In fashion, there are a few items that will never be considered stylish. At the top of that list are leggings. Sure, people in fashion wear them, but more so in a last-minute-errand, stay-at-home sort of way. That being said, this year sparked a lot of changes, including ones in fashion. We didn’t think celebrities would be caught dead wearing sweatpants with a blazer or tracksuits with heels, but, in 2020, it works. Same goes for leggings. Or rather, leggings with stirrups — a distinction that is of the utmost importance. With a potential second wave of COVID-19 on the way, comfort is likely to continue being a key trend throughout the remainder of the year and into 2021. And since there’s no sartorial item more comfortable than leggings, the recent uptick of stylish alternatives comes as a welcome surprise. 

PARIS, FRANCE – FEBRUARY 27: (EDITORIAL USE ONLY) Hiandra Martinez walks the runway during the Isabel Marant show as part of Paris Fashion Week Womenswear Fall/Winter 2020/2021 on February 27, 2020 in Paris, France. (Photo by Kristy Sparow/Getty Images)
PARIS, FRANCE – JANUARY 18: Adut Akech walks the runway during the Jacquemus Menswear Fall/Winter 2020-2021 show as part of Paris Fashion Week on January 18, 2020 in Paris, France. (Photo by Victor VIRGILE/Gamma-Rapho via Getty Images)

We first saw stirrup leggings — originally created as pants for equestrians — at Jacquemus’ fall ‘20 menswear show, which occurred just a few weeks after the first cases of COVID-19 were reported. Of course, Simon Porte Jacquemus couldn’t have predicted that an alternative to leggings would be so practical in the coming months when he was designing the collection. But we’re glad he had the foresight to create them anyway. At the show, Jacquemus styled a pair of oatmeal-colored, ribbed stirrup leggings with a knit bra top (another fashion trend to come out of lockdown), an oversized, linen blazer, and strappy sandals. The model wore a bandana and two handbags: a white belt bag and a pistachio green mini bag. It was glorious. I wasn’t alone in thinking that: The leggings, named the Albi, sold out completely following their release earlier this fall. Later that fashion season, during Paris Fashion Week in February, another designer introduced a version of the stirrup legging for a covetable fall look: Isabel Marant’s show saw an ‘80s-inspired pair of leggings, which were black and paired with plain black pumps and a black leather jacket.

A season later, the style has only garnered more recognition, likely in part because of the sudden need for clothing that checks off the comfort box. In August, Courtney Trop, an L.A.-based blogger, styled a pair of black Simon Miller stirrup leggings with patent leather platforms and a crinkled coat. Later, during spring ‘21 fashion week in Paris, fellow blogger Camille Charriere wore a pair to dance on a pole at a Roger Vivier event, proving that moveable stretch fabric does indeed have a place in fashion. (For the occasion, she styled her leggings with loafers and an hourglass-shaped blazer.) Géraldine Boublil (Erin Off Duty) wore a pair for Miu Miu’s runway show, while Norwegian influencer Rikke Krefting styled hers with lug sole loafers and a long, camel coat. 

But the resurgence of stirrup leggings in 2020 didn’t arrive completely out of the blue, nor can we give all the credit to the pandemic for its sudden popularity. In 2016, the trend experienced a minor spike due to Demna Gvasalia, creative director of Balenciaga. At the fall ‘16 show, the designer introduced a stirrup pant, which, too, soon became a favorite among street style stars. During fall ‘17 men’s fashion week a year later, the likes of Pernille Teisbaek and Tamu Mcpherson wore their leggings over their heels, rather than under it, while out on the streets in Milan and Paris — a look we now wouldn’t hesitate to recreate.

Among the front-runners in today’s stirrup legging market are pairs by Monse, Altuzarra, Low Classic, and The Marc Jacobs. Lourdes, Wardrobe.NYC., and Paco Rabanne are also offering fashion-forward iterations on this once-contentious fad. See them all by clicking through our favorite stirrup leggings for fall below. 

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