Every man’s heart one day beats its final beat. His lungs breathe a final breath. And if what that man did in his life makes the blood pulse through the body of others and makes them bleed deeper and something larger than life, then his essence, his spirit, will be immortalized.
“He’s Got… Geena Davis Tights” - WCW Magazine [July 1993]
Years before Trent Barreta would imprint Bill Murray onto his kneepad, Rick Rude was walking around WCW with various Hollywood starlets airbrushed onto his tights. My only disappointment with this photo is that WCW Magazine robbed us from seeing how Christina Applegate looked on Rude’s crotch.
I Feel Real Good and I Look Better, I Make a Burlap Bag Look Like a Cashmere Sweater: “Ravishing” Rick Rude and the Wonder of Airbrushed Tights
Outside of professional wrestling, men have been saddled with boring pants for a very long time. We’re expected to wear khakis to work, jeans at home, and shorts in the summer. We get checkers and stripes for patterns. We just got colored denim. The internet fashion community is doing some tremendously interesting things with leggings, but beyond the problems I have with that particular item of clothing (they seem designed to fit women who largely exist on dimensions not our own; they’re incredibly expensive), the gates of this particular fashion promised land remain closed to me because I’m a dude: if I want a pair of leggings, I’ve got to pony up dough to companies with names like “Meggings,” because we dudes have to re-masculate everything we come in contact with, so you know it ain’t for girls.
But wrestling has been making the case for long tights on men for decades, and few wrestlers have done so more succinctly than “Ravishing” Rick Rude, whose tights were as much a part of his gimmick as the mustache and his insistence that we, the inner-city sweathogs in the crowd, shut our yaps while he took off his robe to show the world what a real sexy man looked like. Rude wore the tights out of necessity — his belief that wrestling was “an upper-body business” led him to skip more than a few leg days at the gym—but he took that situation and made the best of it, turning his tights into advertisements for his greatness. Few of these would be good for everyday wear, but here are ten of my favorite designs of the 200 or so the ravishing one had in his collection, with more to follow in the future:
The Cheryl Roberts: Want to cut a man down to the bone? Commission an airbrushed portrait of his significant other on a skintight piece of spandex and wear their face in public. Rude earned a few DDTs from Jake the Snake Roberts, but he also earned enough to have a few pairs of these made in different colors.
The Junkyard Dog: Rude would often wear his opponents visage to the ring for crucial matches. Presumably, a man’s soul dies when he sees his likeness grinding and gyrating atop him.
The Intercontinental Championship: The design everybody thinks of when they remember Rick Rude, sullied only somewhat by the childish airbrushing of The Ultimate Warrior on the back (a grave insult according to Gorilla Monsoon). The strap on the front of these fleshtone tights is suitable for framing, for painting on the side of your custom van, or for WrestleMania V. Take your pick.
The Manicure: Not subtle.
The Crown Jewels: Because he was wrestling Davey Boy Smith in England. I can’t tell, but that’s probably either Fergie or Diana throwing herself at Cartoon Rude, from one leg to the next. Rick Rude > Prince Charles.
The Everyday: Rick Rude pulls these off way better than I could, but if this striking blue/black pair of tights showed up in a store or online, I’d be hard pressed not to buy them. In fact, replica tights are the final frontier of professional wrestling merchandise. I suspect that’s because the WWE thinks we’re all John Cena cosplayers, and as such are perfectly happy to walk the earth in sneakers and cargo shorts. Not me. When I walk the streets, I want to look like an impossible animal. These are my jam.
The Sexiest Man Alive: While Rude’s hair and signature mustache would both be subject to the razor during his WCW tenure, both often showed up on his later tights. The mustache must have been as comfortable as a favorite pair of jeans.
The 70s Concert Poster: When you absolutely, positively have to let a man like Dusty Rhodes know that the difference between you and he is that you make human flesh look good.
The Most Eligible Bachelor of the 90s: Rude looked like an angry sailor during much of his WCW run, but the hottest ladies of the early 1990s were into that whole shore leave thing, apparently.
The Harlequin: The result of an imaginative kid’s afternoon with Crayola Crayons and a sheet of construction paper after finding one of mom’s novels. This is the kind of thing Rick Rude got away with on public television for the better part of a decade.
Sadly, Rick Rude was less than ravishing while acting as a manager across ECW, WWF, and WCW, as drab brown suits and a blocky goatee became the order of the day. But in the future, when men have finally shed their insecurities about their masculinity and shed the five pounds of worthless garbage occupying their pockets, we can all look back at Rude’s in-ring career as a harbinger of a glorious new era in fashionable menswear.