As any true fashion girl like yourself would tell you, knowing the origin of your favourite trends makes wearing them all the more gratifying. And there's arguably no bigger trend right now than the leggings trend. We're all well aware of the old adage that everything in fashion comes back again (just take a look at the recent revivals of '70s, '90s, 2000s, and now '80s trends), but when it comes to leggings, they have been coming back for centuries. We were surprised to discover that the origin of leggings dates way back to the 14th century, and it was men who were the first to wear them. But since the mid-20th century, leggings have been a closet staple for It girls and those who love them. We took an in-depth look at
Given their lengthy tenure, we decided to take an in-depth look into the storied history of the leggings craze, which has been largely dictated by celebrities, just as it is today (we're looking at you, Gigi). Keep scrolling to get all the facts about the 7 century-long history of leggings.
Keep scrolling to get all the fascinating facts about the 7 centuries-long history of leggings and shop leggings inspired by each period in time.
Interestingly enough, the first known occurrences of leggings being worn were by men in 14th century Scotland. Initially, the leggings were two separate hip-high boot-like apparatuses. They were worn by Scotsmen with both casual and military garb, and were made of either leather or chainmail. They evolved into thick tights-like garments that men wore under their cotehardies during Renaissance times.
Men continued to be the predominate leggings-wearers up until the 19th century, when women began wearing two-piece iterations of their own.
Culture Club/Getty Images; Armor Venue
The modern-day evolution of leggings really began in the 1950s. One of the original fashion girls, Audrey Hepburn, is associated as much with having popularised capri pants as she was with her iconic cat-eye sunglasses. Hepburn donned the slim waist-defining cropped black pants for 1954's Sabrina and many other women followed suit throughout the decade. While not the stretchy tights-like pants that come to mind today, they were a distinct departure from the wide-leg styles that were popular in the 1940s.
Who: Audrey Hepburn, 1954
Who: Audrey Hepburn, 1955
Following the invention of Lycra (aka spandex) by chemist Joseph Shivers in 1958 and the first leggings made of Lycra in 1959, the fashion industry embraced the slim, stretchy pants in the '60s, with designers like Mary Quant and Emilio Pucci even pairing them with the decade's mod shift dresses.
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Who: Debbie Reynolds, 1965
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What: A model for fashion designer Mattli's A/W 1964 collection.
Leggings became a full-blown trend in the 1970s. Thanks to some of the decade's biggest celebrities like Debbie Harry, Olivia Newton-John (and her iconic final costume in Grease), and the stars of the popular Charlie's Angels TV series, leggings took on a very Studio 54 vibe, which was quite different from the styles of the previous two decades. This iteration resembled shiny, high-waisted (often colourful) disco pants.
Who: Debbie Harry, 1978
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Who: Jane Birkin in Vogue, 1971
Who: Olivia Newton-John, 1978
The leggings craze of the 1970s carried over into the 1980s, when Madonna adopted them as one of her wardrobe staples, frequently wearing them on stage and infamously, for her Like a Virgin video. The aerobics craze of the 1980s also fueled the fire. Jane Fonda made a leotard worn over leggings her signature look. During the '80s, the capri length become popular and leggings were often colourful and patterned, in keeping with the bold look of the decade.
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Who: Madonna, 1985
Pierre Vauthey/Sygma/Sygma via Getty Images
What: Jean-Paul Gaultier runway, S/S 1988
The leggings trend started to cool down a bit in the '90s. There was that iconic Cindy Crawford Life Magazine shot (below), and jersey knit versions popped up on Saved by the Bell from time to time, but baggier pants had become a trend for the time being. The now-polarizing stirrup leggings (which made an inevitable return in 2016) were perhaps the biggest takeaway from the decade.
The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images
Who: Cindy Crawford, 1990
Arthur Elgort/Conde Nast/Contour Style by Getty Images
What: Vogue, 1990
After fading from relevance for a few years at the turn of the 21st century, leggings were back with a vengeance as the decade's biggest It girls again started wearing capri versions of the trend, often under dresses and skirts. Nicole Richie, the Olsen twins, Paris Hilton, and Lindsay Lohan were all on board. Toward the end of the decade, full-length liquid leggings were being worn in place of pants.
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Who: Ashley Olsen, 2007
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Who: Lindsay Lohan, 2006
Who: Rihanna, 2008
Since circa 2015, leggings have been reintroduced into our wardrobes, thanks to celebrities like Gigi Hadid, Kendall Jenner, Hailey Baldwin, and Bella Hadid. Like it or not, these athleisure-loving It girls have made them acceptable to wear as pants. Currently, the most popular iterations of the trend are high-waisted streetwear-inspired styles and leather leggings, both of which enforce that it's once again acceptable to wear leggings outside the gym. As long as comfort continues to be embraced in the fashion world, we don't see the centuries-old trend fading anytime soon.
Who: Gigi Hadid, 2016
Who: Kendall Jenner, 2016
Who: Bella Hadid, 2016
Now that we've covered the lengthy past of leggings, find out which legging trends are coming for your closet in 2017.