Various forms of leggings have been worn by men and women in
Asia, Europe and North America for centuries.
Native Americans, French fur trappers and the clans from the Scottish Highlands for example used leggings made from different cloths to protect their legs from insects, snake bites, thorns and of course, cold weather.
In Europe, noblemen, soldiers and later sportsmen were wearing some form of leggings throughout the centuries and in colder countries such as Russia or Korea, men and women have been using woollen leggings as an additional layer for extra warmth.
In the 1950’s film stars like Audrey Hepburn loved opaque tights and she wore them famously with her iconic ballerina flats. While they weren’t quite the stretchy pants that come to mind today, they were a distinct departure from the wide-leg styles that were popular in the 1940’s.
1959 was the year in which the chemist Joseph Shivers, along with a few others, released a new stretchy fibre under the name Fibre K – which was later changed to Lycra.
Designers of the time quickly picked up this new material, producing the first stretchy leggings and combining them with the typical mod shift dresses, creating the classical look of the sixties.
During the next two decades leggings become louder, shinier and more colourful: Olivia Newton-John (in the movie Grease) and Charlie’s Angels are wearing bold, shiny leggings and are breaking ground for one of the most talked about fashion item of the 1980’s: disco pants!
Rod Stewart, Debbie Harry (lead singer of the punk rock band Blondie), Cher, Twiggy and Madonna are donning the leggings style and Jane Fonda shows the world how fabulous aerobic can look, turning the versatile pants into a must have item for every fitness fan.
This trend carried on way into the 1990’s when it slowly was replaced by wider pants. 2004 German designer and creative director of French luxury fashion house Chanel is attempting to bring leggings back but the fashion world is not ready for it yet.
In 2008 however, they come back with a bang. Lindsay Lohan is starting a clothing line solely dedicated to leggings, and celebrities like Rhianna, Paris Hilton and Miley Cyrus are reigning in the newest hot thing: liquid leggings.
A few years back American It-girls like Gigi Hadid and model Kendall Jenner were the first to make it acceptable to wear leggings as pants, many followed suit.
The autumn/winter trend 2018 in the British Vogue shows current designers celebrating the all-rounder, reading: ‘“leggings with everything” was the message at Tom Ford, Victoria Beckham, Philipp Plein and R13.’