Thigh-highs get a reboot

view gallery VIEW GALLERY

Sex on legs? Not necessarily. This season's hot footwear trend comes in shapes and guises from suede to flat to embroidered to biker. Anything, in fact, but black PVC

A mere moment's Googling the words "thigh-high boots" provides all the proof you need of the strange power that they have over the modern psyche: "Victoria Beckham is sexy in thigh- highs" while Halle Berry "dazzles". Rihanna is "rocking" hers, but a tabloid correspondent speaks of "proposals from men and sneers from women" after she spent a day wearing some.

The reason for the fevered interest is that thigh-highs are having a moment in the style spotlight, but no fashion hack could possibly pretend they're not completely aware of the reasons behind the allure of thigh-highs. Men like them because they make women look like cartoon prostitutes, and women like them because they make them feel like cartoon superheroes. A more perfect or explicit representation of Mars and Venus would be hard to find.

Of course, designers had their own interpretations of such archetypes for autumn/winter – a season which is full of over-the-knee, thigh- and crotch-high boots. Miuccia Prada, true to form, took sexy and turned it on its head, sending her models down the catwalk in thigh-high waders attached to waist belts with suspender-style buckled straps. Stella McCartney's, on the other hand, were more obviously dominatrix – needle-heeled leg coverings worn with blazers and silk shirt-dresses – a garment in their own right, replacing the need for trousers or tights.

Even the charming Peter Jensen showed longer-length white boots (white boots! Didn't your mother tell you never to wear white boots?), embroidered with a floral motif and inspired by the traditional Greenlandic kamiks. At Louis Vuitton, Marc Jacobs played with the various associations of the provocative boots and made them comically hyperbolic, by turning them out in brocade, or with laced fronts, each atop a tapered heel, some adorned with pearls. Jacobs, though, was ultimately pragmatic in his assertion that we'd all be wearing thigh-highs come deepest winter, and showed a pair that unzipped into a practical triptych: from ankle boots, to knee boots and with a final extra panel that took them all the way up to, well, the nether reaches of any average-size woman.

The thigh-high tradition is an old one. They were popular in the 17th century with men who rode on horseback. Porthos, Athos and Aramis probably each had a pair. In the 1960s, Diana Rigg cavorted in a pair for The Avengers, and Pierre Cardin created gold and silver versions, without the then-ubiquitous stiletto heel and distinctly android in aesthetic.

Back up to speed, though, and one of the earliest public outings this season – and the beginning of the tabloid uproar – was when Madonna appeared at the Met Gala in May wearing a head-to-toe Vuitton look from the autumn collection. Some chose to ridicule her for the "bunny-ear" headpiece she wore, others to remark on the suitability of a skirt "that short" on a woman "that age". The obvious targets for comment, however, were the black thigh-highs she chose as accessories. From the author of a book titled Sex, surely they were no great surprise.

But the interesting thing about this season's thigh-highs is that they are not straightforwardly sexy. The point of these boots is not to look like Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman. Rather, they're an extension of the sleek, skinny lines shown last autumn by the likes of Riccardo Tisci at Givenchy, Antonio Berardi and Olivier Theyskens at Nina Ricci; it's part of the slim-fit, chic goth look as purveyed by Rick Owens and, latterly, Gareth Pugh.

Trousers have got so tight that there's little for it but to attach them to our feet. Martin Margiela's integrated shoe-tights are a more extreme version of this, as are Nicolas Ghesquière's for Balenciaga. They're less sexy and more ergonomic – which is something Woman's Hour singularly failed to note when Debbie Turley, a thigh-high enthusiast, went on to the programme to discuss the trend recently. They make her feel a "sexual proudness", she told a bemused Jenni Murray. "I'd wear them to a club, maybe with a rubber catsuit or something quite raunchy." Turley owns six pairs, ranging from black PVC to red PVC to black PVC with a pink lining.

Debbie, where to start? Her fetishistic collection is so absolutely contrary to the versions that are currently en vogue and in Vogue. Most of this season's versions are more social worker than sex worker: take Russell & Bromley's black-leather pair, totally flat-soled and bagged out at the top, so easily worn over jeans. Topshop, too, has several takes, from pointy stilettos to clumpy, buckled biker styles. Jil Sander and Balenciaga have both produced practical, flat, suede versions, and specialist brand Duo (which stocks 21 different calf sizes) has also got in on the act. Wear them over leggings and under dresses; team with an over-sized upper half, or an out-sized jacket.

As long as you're not entirely clad in Lycra or standing on a kerb without a coat, no one will bat an eyelid. And those who do are probably just wondering if they dare have a go.

