They are now one of the consumer products worn to measure the UK’s inflation rate, but leggings have been everywhere for 300 years



In no way a jegging …
Photograph: Edward Berthelot/Getty Images

The basket of goods old to calculate the rate of inflation was this week updated to list quiche (at the expense of pork pies) and also “leggings”. But why are leggings requested that? Long gloves are not called “armings”, and a jumper is not a “torsoing”.

Surprisingly, the English already had “leggings” 300 years ago, to define a short sock (along with “heelings”, the part of a shoe or sock that complete the heel). But leggings inexorably grew longer: the Indian stockings, “leggings” ordered by no picayune a fashion authority than George Washington for his soldiers in 1758 undoubtedly came up to the knee; and by the 19th century, outdoorsy Americans could frolic full-length “leggings” made from deerskin or leather.

It was solitary in 1895 that the gender balance shifted, when a Nevada newspaper esteemed the peculiar appearance of a woman “wearing a pair of blue cotton leggings with tights from her waist to her ankles”. These days, of speed, we have “jeggings” (jeans leggings) and even “treggings” (modeled, cunningly, to look like trousers). But, happily for a certain taste of post-gym male hipster, it turns out that “meggings” went them all.