Leggings are a type of skin-tight clothing covering the legs, which can be worn by both men and women. Originally leggings were two separate garments, one for each leg. Modern leggings are typically made from a blend of lycra (aka spandex), nylon, cotton, or polyester blend, but they can also be made from wool, silk and other materials. Leggings are available in a multitude of colors and decorative designs. Leggings are sometimes worn fully exposed, but are more traditionally worn partially covered by a garment such as a skirt, a large t-shirt, shorts, or fully covered by an outer garment, such as a full length skirt.
Leggings are typically ankle-length, and some are stirrupped or encase the feet. Some are shorter. Leggings are worn to keep a person's legs warm, as protection from chafing during an activity such as exercise or as a decorative or fashion garment. Leggings are worn by both men and women during exercise but usually only by women at other times. In contemporary usage, leggings refers to tight, form-fitting trousers that extend from the waist to the ankles. In the United States, they are sometimes referred to as tights. However, the two words are not synonymous as the word tights refers to opaque pantyhose.
Leggings in various forms and under various names have been worn for warmth and protection by both men and women throughout the centuries. The separate hose worn by men in Europe from the 13th to 16th centuries (the Renaissance period) were a form of leggings, as are the trews of the Scottish Highlands. Separate leggings of buckskin leather were worn by some Native Americans. These were adopted by some Long Hunters, French fur trappers, and later by mountain men. They are the leatherstockings of James Fenimore Cooper's Leatherstocking Tales. The Buckskins, were mostly a dull grey brain-tan, not the bright, glossy vegetable tanned leather commonly used today.
In many places, especially in colder countries such as Russia or Korea, men and women continued to wear wool leggings into modern times, often as an additional outer layer for warmth.
The linen pantalettes worn by girls and women under crinolines in the mid-19th century were also a form of leggings, and were originally two separate garments. Leggings became a part of fashion in the 1960s, as trousers similar to the capris pants but much tighter. Fashion designer Patricia Field claimed, while advertising on the Home Shopping Network, that she invented the modern leggings for women in the late 1970s.
By the early-1990s, leggings were actually outselling jeans in many parts of the United States. It was very common to see leggings worn with long oversized t-shirts, oversized sweatshirts or oversized sweaters, slouch socks and Keds. Fashion turned against leggings in the late 1990s.
In 2005, leggings made a "comeback" into high fashion, particularly in indie culture, with capri-length leggings being worn with mini skirts and dresses. Consequently, leggings are also now popular to wear with oversized, long sweaters, denim mini skirt, plaid skirts, short dresses and even with short shorts. Ballet flats and Converse Chucks are common footwear with leggings. This trend towards tight pants can alternately be seen in the resurgence of skinny jeans.
Men's leggings, dubbed "meggings" (as a combination of the words "men" and "leggings") have been presented as the latest fashion trend for men at spring/summer 2011 fashion runways, supposed to be styled and layered beneath shorts and preferably with large, baggy, loose or long tops such as t-shirts.
Leggings in the form of skin-tight trousers, a tighter version of the capris ending at mid-calf or near ankle length, made its way into fashion in the 1960s and were worn with a large belt and slip-on high heels or ballet flat-styled shoes.
Leggings made from a nylon-lycra blend (usually 90% nylon, 10% lycra) have traditionally been worn during exercise. Nylon lycra leggings are often referred to as bicycle or running tights, and are shinier in appearance than those made from cotton. Some have racing stripes or reflective patterns to further distinguish them as athletic wear and provide extra safety. However, beginning in the 1980s exercise-style leggings have also been worn for fashion, and as street wear.
Shiny leggings, sometimes called leather-look leggings have a shiny, metallic (lamé), or wet-like appearance. They emerged as a popular fashion trend in the late-2000s (decade), particularly in 2008 as reported by Stylesignal and other trend forecasters. These leggings are most often a blend of nylon and spandex and come in a variety of colors, although most commonly in black, silver, or gold. These types of leggings are notable for their leather, or even latex-like appearance and are most often worn as evening or clubwear.
Shiny leggings were featured on fashion runways by many leading designers and were further popularized by celebrities such as Lauren Conrad, Kelly Clarkson, Demi Lovato, Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen, Rihanna, Lindsay Lohan and Frida Sanden. Popular makers of shiny leggings include Members Only, Kova & T and American Apparel.
Jeggings are a recent variant of leggings. They are leggings that take certain attributes from jeans, such as color and style and particularly a colored seam down the side, thus a mixture of the two and hence the adoption of the name "jeggings". Some styles have even taken the jean-like look to such lengths as adding faux pockets and faux zip-flies to add to the look.
Leggings are also often worn during sporting activities. Runners, dancers, and those exercising may wear them - particularly in cold weather under their respective sports uniform or outfit.
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