Arts and Entertainment
Gregg Wallace in Summer's Supermarket Secrets
tv All of this year's 15 contestants have now been named
Arts and Entertainment
Inside the gallery at Frederick Bremer School in Walthamstow
tvSimon Usborne goes behind-the-scenes to watch the latest series
Life and Style
A picture taken on January 12, 2011 shows sex shops at the Paris district of Pigalle.
newsThe industry's trade body issued the moratorium on Friday
Winchester College Football (universally known as Winkies) is designed to make athletic skill all but irrelevant
Life...arcane public school games explained
Life and Style
ebooksA superb mix of recipes serving up the freshest of local produce in a delicious range of styles
Life and Style
ebooksFrom the lifespan of a slug to the distance to the Sun: answers to 500 questions from readers
Arts and Entertainment
Could we see Iain back in the Bake Off tent next week?
tv Contestant teased Newsnight viewers on potential reappearance
Life and Style
Silvia says of her famous creation: 'I never stopped wearing it. Because I like to wear things when they are off the radar'
fashionThe fashion house celebrated fifteen years of the punchy pouch with a weighty tome
i100(and it's got nothing to do with the Great British Bake Off)
Angelina Jolie with her father Jon Voight
peopleAsked whether he was upset not to be invited, he responded by saying he was busy with the Emmy Awards
Bill Kerr has died aged 92
peopleBill Kerr appeared in Hancock’s Half Hour and later worked alongside Spike Milligan and Peter Sellers
news It's not just the world that's a mess at the moment...
footballPremiership preview: All the talking points ahead of this weekend's matches
Keira Knightley poses topless for a special September The Photographer's issue of Interview Magazine, out now
The Ukip leader has consistently refused to be drawn on where he would mount an attempt to secure a parliamentary seat
voicesNigel Farage: Those who predicted we would lose momentum heading into the 2015 election are going to have to think again
Arts and Entertainment
Cara Delevingne made her acting debut in Anna Karenina in 2012
film Cara Delevingne 'in talks' to star in Zoolander sequel
Mario Balotelli pictured in his Liverpool shirt for the first time
Life and Style
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Fashion

    C# Algo-Developer (BDD/TDD, ASP.NET, JavaScript, RX)

    £45000 - £69999 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: C# Algo-Develo...

    Senior Data Scientist (Data Mining, Apache Mahout, Python,R,AI)

    £60000 - £70000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: Senior Data Sc...

    Data Scientist (SQL,Data mining, data modelling, PHD, AI)

    £50000 - £80000 per annum + benefits+bonus+package: Harrington Starr: Data Sci...

    Java Developer - 1 year contract

    £350 - £400 Per Day: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client based in Cent...

    Day In a Page

    Ukraine crisis: The phoney war is over as Russian troops and armour pour across the border

    The phoney war is over

    Russian troops and armour pour into Ukraine
    Potatoes could be off the menu as crop pests threaten UK

    Potatoes could be off the menu as crop pests threaten UK

    The world’s entire food system is under attack - and Britain is most at risk, according to a new study
    Gangnam smile: why the Chinese are flocking to South Korea to buy a new face

    Gangnam smile: why the Chinese are flocking to South Korea to buy a new face

    Seoul's plastic surgery industry is booming thanks to the popularity of the K-Pop look
    From Mozart to Orson Welles: Creative geniuses who peaked too soon

    Creative geniuses who peaked too soon

    After the death of Sandy Wilson, 90, who wrote his only hit musical in his twenties, John Walsh wonders what it's like to peak too soon and go on to live a life more ordinary
    Caught in the crossfire of a cyber Cold War

    Caught in the crossfire of a cyber Cold War

    Fears are mounting that Vladimir Putin has instructed hackers to target banks like JP Morgan
    Salomé's feminine wiles have inspired writers, painters and musicians for 2,000 years

    Salomé: A head for seduction

    Salomé's feminine wiles have inspired writers, painters and musicians for 2,000 years. Now audiences can meet the Biblical femme fatale in two new stage and screen projects
    From Bram Stoker to Stanley Kubrick, the British Library's latest exhibition celebrates all things Gothic

    British Library celebrates all things Gothic

    Forthcoming exhibition Terror and Wonder: The Gothic Imagination will be the UK's largest ever celebration of Gothic literature
    The Hard Rock Café's owners are embroiled in a bitter legal dispute - but is the restaurant chain worth fighting for?

    Is the Hard Rock Café worth fighting for?

    The restaurant chain's owners are currently embroiled in a bitter legal dispute
    Caribbean cuisine is becoming increasingly popular in the UK ... and there's more to it than jerk chicken at carnival

    In search of Caribbean soul food

    Caribbean cuisine is becoming increasingly popular in the UK ... and there's more to it than jerk chicken at carnival
    11 best face powders

    11 best face powders

    Sweep away shiny skin with our pick of the best pressed and loose powder bases
    England vs Norway: Roy Hodgson's hands tied by exploding top flight

    Roy Hodgson's hands tied by exploding top flight

    Lack of Englishmen at leading Premier League clubs leaves manager hamstrung
    Angel Di Maria and Cristiano Ronaldo: A tale of two Manchester United No 7s

    Di Maria and Ronaldo: A tale of two Manchester United No 7s

    They both inherited the iconic shirt at Old Trafford, but the £59.7m new boy is joining a club in a very different state
    Israel-Gaza conflict: No victory for Israel despite weeks of death and devastation

    Robert Fisk: No victory for Israel despite weeks of devastation

    Palestinians have won: they are still in Gaza, and Hamas is still there
    Mary Beard writes character reference for Twitter troll who called her a 'slut'

    Unlikely friends: Mary Beard and the troll who called her a ‘filthy old slut’

    The Cambridge University classicist even wrote the student a character reference
    America’s new apartheid: Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone

    America’s new apartheid

    Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone