they didn't want to deal with such a subject, period. It's another mystery, but thankfully I was never caught! I'm still in the closet but at my age and in being retired now there isn't much that can happen anymore. But where I am from you still lose your friends and your job and your family if something like this surfaces so I still lead a double life. But it's pretty much text-book. I majored in Psychology and advanced Abnormal Psychology for awhile in college to learn everything I could about my "condition," on a clandestine basis of course. But I never got an answer because nobody knows the answer! They do know that this "habit" or "condition" is prevalent across every border and every culture. And, what's most amazing is within every culture it's occurrence is almost identically the exact same percentage within the male population! And, it has existed throughout recorded time.
I do know that this "condition" is something that chooses us and not a practice we choose to do! It has been said that if you are a "transvestite" you will always be one. And if you are not a "transvestite" you can never become one. I hate that clinical word and prefer "cross-dresser" or "CD" but usually leave it nameless and just do it.
The closest model that makes any sense is in the idea that during fetal development the mother for some reason produces more estrogen at a critical time. Whether this is from stress or being moody or whatever isn't known. But they reason that this hormonal boost affects the male fetus and sets it on this path. It's the same for people of the gay persuasion. It may be a matter of degree as well but then again that is speculative. Either way, it's like asking someone what it's like to die, or to be dead. It's impossible to learn the answer because that is a one way trip. It's almost a circular argument. A question that has no answer, only speculation.
Another thought is the dictate of societal mores placed upon this practice. Cross-dressing isn't a crime, at least not anymore. It used to be on the books in many cities and cited that a man dressing as a woman was only doing so to commit a crime. But over the years since the 40's, 50's that was the paradigm, but by the late 1960's that notion didn't hold water anymore, it never did. But it gave the police just-cause to hold any offender, and being in a jail dressed like a prom queen isn't the best place for a guy to be!!! That mere thought alone kept us off the streets! But now, since it isn't a crime anymore society has another way to take care of the problem. It's done by ridicule and ostracising. Sure it's a way to quash individual expression and it's the fear of the unknown but it simply isn't right, it's "unacceptable behavior." Ridicule and ostracising is the punishment. People fear what they don't understand and that fear often turns to hate. That is what drives us into leading a dual life.
Another facet of this dual life is that although it's a harmless practice it takes a great deal of income to maintain two wardrobes (check the Ebay listings for nylon stockings and you'll see that most of the old fashioned hose are cheap but in the largest sizes of the glassy full fashioned or seamless flat-knit hose you'll see they go for $30 dollars US a pair and higher! Yeah, it's us guys that are buying them!) And it takes time out of your life when you could be doing some other "hobby." And it has a most definite isolating effect on an individual. Most of us are loners. I can tell you first hand that in confiding to a woman-lover or two over the years it has been a disaster! The mere suspicion of such a practice or even a hint and your friends and lovers disappear never to be heard from again! Thankfully they didn't bear malice because if they did and spread the word it would have been a catastrophe! That's just the way it is.
I just find it funny, almost comical, my "condition." Women can dress any way they want but in something so enjoyable, and so addictive I never, ever hear women swoon or roll their eyes or expound over how a silky slip or pair of nylons feel or how they love how the nylon chiffon skirt on their cocktail dress flutters in the breeze as they walk along or how the clothing sounds or how the lingerie slides and slips under their clothing. We however are most acutely aware of every tactile and auditory nuance of this type. We seek it out, we revel and luxuriate in it!
It's also a sensation and a process that can never be satisfied. The only alternative I have found is to dress to experience what it is I like and then remain dressed or do it as often as I can for as long as I can stand it. Then once I get my fill, which is always temporary I put all my things away and return to my "normal" life, free of those shackles for at least a few days. It's a type of overdose therapy and seems to work--the more intense the sensation the longer the freedom from the obsession. I think it deals with endorphins in the brain that connect with the pleasure centers in the brain stem. Once you've got enough of them you're "cured" for at least a while. They've tried some chemical/drug therapy in a clinical setting but the jury is still out on that one. It's just too specific a condition and in being a mystery it's just too hard to nail down.
I failed to answer your question about youngsters these days. I did mention that this secretive practice/hobby has been recorded throughout every human culture and throughout time. I would say that most definitely young boys are still out there that have an unnatural interest in women's things.
It has been estimated that nearly 80% of all men irregardless of race, income, job, social status or lifestyle have tried on women's apparel at least once in one form or another at least once in their lives. It is also calculated that of all men in any given population 10% can be considered "hard-core" CD's. That is, they are straight, heterosexual men who appear and blend in with all other men with this one exception. And they follow the standard methodology as well, progressing from wearing one item, such as nylon stockings to eventually dressing completely from head to toe and from the skin out.
In the US with a total population of some 300 million, and calculating that half or 150 million are male and then deducting roughly another 10% from the lowest ages and highest ages due to their probable inability to play the game any longer leaves an aggregate of 120 million men in the general populace that can be considered. In taking the conservative baseline number of 10% from the 120 million you end up with 12 million men in the US alone who are currently active cross-dressers. A pretty large minority indeed! Most medical journals admit that 10% is conservative so that number could be significantly higher! They do not however regard the level of dressing i.e. dressing fully or having an interest in one or more specific items of clothing. I suspect they mean active full cross-dressers as otherwise a male, say interested in only one object such as high heels would be considered a "fetishist" and not a "cross-dresser."