Leggings for men: do you like my 'meggings'?
In life, one tries hard not to leave the house wearing only underwear. Particularly in winter. Yet such is my predicament one freezing Monday in December, as I stand in the chill winds of King's Cross, London, wearing little more than a pair of tights. Technically, they're not even tights. They are male leggings, or in the parlance de nos jours, "meggings" – they are to leggings what mankinis are to bikinis. (Quite why leggings have to be gendered in this way is a moot point. We all have legs – boys and girls. It's not like ladies' leggings are called feggings.)
Meggings, the fashion press alleges, are the next male trend: the Telegraph says they are "taking the fashion world by storm" – a storm that has already, according to the Mail, taken the whole city of New York. Metaphorically speaking. Now, we hear, said storm is heading for Britain (Uniqlo and Nordstrom are among the brands already stocking them). It is in testing this outlandish claim that I find myself shivering next to Regent's Canal, wearing a pair of black, skin-tight leggings emblazoned with the brand Boy London's logo. Can these ball-crunching jodhpur variants really be the next thing in male fashion, I ask Albus, a balding builder from Lithuania?
Nah. "I don't like them," says Albus. "I like more traditional designs. Jeans. Combat trousers. Military stuff. It's a personal choice."
"It wouldn't be my bag, to be honest," agrees Dave Wells, a sound engineer. "I don't do that whole skinny-jeans-and-plimsoll thing." Cripes. Unlikely as it seems, could the fashion press have got this one wrong? In a panic, I ring up GQ's fashion guru, Robert Johnston. "They are out there," he says. "It dates back to super-skinny jeans, and this is the obvious extension of that." Justin Bieber, for instance, recently sported a stripy skin-tight number, while Russell Brand has been wearing them for years. But, Johnston cautions, they are not for everyone. "You've got to be quite young," he says. "If you've got a bit of a belly, it's not going to look great. You'll look like an avocado on matchsticks."
Still, it has clearly been a hit at Selfridge's. "We sold out of the Boy London leggings within the first week of stocking them, and have since had to re-order five times." Versace long-johns and Givenchy's leggings have apparently proved almost as popular. And to be fair, I do find some tentative praise on the streets. "They'd look good on someone with beefy legs," says Christian, smoking round the back of his office. "My legs aren't as good-looking as, for example, yours."
Buoyed, I bounce over to St Martin's art school, and within moments I'm chatting to some fashion students. My kinda people. "I like them," says Antonella Volpe, "they look fit."
But for the lack of pockets, and the fact I had to shove my phone down my pants, perhaps I could wear these more often. They are, after all, quite warm. But then it starts: "I think maybe you need a bigger sweater," counters Ilse Jara. "I'm not sure about the print," she adds. "They're not for my boyfriend."
"Not for my brother," says Antonella.
And, concludes, Ilse: "You don't look so masculine."