Are leggings pants?  

Legions of women are coving over to the comfortable side of life and rising up to shout YES!  At the same time, what I can only assume is a small but vocal minority continues to deride and ridicule the joy that is leggings. Schools have attempted to ban them and at least one airline refused to allow a woman to board her flight for wearing them. All joking aside, this stems from an outdated notion that men are unable to control themselves and that women are thus responsible for ‘dressing to avoid distraction’.  This is absolutely ridiculous and continues the misogynist view that women are somehow responsible for how men behave. What’s more, this 'new' controversy is over a garment that is centuries old.

Audrey Hepburn wearing some of the first modern leggings - Rising Star LeggingsLeggings, as we know them today, really first appeared in the mid-fifties. Audrey Hepburn is frequently credited for first wearing a capri style waist-defining legging in 1954’s Sabrina.  Several other celebrities followed suit and so began the modern trend. With the invention of Lycra (AKA Spandex), the celebrity trend turned societal norm.

However, there were many a form of leggings before that. Most recently, the US Army (and many other armies) issued a type of legging to their infantry. Puttees on WWI soldiers - an early form of leggings for men - Rising Star LeggingsThese leggings, puttees, were often made of a wrap—think ACE bandage type of thing without the stretch—that was wrapped over the shoe tops up the calf and was intended to keep dirt and other detritus out of the foot-soldiers’ shoes as well as support the ankle. During WWII paratroopers called infantrymen “legs” because of their outfits.  By the end of WWII, these largely disappeared, the advent of the combat boot rendering the leggings obsolete.

French fur trader wearing leggings to keep warm - Rising Star LeggingsFor centuries leggings have been worn by men and women in colder climates for warmth. Often made of wool and other animal fibers these were worn under or over other garments. Native Americans wore a buckskin version that had feet. These were adopted by the French fur trappers, long hunters, and mountain men. James Fenimore Cooper’s Leatherstocking Tales was in reference to these leggings.


Chaps are another form of legging still used today. These leggings protect a horseback rChaps on an early pioneer - Rising Star Leggingsiders legs from chafing while also defending against brush, snakes, and insects when riding through the brush. Originally introduced by Spaniards to protect their legs from cacti—from Spanish chaparejos: legs of iron—early Texans adopted them and several different styles were worn depending on the terrain and hazards encountered. Modern lumberjacks also wear a form of protective chaps to protect from wayward chainsaws. Originally made of leather like the cowboy version, today’s versions are often made from kevlar and thick rubberized materials.

Hosiery has been around for centuries as well. While historically a man’s garment, only in modern times has it become a women’s garment. Medieval men in leggings and cotehardies - Rising Star LeggingsDuring the Renaissance men wore hosiery type leggings under cotehardies—a tailored outer shirt/coat—that were typically cut much shorter for men than women. In the 14th century, Scotland men wore a legging of leather or chainmail for protection in combat. The Romans, in their latin linguistic ways, had tibialia and femoralia, leggings that covered the femur and tibia respectively.


Since the mid-twentieth century leggings have continued to evolve. From the spandex worn by the likes of Debbie Harry and ABBA, through the leg warmers and under leotard tights from the Richard Simmons and Jane Fonda aerobics craze we continue to see new iterations. From yoga pants, jeggings, and meggings to trekking hose, biking pants, and long johns, they are all leggings. However you define them, they can be comfy, warm, stylish, athletic and fashionable. They’ve been around for centuries and you can expect them to be around for centuries more.  Yay!

Jumping for joy - Rising Star leggings