Given the winter’s crazy cold, it was hardly surprising to see men layering black sports tights under shorts for their workouts and outdoor runs — sensible, even. What was more of a shock was to see some of those men take the look out of the gym, incorporating it into their daily street wear. Eli Halili, a 34-year-old jewelry designer in Manhattan, wears Adidas running tights at the gym. But his commitment to the look — what he calls “meggings,” as in “man leggings” — is such that he also has a thicker-ply version from the Norwegian ski wear label KJUS for everyday wear.
“They’re comfortable and fashionable, but you don’t feel like you’re too overdressed,” Mr. Halili said.
Like many trends seen on the men’s wear runways, and on those who sit very close to them, this curious athletic-inspired street look has a way to go before it earns mainstream acceptance, even as it is taken up by stylish men in the spotlight (in this case, Kanye West, ASAP Rocky and Pharrell Williams). Still, those who have adopted it make up an enthusiastic fan base.
Earlier this year, Lance Jubel, a 24-year-old account executive for Jil Sander, boarded his flight to Milan for the latest round of men’s shows in gray running tights and matching shorts, a slim-fitting long-sleeved red top and a dark double-breasted overcoat. Unlike the drawstring bottoms and sweats that are pervasive on airplanes these days, the outfit was a rather polished interplay between gym apparel and contemporary street style. It turns out that Mr. Jubel’s onetime roommate, a personal trainer, was an early inspiration for the ensemble.
“I thought the mix of casual compression tights and some tailored wear would make a unique look,” he said, noting that he usually favors a more tailored style.
For Cameron Cooper, a stylist at the Oak boutique in NoHo, leggings are a wardrobe staple.
“I bought shorts that just looked better with them,” he said, pointing to the knee-grazing black leather pair he was wearing. Just as Mr. Cooper, 40, wears shirts of varying lengths, one over another, he sees leggings as a similarly interesting layering component.
“They’re transitional, too,” he said. “You can wear them in the fall when it’s too cold for just shorts, and in the spring when it’s not quite warm enough for your summer things.”
Curiously enough, in a New York Times column 27 years ago, Bill Cunningham remarked on a street-style trend of men in tights, which he attributed to the influence of Jean Paul Gaultier. But the similarities stop there. Today’s style, dark and worn under slim-fitting knee-length shorts or cropped pants (also usually dark) seems more likely to be inspired by Asian influences — think sleek ninjas — and basketball players and runners.
For the most part, the shorts-over-tights combo does not challenge modern dressing codes in the way a skirt, also a men’s runway fixture of late, does. At the shows in Europe early this year, gray leggings appeared on the Marni runway, and leggings were shown under thick shorts at Emporio Armani. Issey Miyake presented psychedelic-print tights and matching suit ensembles that would make an Olympic figure skater dizzy. At Givenchy, where shorts over leggings is practically a signature, Riccardo Tisci sent out a spring collection awash in print leggings paired with matching shorts and sporty tops, while his pre-fall collection showed off a more wearable look in the form of black leather leggings and boxy leather shorts.
In New York, the look has been on the street at least long enough for there to be adaptations.
“I modified the trend to work for me,” said Eugene Tong, the style director at Details magazine. Mr. Tong took to wearing shorts over skinny jeans after working on presentations for the Public School label, where layering basketball shorts over pants is a styling staple.
For sure, men are more likely to own several pairs of slim-cut jeans than shorts, but pulling off the look calls for a certain aplomb.
“Like anything in fashion,” Mr. Tong said, “you have to be confident in your personal style.”