The History of the Leg Warmers

By LeafTV Contributor

Legwarmers are an icon of 1980s women's fashion that have experienced a resurgence in recent years. The first legwarmers were intended for dancers but quickly became a fashion-oriented phenomenon. Today, legwarmers are a fashionable items that can be found in stores like Urban Outfitters, H&M and Anthropologie.

girl holding a cup of coffee in bed
credit: Mima88/iStock/GettyImages
The History Of The Leg Warmers


Legwarmers were invented in 1980 by KD Dance to keep dancers' legs warm until they've performed an adequate warm-up routine. They surged in popularity upon the release of the 1983 teen film "Flashdance." This turned legwarmers into more of a fashion trend. In keeping with general 1980s fashion, legwarmers were usually brightly colored, often neon. Girls wore legwarmers fashionably until the early 1990s. They never went extinct, because dancers kept using them. But they were not worn fashionably again until 2004 when they made a resurgence. Many women now wear modern legwarmers, which have more of a textured, thick appearance than the 1980s styles.


Legwarmers are pieces of clothing that women wear as an accessory. Usually a substitute or addition to stockings, legwarmers are intended to be visible when worn. Ballet dancers sometimes wear legwarmers to keep the tendons and calf and ankle muscles warm until their legs have warmed up; legwarmers are then removed for the remainder of the dance or practice.


Legwarmers are usually a little bit thicker than socks. Most of the time, legwarmers stretch from the bottom of the leg to about mid-calf range. They are always tubular and tend to stretch in order to fit all leg sizes. Legwarmers can be shorter or longer, but the average length is approximately 2 feet.


The shorter types of legwarmers are more often known as "ankle warmers," and they usually do not even reach as high as the calf. Some legwarmers are crocheted or knitted by hand, and others are made in factories for mass production. New legwarmers sometimes have buttons. Some dancers use legwarmers that cover their entire foot and come with grips to prevent slippage.


A common misconception is that legwarmers are simply used to warm the legs. This is only sometimes true. Legwarmers are usually just fashion accessories. Some dancers use legwarmers to keep their lower calf warm before a routine, but the purpose for keeping this small part of the body warm is debatable. The term "warm" is better understood in the context of "warming up" for a physical activity, or loosening muscles before engaging in intense workouts. Legwarmers are always removed by dancers at the end of a warm-up.