If you use TikTok, Instagram, Pinterest, etc. to follow fashion trends, then you’re already tuned into this 80s style: leg warmers and hand warmers are back. Popularly donned by Gen Zs and backers of the Y2K aesthetic, these garments are considered practical, cozy and retro. Trend forecasters and marketing research companies alike are staking claims all over the internet: 2021 and 2022 have paved a path to a full-fledged leg warmer trend.
As recent as last week, Texas based fashion brand Schmitdt Clothing published a leg warmers forecast on their trend insight blog: “In 2022, many 80s styles are coming back, and leg warmers are no exception.”
But how long will it last?
TikTok creator Mandy Lee, @oldloserinbrooklyn on TikTok and Instagram, is a professional trend forecaster, researcher and product analyst and a self-proclaimed “personal style advocate.” In this Instagram highlight, she explains that the traditional 20-year trend cycle is shrinking, being replaced by micro-trends that span three to four months.
It’s worth nothing that the leg and arm warmer trend may find itself in multiple categories of aesthetics being predicted for 2022, including reworked and recycled fabrics, subversive DIY looks and the return of the ballerina aesthetic as well. Here are some TikTok creators forecasting leg warmers in 2022.
@emmacastle62 Trend predictions twenny twooo #2022fashion #fashiontrends2022 ##fashion #aesthetic #fyp ♬ FRANCHISE IMAXX FLIP – Max Thompson
@mikaelalouisee who’s excited🎿🥵🤕#fyp #foryoupage #2022 #trends ♬ St tropez by lana del rey – Skins
The trend that never really went away
People tend to think that leg warmers are a tired trend, one that started in and was left in the 80s. Contrary to this perception, leg warmers have continued to make period runway appearances well into the 21st century.
According to the Encyclopedia of Fashion, leg warmers were popularized by dancers in the early 1980s who wore them to keep their muscles warm. Movies like Fame (1980) and Flashdance (1983) furthered the popularity of the garment for aerobic use. Actress Jane Fonda began her career as a fitness teacher during the 1980s as well, and encouraged her fans to don leotards, tights and leg warmers in order to feel more like athletes.
Still, like most fads, leg warmers were considered out of style by the end of the decade. Then they emerged again, on high fashion runways. Marc Jacobs’ Fall 2006 ready-to-wear collection featured these leg warmers styled over sheer tights. Michael Kors’ Fall 2010 line featured cashmere leg warmers and Betsey Johnson’s Fall 2014 collection included matching leg and arm warmers. Leg warmers featured as recently as Moncler Gamme Rouge’s Spring 2018 ready-to-wear collection. While leg warmers might have been out of the mainstream fashion cycle, they never made their way off the runway completely – perhaps giving them a unique form of high-fashion status.
Leg warmers today
Now leg warmers are properly re-emerging as a full-fledged trend, this time thanks to Y2K and Gen Z aesthetics prevalent on popular apps like TikTok and Instagram.
Fashion United reported in March of 2021 that both leg and arm warmers would make a comeback, a projection based on internal customer search data collected by UK-based retailer PrettyLittleThing using Google Analytics. According to the data, searches for leg warmers had gone up 517 per cent, while arm warmers were up 650 percent.
Well, now it’s winter and the searching paid off; leg warmers are more practical than ever, and everyone is wearing them.
How to style leg warmers
Leg and arm warmers are a simple accessory with a lot of varying potential. They have been worn by athletes, dancers and figure skaters, over tights or leggings, but also by street style mavens, with flats, boots, heels, sneakers and Uggs. See for yourself: this is how people are styling their leg warmers on the fashion side of TikTok.
- Athletic, preppy, bohemian and grunge looks
@sarahnunnink leg warmers/arm warmers outfits for fall/winter #MunchiesWithTubi #Sing2gether #legwarmers #legwarmer #armwarmer ♬ SAD GIRLZ LUV MONEY – Remix – Amaarae & Kali Uchis
- Styled with sneakers
@tabbyhopkinson i like fuzzy hats #styling#fyp#foryoupage#fashion#foryou#legwarmers ♬ Deceptacon – LE TIGRE & Various Artists
- Y2K style
@elizabethfrancoo styling leg warmers we found at the thrift @laurennfranco ♬ original sound – Eveline
- Styled with Uggs
@xofashioninspoMaybe not a work of art but it’s cute 😚♬ Works Of Art – RobertKenobi
Where to buy leg warmers
Leg and arm warmers are difficult to find in Toronto vintage shops at present.
Who has leg warmers right now?
Common Sort (has a limited collection), Black Market Vintage, Malabar Limited (dance and costume supply store), Courage My Love (has arm warmers but not leg warmers), Vintage Outlaw (hand warmers but not leg warmers).
Public Butter, House of Vintage, Black Diamond Vintage, Final Touch Vintage, vintage depot, urban catwalk, Shoneys clothing, Bungalow, Exile (recently sold out), Retro Heads, Space Vintage.
Where to find them online
Instagram (@patch_patch_ in Toronto) custom crochet pieces
Instagram (@pellawool in Toronto) Mohair leg warmers
Instagram @sq_stitches in Missisauga) custom crochet pieces
Instagram @jjjcrochet in Toronto) custom crochet pieces using upcycled yarn
Etsy (@JaniqueRobitaille in Quebec) knit hand and leg warmers
Etsy (@knitsandcrochetshop in Parry Sound) crochet leg warmers with ruffle trim
Etsy (@dominiquejuliette in Yukon) printed arm and leg warmers
Etsy (@gypsycircus in Quebec) patchwork leg warmers and arm warmers
Etsy (@srechahandknits in Kitchener) leg warmers and fingerless gloves
Etsy (@angelicasbow in Halifax) knit arm and leg warmers
Etsy (@romanticanocturnis) velvet leg and arm warmers with corset style tie (presently on sale)
How to DIY your own
Your most affordable option for leg and arm warmers will be to recycle the sleeve of an old knit sweater. Here’s a quick tutorial on TikTok.
- Choose a sweater you no longer get wear out of, keeping in mind the material you’d like your warmers to be made from.
- With scissors, cut the sleeve off the sweater near the arm pit.
- Fold the raw hem inward.
- Repeat on other arm.
Alternatively, you can cut the foot part off a pair of socks for the same result.
If you’re a little craftier, you can also try making a pair from scratch! In this detailed YouTube tutorial, you can learn how to knit leg warmers starting with how to do knit and purl stitches continental style, and how to cast off. And in this video tutorial, you can learn how to crochet leg warmers.