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.

Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebooks
ebookPart of The Independent’s new eBook series The Great Composers
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

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

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Fashion

    Recruitment Genius: Customer Service Executive

    £18000 - £22000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

    Recruitment Genius: Retail Buyer / Ecommerce Buyer

    £30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Working closely with the market...

    Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive - CAD Software Solutions Sales

    £20000 - £50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A reputable company, famed for ...

    Ashdown Group: Client Accountant Team Manager - Reading

    Negotiable: Ashdown Group: The Ashdown Group has been engaged by a highly resp...

    Day In a Page

    War with Isis: Iraq declares victory in the battle for Tikrit - but militants make make ominous advances in neighbouring Syria's capital

    War with Isis

    Iraq declares victory in the battle for Tikrit - but militants make make ominous advances in neighbouring Syria
    Scientists develop mechanical spring-loaded leg brace to improve walking

    A spring in your step?

    Scientists develop mechanical leg brace to help take a load off
    Peter Ackroyd on Alfred Hitchcock: How London shaped the director's art and obsessions

    Peter Ackroyd on Alfred Hitchcock

    Ackroyd has devoted his literary career to chronicling the capital and its characters. He tells John Walsh why he chose the master of suspense as his latest subject
    Ryan Reynolds interview: The actor is branching out with Nazi art-theft drama Woman in Gold

    Ryan Reynolds branches out in Woman in Gold

    For every box-office smash in Ryan Reynolds' Hollywood career, there's always been a misconceived let-down. It's time for a rethink and a reboot, the actor tells James Mottram
    Why Robin Williams safeguarded himself against a morbid trend in advertising

    Stars safeguard against morbid advertising

    As film-makers and advertisers make increasing posthumous use of celebrities' images, some stars are finding new ways of ensuring that they rest in peace
    The UK horticulture industry is facing a skills crisis - but Great Dixter aims to change all that

    UK horticulture industry facing skills crisis

    Great Dixter manor house in East Sussex is encouraging people to work in the industry by offering three scholarships a year to students, as well as generous placements
    Hack Circus aims to turn the rule-abiding approach of TED talks on its head

    Hack Circus: Technology, art and learning

    Hack Circus aims to turn the rule-abiding approach of TED talks on its head. Rhodri Marsden meets mistress of ceremonies Leila Johnston
    Sevenoaks is split over much-delayed decision on controversial grammar school annexe

    Sevenoaks split over grammar school annexe

    If Weald of Kent Grammar School is given the go-ahead for an annexe in leafy Sevenoaks, it will be the first selective state school to open in 50 years
    10 best compact cameras

    A look through the lens: 10 best compact cameras

    If your smartphone won’t quite cut it, it’s time to invest in a new portable gadget
    Paul Scholes column: Ross Barkley played well against Italy but he must build on that. His time to step up and seize that England No 10 shirt is now

    Paul Scholes column

    Ross Barkley played well against Italy but he must build on that. His time to step up and seize that England No 10 shirt is now
    Tracey Neville: The netball coach who is just as busy as her brothers, Gary and Phil

    Tracey Neville is just as busy as her brothers, Gary and Phil

    The former player on how she is finding time to coach both Manchester Thunder in the Superleague and England in this year's World Cup
    General Election 2015: The masterminds behind the scenes

    The masterminds behind the election

    How do you get your party leader to embrace a message and then stick to it? By employing these people
    Machine Gun America: The amusement park where teenagers go to shoot a huge range of automatic weapons

    Machine Gun America

    The amusement park where teenagers go to shoot a huge range of automatic weapons
    The ethics of pet food: Why are we are so selective in how we show animals our love?

    The ethics of pet food

    Why are we are so selective in how we show animals our love?
    How Tansy Davies turned 9/11 into her opera 'Between Worlds'

    How a composer turned 9/11 into her opera 'Between Worlds'

    Tansy Davies makes her operatic debut with a work about the attack on the Twin Towers. Despite the topic, she says it is a life-affirming piece