Source: Unsplash

Leggings, from the separate hose of the Renaissance to the Tiktok trends of the present day, are being debated. Still, their versatility and comfort from various materials and use across the centuries make this humble body-hugging piece of clothing a staple, from the battlefields to the gym and the catwalk. It started for men but now is trendy among women. They come in many styles and forms, from high-end three stripes to wholesale high waist leggings.

But how did leggings transition from clothing for men in the middle ages to become the fashion statement of women today? Let’s take a quick history lesson and see how it happened.

The First Leggings

From the 13th to the 16th century, worn by men, leggings were similar to modern stockings but made in fur or leather. These buckskin leather stockings are usually dull grey brain-tan leather, not bright and glossy like the leathers today. They were used by hunters or, in those times, trappers to keep warm and protect their legs from animal bites. Explorers of the new frontier also used it in the early 18th century.


As you know now, men wore leggings for function, not fashion, to keep protected from the wild. Leggings are also a term for some infant clothing in the 19th century. Other forms of leggings across history are:

Men’s Leather Wear

Men wear leggings made of buckskin leather by Native Americans and Scottish Highlanders. They are worn for warmth and protection from the wild.

Cowboy Leggings

Cowboys wore leggings as an outer garment to protect themselves from chaps due to riding a horse and protecting against insect and snake bites.

Ladies Undergarment

A version of leggings called pantalettes worn under skirts was fashionable in the mid-1800 as it added warmth and protection to the legs.

Military Use

Soldiers usually wore leather leggings wrapped to their lower leg to keep dirt and debris from going into their shoes. But since the introduction of combat boots, leggings disappeared from the battlefields and were only worn for ceremonial purposes.

Though soldiers still wore leather leggings till the Korean war, the combat boots and its durability outperformed the combination of leather shoes and leggings. However, the shoes were worn on ceremonial occasions rather than in the field. But the development of new synthetic fabric blends did not drive the leggings out of fashion; instead, it turned leggings into a household item.

Source: Unsplash

When It All Started

Since 1960, leggings have become more of ladies’ clothing than for men who preferred jeans and heavy cotton pants. While ladies adopted modern leggings, lycra and nylon fabrics were introduced; their hybrids were stretchy and breathable, perfect for working out or doing household chores.

Nylon Lycra (1960)

As the 60s came, a trend of leggings for women started as sportswear for bikers and runners. With the development of nylon-lycra, the blend gained a more shiny appearance than its cotton counterpart. In addition to reflective prints, it showed benefits of safety purposes in sports. Being light and sleek made it great in track and field. Also, it relieved the athletes from drag, especially for sprinters, long jumpers, and cyclists, helping them keep cool with breathable fabrics and break national and world records. Soon it became a trend to wear them underneath sports uniforms and jerseys for added support in sports like basketball and soccer.

More Fabric Blends Gym to Movies and Dancefloors (the 80s and early 90s)

Blending lycra with cotton and polyester added comfort while keeping it stretchy, and made it great for workout, chores or shopping. In the 80s, pro wrestlers wore aerobic leggings like the Ravishing Rick Rude with elaborate artwork that complimented his physique and awed a lot of female audience. Additionally, flicks like Flashdance and music videos from Olivia Newton-John and Madonna helped leggings make their way into pop culture. Its prominence in mainstream media popularized the trend of wearing leggings in gyms and dance studios, and pairing with skirts and leg warmers among teens and adults alike.

This blend was also used in fashion and came in a variety of colors and prints. But black and navy blue were the best-selling ones for their versatility and easy to pair with any loose or tight top. Having dark color also made it easy to clean and great as a casual bottom paired with flats and heels. Also, the fabric hugged the bodyline without revealing the underwear, thin but cozy enough to keep you warm.

It appealed more to women as casual. It conquered the gym, the streets, and even dance floors. It is always comfortable and functional, whether coming in any length from knee-high to ankle length, in plain color or with animal prints and geometric patterns. Leggings are here to stay.

Source: Pexels

Highs and Lows (the mid-90s to 00s)

In the 90s, leggings outsold jeans together with loose tops and sneakers. The combination was popular with girls following shows like “Clarissa”, and very common in coming-of-age types of shows. In the era of baggy pants and loose-fit tops, leggings were still a staple in sports, and remained a fashion statement as paparazzi would catch sight of famous actresses wearing them.

In the late 90s to 2000s, leggings were out of trend, when khakis and cargo pants took over. In the mid-2000, it made its comeback, when its combination with oversized sweaters and skirts became fashionable again. The blend of nylon and spandex made it look like leather and provided shiny leggings with a leather, metallic, or sometimes latex-like look in different colors; the popular ones were silver, black, and gold. Worn by celebrities, it became a fever in clubs and fashion runways.

Some designers tried to make leggings fashionable among men again by “Meggings” but it only succeeded in countries with cold weather. Another attempt was “jeggings,” making it look like skin-tight jeans since tight-fit jeans became a fad in early 2010.

In Modern Fashion

Leggings still are fashionable in many places. It is seen being worn at the gym, by YouTube influencers, and by celebrities all the time.

The Debate

Many fashion polls and debates on whether leggings are considered outerwear are going on in modern times. Some say that it is not due to its being skin-tight and leaving less for imagination; others say though it is skin-tight, it is less revealing as outerwear, just like a pair of pants.


Since the late 90s up till today, the trend that blurs the line between sportswear and casual has brought athleisure clothing that is both comfortable and stylish. Like yoga pants, tight pants, sneakers, hoodies, etc., leggings are part of this lineup.

Kpop to Tiktok

Since 2010 K-Pop Idols have been wearing leggings as South Korea has a cold climate. Also, it is very versatile and stylish in dark colors and a great fashion statement if worn in bright colors. Recently in Tiktok, women wore some sort of leggings to make their behind look amazing. It caught on trends all over the world.

Image from Unsplash

So Why Wear It?

Leggings are a significant part of the wardrobe for women. Whether worn casually or in events, it is both stylish and functional, can be classy or sporty if paired with the right top and footwear anywhere you go. The whole world can be your catwalk.

Are you looking for custom wholesale leggings for your trendsetting market? FASHIONLINE’s in-house designing expertise and speedy turnaround are here to fill your needs. With over 15 years in the industry and a competent supply chain, it completes bulk orders faster and better at affordable prices. Consult today if you are in need of fashion leggings in bulk.


You may also like : Dress Zen—Lovely Autumn Zen Fashion Ideas