Tight Fit: the lowdown on leggings

Since they were first popularised in the 1970s, leggings have been a crucial component of the modern woman's wardrobe. In recent years, though, they've become as ubiquitous as jeans, underpinning a whole host of outfits from the gym to the workplace to the bar.

But what exactly is behind the relentless ascension of the humble leggings?

There's no denying the role simple economics plays in the matter. In an age of fashion subcultures and sub-subcultures, leggings provide an easy, affordable way to diversify your wardrobe and complement any look. This is largely because, as a tight-fitting garment made of relatively thick material, leggings can display a print with a clarity and vibrancy that baggier clothing simply can't achieve. The hectic, colourful patterns of the '80s and '90s revivalist trends, the space-age flashiness of contemporary yoga pants, or just the sleek elegance of the classic plain black leggings - all are made possible by the garment's predictable fit.

Ergonomics-wise, leggings combine this immediacy with an unrivalled degree of comfort. Originally designed to meet the needs of dancers and aerobics practitioners, leggings are famed for providing ease of motion and breathability, making them the legwear of choice for the active athleisure generation.

Innovations and variations like 'jeggings' are diversifying the product's utility even further, offering consumers the timeless appeal of jeans without the need to wrestle with form-fitting denim or deal with belts and buttons. The previously untapped men's market is also opening up to the garment, particularly when it comes to activewear. Compression leggings now take pride of place in the wardrobes of millions of male athletes, from marathon runners to powerlifters, aiding performance and recovery and offering style on the track or in the gym.

All in all, when it comes to the legwear of the moment, the leggings reign supreme. Enabling the consumer to cut a bold shape without compromising on comfort has led to their meteoric rise to fame, and it looks as though they're here to stay.