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The NonVerbal Dictionary of Gestures, Signs & Body Language Cues

Leg Wear



Although skirt hemlines are no longer much of a concern, form and structure between your waist and your feet is always a critical issue. --VĂ©ronique Vienne (1997:149)


Fashion statement1. Clothing worn a. to cover, and b. to modify the color, thickness, length, shape, and texture of the legs (see, e.g., BLUE JEANS). 2. Ornaments (e.g., anklets and cuffs) worn a. to attract notice, and b. to accent the leg's masculine or feminine traits.

Usage: What we place upon our legs accents their thickness or taperTrousers widen the legs, e.g., while dresses bare the turn of an ankle.Skirts reveal, while pants conceal, vulnerable landscapes of skin.
Media. While fleeing from gorillas, giant lizards, and Martians, e.g., leading men (in pants and boots) must help leading women (in skirts andheels) as the latter twist their ankles, stumble, and fall to the ground.

Skirts, women. Though the earliest skirts may have been made of thong-tied animal hides, the oldest-known skirts were more provocative and revealing than leather. Evidence for the ancient string skirt consists of detailed carvings on Upper Paleolithic Venus figurines from Lespugue, France, estimated to be ca. 23,000 to 25,000 years old (Troeng 1993). The string skirt (not unlike the filamentous grass skirts of old Hawaii) revealed the legs and ankles, and when a woman walked, made sexually suggestive movements of its own as well (Barber 1991, 1994).

Skirts, men. Japanese men wear kimonos, Samoan men wear sarongs, and bedouin men wear flowing robes. Men from Amazonia, Bali, Egypt, Fiji, Ghana, Greece, Hawaii, India, Kenya, Korea, Samoa, Scotland, and Tibet also wear skirts. 

Stance. Leg wear suggests how solidly--or how lightly--we trod upon the earth. In tandem with heavy shoes, e.g., masculine cuffs define a solid connection with terra firma, as if a man "had both feet on the ground." In thinner shoes and higher heels, feminine bare legs seem to lift a woman above the earthly plain. (N.B.: From 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. in the corporate world, a woman must balance her femininity against the stability of her stance.)


Trousers I. The oldest-known pants were discovered on a glacier between Austria and Italy. The crotchless leggings, made from animal hide whipstitched with sinew, were worn fur side out with a leather loincloth. They belonged to a late-Neolithic wanderer known as the "Ice Man," who died ca. 5,300 years ago. The deerskin pants covering his thighs and calves did not cling, but had a loose fit to enable bending at the knees. Though he may have died in a fall, an artist's rendering of his leather cuffs and shoes suggests that, unlike the Venus figurine, the Ice Man's leg wear provided a stable platform upon which to stand (Spindler 1994).

Trousers II. As consumer products, pants show an Indo-European design of equestrian origin: "To judge from their first distribution, trousers were invented about 1000 B.C. in response to the chafing of tender parts incurred in the new art of horesback riding. The man's chemise was then shortened (shirt means 'cut short') to allow the straddling position" (Barber 1994:142).


Drawing of "Showing My Nonverbal Side" by my son Aaron Huffman (copyright 2012 by Aaron M. Huffman)