Fashion is irrational. We’re all aware of that. But it is also powerful enough to persuade us into accepting extraordinary things. The bustle, the crinoline and the 2inch platform heel stand out in the litany of idiocy that passes for the history of fashion. But there are other, more subtle – and no less inexplicable – fashion fads that will puzzle future sociologists.
Take leggings: guaranteed to make skinny legs look even thinner, and chunky ones look enormous. Something to steer clear of, you would think, especially if you have beautiful legs. After all, why disguise them? Yet leggings – now available in every fabric from denim and leather to latex – keep cropping up on the catwalks; on our high streets they’re worn by every shape, size and age of woman, usually with a skirt on top to soften the impact of the visual horror.
Why are leggings so popular? It surely can’t be to combat the cold – they’re generally too thin to do that, especially when teamed with denim minis or shorts. And we know it isn’t modesty, a position fashion has long since turned its back on. No. Leggings are fashionable not in response to practicality, morality or even logic, but to something else.
They are, like the bustle before them, fashionable for no other reason than that they say ‘now’ so directly that women want them. They bring a feeling of safety in numbers – a safety that prevents any capacity for a self-critical look in the mirror. Beanpole or beer barrel-curved – both look wrong in leggings, just as they do in jeans, that other trap of our times for the visually unaware. And what girl with beautiful legs should cover them with leggings?
Logically, therefore, this should have been a short-lived, one-off fad. But when was logic ever a factor in fashion?
(First published October 2006)