The basket of goods used to calculate the rate of inflation was this week updated to include quiche (at the expense of pork pies) and also “leggings”. But why are leggings called that? Long gloves are not called “armings”, and a jumper is not a “torsoing”.
Surprisingly, the English already had “leggings” 300 years ago, to describe a short sock (along with “heelings”, the part of a shoe or sock that covered the heel). But leggings inexorably grew longer: the Indian stockings, “leggings” ordered by no less a fashion authority than George Washington for his soldiers in 1758 probably came up to the knee; and by the 19th century, outdoorsy Americans could sport full-length “leggings” made from deerskin or leather.
It was only in 1895 that the gender balance shifted, when a Nevada newspaper noted the peculiar appearance of a woman “wearing a pair of blue cotton leggings like tights from her waist to her ankles”. These days, of course, we have “jeggings” (jeans leggings) and even “treggings” (designed, cunningly, to look like trousers). But, happily for a certain class of post-gym male hipster, it turns out that “meggings” preceded them all.
guardian.co.uk © Guardian News & Media Limited 2010