Believe it or not, leg warmers have a practical use. Since they achieved fad status after the release of Flashdance in 1983, leg warmers are often vilified and frequently seen as the clothing item most demonstrative of 1980s fashion disasters.
Leg warmers are coverings for the lower legs and have been indispensable in dance classes for many years. They are generally used by dancers during the first parts of class or rehearsal, to keep the calf and ankle muscles and tendons warm until they have been loosened from stretching. Using leg warmers is believed to prevent muscle and ligament strains due to over-exercising cold legs. Leg warmers are often knitted tubes that slip over the feet up to just below the knee. Some are made of other materials, such as chenille, and cover the entire foot. These warmers usually have a pad that grips the floor so the dancer does not slip.
Some dancers would rather buy their leg warmers, while others who are so inclined may make them. Patterns for crocheting and knitting leg warmers are available online and allow the dancer to make them to his or her own tastes.
As a fashion fad, leg warmers were everywhere in the 1980s. Women usually wore them with miniskirts, over Lycra leggings or over jeans. Some girls wore two or three short pairs at a time. Leg warmers were usually coordinated with something else the girl wore - red warmers with a red sweater, for instance, but this was not always the case. The footwear of choice with leg warmers was either sneakers or flat "jazz" shoes. Anything else was considered ridiculous-looking.
The leg warmers fad faded into the sunset in the late 1980s, but some fashionistas say they may be coming back. In any case, these garments are still worn in dance classes. They are available in a variety of materials and lengths from a number of dancewear manufacturers and cost from US$15 to $30 a pair.