Six years ago, in my Sunday column, I recounted a serious conversation I’d had to have with my daughter when she was 5 years old.
Back then, this is how it went down:
“Darling,” I began gently one day, crouching down to her level to make eye contact as I held her hands tenderly in mine. “Leggings are not pants.”
As her face registered confusion, I seized the opportunity to continue. “You see, leggings are more like tights,” I explained carefully. “That means they’re different to jeans or pants. We don’t wear them the same way.” She regarded me defiantly. “But I like these leggings!” she protested. I remained calm, maintained eye contact, and spoke kindly yet firmly. “So do I darling, your leggings are lovely. They just need a skirt over the top of them. Or a dress. Or even a long top.”
LISTEN: Is this the end of active wear? Post continues…
To my bafflement, this turned out to be – at the time – one of the most controversial columns I had ever written. One of the most polarising opinions I’ve ever had (seems quaint to think about now…..).
People lost their collective minds over the idea that leggings were not pants. They were outraged by the idea that I would impose my own fashion preferences on my daughter.
And this surprised me, I’ll be honest. In 2011, I just thought that the principle leggings-aren’t-pants was a guiding one among women. Widely understood. The same as, say, you don’t wear socks with sandals (again, this was before Gorman OK? God there really are no rules anymore. Hipsters have a lot to answer for. Hold me).
But no. Apparently not.
Admittedly, soon after having that conversation with my daughter, I began to doubt the wisdom of having it. I knew I believed in my heart that leggings were not pants but should I really be urging her to feel the same way? Should I not be promoting a curious mind, free expression and independent thought in my kids? Not just about fashion but about everything?