Investigating the origin of the leather trousers
From rock 'n' roll staple to red carpet favourite. We list the most important milestones in the fashion history of the leather trousers.
1. IT STARTED IN GREECE
The history of women in trousers dates back to ancient times. In mythology, it was during a battle between Greece and the Scythians that the Greek troops first saw women in trousers and decorated armour, riding horseback and fighting alongside the men. After the Greek troops returned from battle, the trouser-wearing women were immortalised on vases and murals, portrayed as fierce, chic and powerful.
2. NATIVE AMERICANS AND THE FIRST LEATHER TROUSERS
Man has been tanning and processing hides for thousands of years. In North America, archaeologists have found leather trousers in ancient Native American settlements, where they had advanced methods of turning skins into soft leather garments, from moccasins to jackets and trousers. When European settlers arrived, the Native Americans' use of leather trousers was adopted as leather chaps that cowboys wore in the West.
3. EVELYN KEYES IMMORTALIsED THEM ON THE BIG SCREEN
We have to fast-forward to the 1940s and the birth of western-themed films to see the leather trousers' big screen debut. One iconic picture of actress Evelyn Keyes squeezing into a pair of skinny trousers on the set of Desperados(1943) showed they were actually wearable by others than cowboys.
4. '60S ROCK STARS MADE THEM ICONIC
Trends have always been more likely to start on a stage than on a runway. With The Rolling Stones, Elvis Presley and Jim Morrison, leather trousers became synonymous with rock 'n' roll heroes. Although male rock stars dominated the charts in the '60s and '70s, there were a group of glorious women taking charge on the trend too. Icons Suzi Quatro, Marianne Faithful and Joan Jett paired their biker jackets and tank tops with tight black leather trousers.
5. THE PUNK MOVEMENT MADE THEM A MAINSTAY
As the '70s landed, guitar-slinging rock stars lost their sole right to wear the trousers as the new rebellious subculture emerged in Britain and spread over the world. Punks were characterised by their anti-establishment views, DIY attitude and loud ways of promoting their individuality with fashion. This resulted in a badass trend involving bright neon, studded biker jackets, leopard prints, checked skirts, tons of hairspray – and leather trousers.
6. REACHING THE RED CARPET
By the end of the '80s, the trousers were no longer seen as something exclusive for rock stars or followers of a subculture. This became a cemented fact when Claudia Schiffer and Cindy Crawford appeared in an ad wearing white T-shirts paired with the previously provocative item.
7. RAPPERS AND THE 'LEATHER SWEATPANTS'
Regardless of how much we love them, leather trousers are not an easy piece of clothing to pull off. One of the biggest dos' when it comes to styling (and comfort) is to opt for a slightly loose and cropped pair so they don't sag (or worse: cause you to overheat). Someone who has drawn on this is Kanye West, who launched the leather sweatpants trend in the early 2010s. Baggy and drop-crotch pants have had a moment with rappers, artists and everyone else ever since.
Celebrate the leather trousers and browse our favourites below.
PHOTOGRAPHER Andreas Sjödin
DIRECTOR Andreas Sjödin
STYLING Lisa Lindqwister | Lund Lund
DOP Max Larsson
MODEL Alima Fofana | W360
HAIR Lok Lau | CLM Agency
MAKEUP Anya De Tobon | Link Details