Leg Warmers

During the 1970s a fitness craze swept the United States. Jogging and fast movement exercise classes called aerobics became popular leisure activities. Fashion followed the exercise trend, and it soon became fashionable to dress like an athlete, whether or not one actually participated in fitness activities. Specialty shoes, sweat clothes, leotards, and tights became fashionable for street wear, and over these it was popular for women to layer knitted leg warmers, tubes of fabric worn on the leg, reaching from knee or thigh to ankle.

Often made of wool or cotton and knitted like a big, loose, footless sock, leg warmers were commonly used by dancers to keep their leg muscles warm and flexible while wearing dance tights and

Model Christie Brinkley wearing a pink leotard and hot pink leg warmers. The 1970s fitness craze led to the 1980s leg warmers craze. Reproduced by permission of © .
leotards. Actress Jane Fonda (1937–), who began a new career as a fitness teacher during the 1980s, encouraged those who bought her books and watched her videos to dress like dancers, in leotards, tights, and leg warmers, in order to feel more like athletes themselves. Along with Fonda, popular films, such as Flashdance (1983) and Footloose (1984), helped to popularize leg warmers.

Leg warmers went out of style by the late 1980s, but they returned in the early twenty-first century. Inspired by Japanese cartoons popular in the West, these modern leg warmers were likely to be made of cotton, leather, fleece, nylon, or faux fur and flared out below the knee.


Bailey, Bill, and Frank Hoffman. Arts and Entertainment Fads. New York: Haworth, 1990.

Sewall, Gilbert T., ed. The Eighties: A Reader. Reading, MA: Addison-Wesley, 1997.

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