What are Leg Warmers?

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  • Written By: A Kaminsky
  • Edited By: Niki Foster
  • Last Modified Date: 09 January 2020
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Believe it or not, leg warmers have a practical use. Since they achieved fad status after the release of Flashdance in 1983, leg warmers are often vilified and frequently seen as the clothing item most demonstrative of 1980s fashion disasters.

Leg warmers are coverings for the lower legs and have been indispensable in dance classes for many years. They are generally used by dancers during the first parts of class or rehearsal, to keep the calf and ankle muscles and tendons warm until they have been loosened from stretching. Using leg warmers is believed to prevent muscle and ligament strains due to over-exercising cold legs. Leg warmers are often knitted tubes that slip over the feet up to just below the knee. Some are made of other materials, such as chenille, and cover the entire foot. These warmers usually have a pad that grips the floor so the dancer does not slip.

Some dancers would rather buy their leg warmers, while others who are so inclined may make them. Patterns for crocheting and knitting leg warmers are available online and allow the dancer to make them to his or her own tastes.


As a fashion fad, leg warmers were everywhere in the 1980s. Women usually wore them with miniskirts, over Lycra leggings or over jeans. Some girls wore two or three short pairs at a time. Leg warmers were usually coordinated with something else the girl wore - red warmers with a red sweater, for instance, but this was not always the case. The footwear of choice with leg warmers was either sneakers or flat "jazz" shoes. Anything else was considered ridiculous-looking.

The leg warmers fad faded into the sunset in the late 1980s, but some fashionistas say they may be coming back. In any case, these garments are still worn in dance classes. They are available in a variety of materials and lengths from a number of dancewear manufacturers and cost from US$15 to $30 a pair.


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Post 3

@Fa5t3r - Actually I don't think they are wrong predicting they might make a comeback, although not in the same form. I've seen some amazing leg warmers that can go with different kinds of shoes to add a bit of lace or length without the bulk of full socks. They actually look quite stylish, especially in subdued tones rather than harking back to the neon colors.

I tried making some myself out of wool and they don't look too bad. The only problem with wool leg warmers is that they are fairly bulky, and they make your legs look bigger which isn't something I particularly want to do.

Post 2

@irontoenail - Well, they do work for dancers, because they can pause and take them off once they warm up. But I suspect they became a fashion statement for people at aerobics class because they were associated with dancers, without actually being used for their proper purpose.

I actually didn't even know you could still buy them, except as a novelty costume item.

Post 1

I actually quite like leg warmers as comfort items. When I'm feeling a bit cold they add something to just wearing slippers and also make it easier to take clothes off again as I warm up.

I don't think I would wear them in public though. They just seem a little bit too much of an 80s thing. I never understood why people seemed to wear them at the gym so much either. I can remember going to an aerobics class of my mothers when I was a kid and everyone seemed to be in stretchy Lycra and fluffy neon leg warmers. It just seemed like it would be too hot to exercise in them.

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