So, I’ve recently started wearing ridiculous, digital print leggings a lot. And when I say ridiculous, I do mean ridiculous: I have one pair printed like a peacock’s tail, one with the couple from Tim Burton’s Corpse Bride glancing quizzically at one another across from one leg to the other, a pair with naked green absinthe fairies and giant skulls, and a pair with sleepy, moody owls in shades of blue and purple. (I have now sworn off the shop in Camden where I bought them, because my precarious finances can’t stand it. As it is, generous friends have enabled the last two.) Each pair is a thing of wonder, as tends to be pointed out to me by friends, acquaintances, colleagues, passers-by, and on a few memorable occasions people on the other side of the street or four floors up on a spiral staircase.
Why is my questionable taste blogworthy, I hear you ask? Well. Partly because of the reason I bought them. There was an absurd but insidiously annoying article about things women shouldn’t wear over the age of 30 that I now hilariously can’t find, but here are a few examples of the genre. Let’s take a moment to appreciate a) the extent of the lists and b) the fact that I also possess (and frequently wear) short dresses, hotpants, printed tights, heart-shaped sunglasses, knockoff handbags, clothes without bras, and items from the children’s department, to name but a few.
(Some of those are purely practical decisions. I’ve been either a student or a freelancer pretty much my whole life, and the idea of spending literally hundreds of pounds on a non-knockoff handbag that will be subject to battery, bikes, buses etc is about as appealing as wasting a huge amount of money and being unable to pay the rent. Oh no, wait. Clothes without bras: I suddenly acquired DD/E cup breasts after finally wrestling the last of anorexia to the ground a few years ago, and so they’re still new and bouncy enough I don’t NEED a bra unless I’m likely to be running, and imle most bras are uncomfortable, or at least more uncomfortable than not wearing one. (Yes, I’ve been measured, I’m wearing the right size, I just don’t really like tight straps or bands of any description, and if I get them loose enough to be comfortable, they don’t fit and ride up.) And children’s clothes: it turns out I’m approximately the same dress size as an 11-year-old girl, aforementioned boobs notwithstanding, and I consequently have several cardigans from Tescos’ amazing Back-to-School range – they’re hardwearing and washable and cute and they fit! Fuck this ageist nonsense. I don’t have any hats with ears, but I DO have Hello Kitty headphones with ears on, which is arguably even more childish. I think hats are next. I can only conclude I am not very good at adulting, and move right along.)
Anyway, so on one of these charming lists somebody linked me to as a joke, there were ‘brightly patterned leggings’. And I thought, fuck this shit. I admit that I have a bunch of privilege here, because I’m a size UK8 and I’ve been a Londoner and a student or a hipster copywriter most of my life and everyone assumes I’m 26, so I can get away with looking weird probably more than most people, but STILL. The very idea that there is some sort of arbitrary cutoff point for self-expression makes me ragingly, incandescently angry. The idea of ‘putting away childish things’ where childish things include the expression of humour, individuality, popcult or subculture references in your daily life – little things that bring joy and harm nobody – is the kind of poisonous bullshit I could quite cheerfully set fire to. Sure, context is important and I probably wouldn’t wear my ridiculous leggings to a job interview, unless it was for a public-facing job in a place that trades on ‘quirky’, but there’s a difference between ‘be aware of context and professionalism’ and EVERYONE YOU PASS ON THE STREET HAS THE RIGHT TO JUDGE YOUR PATTERNED TIGHTS, YOU AGEING LADY FAILURE.
So obviously, I went out and bought the ludicrous peacock leggings. And then the absinthe fairies. And then Corpse Bride and the owls in a moment of weakness I still can’t bring myself to regret. (Fortunately the vast majority of my tops are black and go with pretty much anything). I wore them to work and to my boyfriend’s and to collect his daughter (who approved wholeheartedly) and to the library and to parties. And it was ACE. Not just because I got a whole load of validation and reinforcement from people who thought they were awesome, but also because the kind of comments I usually get when I wear leggings without a shrouding top or long jumper – comments on my arse/thighs/legs – were conspicuous by their absence. Random blokes didn’t tell me I had a nice arse, they commented on the leggings. Encounters shifted from vaguely threatening to vaguely friendly. I felt much more able both to engage (‘thank you! I like them too!’) and to walk away. People who otherwise probably wouldn’t’ve talked to me came up and commented on the leggings. Colleagues who I don’t know that well started conversations. Strangers on trains started conversations, which I could then end naturally after the leggings had been covered.
RIDICULOUS LEGGINGS ARE THE SOCIAL LUBE OF EVERYDAY LIFE. They are a handy weapon against overtly sexual hassle! They open up topics like society’s ridiculous expectations of women with people who don’t consider themselves feminists, or even think about such things that much! They make you smile whenever you look at your legs! They are a handy fuck-you to social concepts of feminine aging and social appropriateness or taking up space! They look ace and enable you to make references to cool stuff and talk to other people about it! They annoy people who have ideas about convention and Good Taste involving beige and cream! Seriously, what’s not to like? (Unless you’re really not into leggings, in which case, fair enough.)
RIDICULOUS LEGGINGS FOR PRIME MINISTER. They’d do a much better job than David Cameron.