Editor-in-Chief Susannah Taylor (who has tried her fair share) gives you a leg-up on the subject
Once upon a time leggings were Lycra and they were black, end of story. Today’s leggings however are virtually unrecognisable from the leggings of old - they now come in a rainbow of colours, can now wick away sweat from your body, increase your blood circulation, boost your run, make you look a dress size smaller, AND even enhance your mood. I kid you not.
Whether you’re a Barry’s Bootcamper, a yogi, a runner, or even just a stationary sofa surfer, leggings are BIG news right now. If you hadn’t noticed, the health and fitness market is exploding - hot new fitness classes open up daily with sound systems to rival top Ibiza club nights, healthy blogger books are outselling any others on Amazon and the Nutribullet appears to be the hottest home gadget of 2015. With this big, amazing health boom has come a huge surge in super chic fitness apparel, particularly leggings.
Once upon a time you wouldn’t be seen dead wearing your workout wear to outside of the gym but leggings are one item of workout wear that have blurred the lines between fashion and exercise. I remember a few years back feeling very self conscious on the tube in a pair of leggings - nowadays I literally wear them with pride. The style crowd from Gigi Hadid to Rosie Huntington-Whiteley are also mixing up their leggings with everyday attire, and crossing athletic wear with the every day is fast becoming the norm. Every time I’ve met Anjhe Mules, the super stylish owner of uber chic fitnesswear line Lucas Hugh (sported by Jennifer Lawrence in the Hunger Games, no less) I notice her laidback but brilliant workwear uniform of bright leggings and a well cut suit jacket or shirt.
Black, as a colour, has become positively boring, and leggings are now available in every possible colour and any possible print, from geometric lines to painterly splashes and the Manhatten skyline, as every sports chic brand vies for maximum visibility in the gym or the instagram feed. “When I first started out,” says Jo Admiraal, owner of brightly-hued luxe leggings brand Hey Jo, “No one wore bright leggings, and when I asked all my friends if they would wear a colour, they all said no!” That was in 2011 and Jo followed her gut and now uses a tailor who works with top designers such as Roland Mouret and Mary Katranzou to create her leggings which are now considered some of the chicest on the market.
But it’s not just the colour that counts, it’s the detail, the technical engineering and the way they make you feel too. Hey Jo have the chicest, sexiest rose gold zips that ride up the back of your calves, while Lucas Hugh use seamless technology created by Olympic swimwear manufacturers. Meanwhile Lululemon, who have just relaunched their ‘Pants wall’ have engineered their leggings around 5 different sensations to make you ‘feel’ amazing as well as look it. There’s ‘tight’, for when you want to feel fast and locked in, ‘hugged’ when you want to feel embraced, poised and balanced, ‘held-in’ when you want to feel sculpted, ‘naked’ for feeling free and unrestricted, and ‘relaxed’ for when you want to feel comfy.
Can a pair of leggings really change your mood? As I write I am sat here in a pair of ‘All The Right Places’ Lulu Lemons, and I honestly feel like I’ve shrunk a dress size. My legs and bottom feel sculpted, my tummy tucked (without any nasty overspill), and they quite literally make me feel like I could break into a Jessica Ennis sprint at any given moment. For sure, they make me feel good. I also have a pair of their new ‘Align pants’, which with their butter-soft, multi-way stretch fabric are meant to make you feel naked. They do that alright - their extraordinary barely-there fabric means you almost have to double take that you’re wearing anything at all.
With all this technology, however, means that today’s leggings can come with a hefty price tag as expensive as a pair of designer jeans. Are they really worth it? I honestly think so. If you’re going to work out, do the school run, go to work, meet friends for coffee and then add a pair of heels with them for cocktails then you’re getting good bang for your buck. And if you are actually working out in them, then in my eyes it’s important that your sportswear makes you feel fully inspired to get stuck in - who’s going to feel fired up to do a workout in a greying t-shirt and ten-year old bootcuts? We are slowly coming round to the thinking that just because you sweat in an outfit, doesn’t mean it needs to be any less stylish than the rest of our wardrobes.
The Leggings League
I’ve put a lot of leggings through their paces - these are my tried and tested favourites…
I have recently discovered Lululemon leggings and find them amazing (see above). With 25 or so different styles of leggings to choose from the choice can be slightly overwhelming but my favourites are the ‘Drop it like it’s hot leggings’ which have a four-way stretch and a hidden waistband pocket for phone, credit card or keys. I also like the Align ‘naked’ pant mentioned above, but my favourites are the ‘All the Right Places Pant’ for making me feel like some sort of streamlined athlete.
Some of the most fiercely stylish leggings out there, Lucas Hugh leggings come in incredible prints, or clever, geometric coloured panelling, and they are also highly technical. Using seam-sealed technology rather than stitching, the garments won’t chafe, are UV protected antibacterial and have hidden ventilation panels to wick away sweat. The new Nordica Leggings are expensive but are quite frankly a workout work of art. So beautiful in fact you may not want to exercise in them.
With their super luxe, silky fabric, Hey Jo leggings are literally sex on legs. Created using high performance Italian Jersey fabric, they offer correct muscle compression without feeling too tight and are exceptionally comfortable. The colours are unbeatable (the ‘Antares’ bright red, ‘Liquorice’ deep purple and ‘Malibu’ teal shades are my favourites), and the gold ankle zips and zipped pocket at the back add an uber luxe, designer edge. Just as amazing with a pair of heels as a pair of trainers, they feel so gorgeous you just want to stroke your own legs.
Traditional sportswear brands haven’t been left behind in workoutwear fashion boom. Top of the pile for functionality, feel and stylishness in my opinion is Nike. Some of the best are their Legendary Tights which are super soft and come with a high waist (essential for girls), and the Epic Lux Running Tights which are ultra supportive and come in stylish Mulberry and olive shades.
I just discovered this well-priced brand at The Sports Edit - a brilliant new activewear shop in London’s Chelsea that has a neat selection of hard-to-find brands. What Onzie lack in technicality, they make up for in amazing super cool prints - I have their Graphic Luna Leggings which are a wild geometric print and I absolutely love their Track leggings in bold but stylish block colours.