Forget Adele in her chocolate brown leather matching pants and top, who was recently lounging on the court next to her new boyfriend at a basketball game in LA.
That’s old-style leather: shiny, luxurious, worn with thick hair, high heels, 3D makeup and limo-ready nails.
Back in the civilian world, leather makes an effort to become an everyday piece of clothing – the shirt or skirt you wear to the office, the pants you wear to the party, the blazer you put on for lunch on the weekend . I counted seven styles of leather skirts on Mango’s website and eight jackets (and that’s just the blazers) on Zara’s.
It won’t quite succeed – not everyone likes leather – but it has managed to tame the unthinkable and shake off its tough, subversive sexy image, thanks in part to advances in high-quality faux leather making it affordable, lighter and generally more accessible. Now leather is no longer naughty, it’s there to add texture, shine and a little jolt of the unexpected.
Shane Watson shared advice to embrace this season’s leather trend at every opportunity. Pictured: Kaia Gerber in a classic blazer
But when it comes to choosing it, we still hesitate, don’t we?
Leer suffers from a serious case of the yes, but: ‘Yes, but . . . wouldn’t it be more useful in wool?’ ‘Yes but . . . will I really wear it?’ ‘Yes but . . . am I not too old?’
This is all perfectly normal and caution is good; leather can look hard and try hard, especially against older skin. But it has enough going for it — not least the ability to create a smooth, clean silhouette with no bumps — to make it worth getting it right.
Starting with the easiest and most well-known leather item – a jacket – the style that is selling like hot cakes right now is a blazer. There are bombers and bikers, but a slightly oversized black blazer looks the most grown-up and is the only one that polishes your work clothes.
Zara makes many faux leather blazers, including my favorite, a classic with shoulder pads (£69.99, zara.com); M&S has a leatherette net (£59, marksandspencer.com); and, for the real deal, try the Jigsaw version (£325, jigsawonline.com).
You don’t want to crackle a leather blazer; it should be smooth, left undone and worn with a crisp shirt and fitted trousers or a long skirt, or a shrug over a dress. There is no age limit on this look and it has modern workwear written on it.
Then there are the leather pants. The style that has increased the appeal of leather alone is the elastic waist track pants. It’s everywhere right now, from Mango’s leather style (£35.99, mango.com) to Me+Em’s range, which starts around £500, if that’s what you’re looking for. The appeal of this is clear: something relaxed and dressed, made especially so that you can wear it with a cashmere turtleneck sweater and flats, to dinner.
Shane Watson said leather shorts work best because they allow you to show off an ankle or a tight-fitting boot. Left in the photo: Charlize Theron. Right: Emily Blunt
But for my money, you’d be better off getting tailored pants that you can wear anywhere with a tailored blazer.
For me, the leather pants that work best are cropped pants: they let you show off an ankle or a tight-fitting boot, they’re lighter, more feminine and prevent the look from becoming too rock-chick wannabe. (It’s more Andrea in the French TV comedy hit Call My Agent!).
LEATHER 2021: THE RULES
- Don’t buy anything tight.
- Try cropped pants.
- Keep skirts midi-length.
- Buy a one-button blazer.
The style all the adult fashion press has bought is Zara’s The Dreed, a cropped kick flare in faux leather (£29.99, zara.com) and Kitri’s Daniella, from the brand’s faux leather range, selling fast (£125, kitristudio. com). That said, I’m also tempted by Mango’s full-length straight leg, in faux leather (£35.99, mango.com), which, it goes without saying, should be worn fitting but not tight and never with heels – or just the coarsest semi-tall variety.
I think we’ll be revisiting leather pants soon; their crossover appeal is only just heating up.
As for the skirt, you’d better stay away from pencil shapes (a cliché and not easy to move around in) and go for something more A-line and longer.
Of Mango’s seven skirt styles, the flared genuine leather midi in ecru (£169.99, mango.com) has a good, not too full shape and the pale color will also work in the spring.
Zara has a flared faux leather skirt (£49.99, zara.com), which looks good with a tucked-in turtleneck sweater and boots if you happen to have a small waist.
But my tip would be the soft, genuine leather midi skirt from Cos (£250, cosstores.com). It has a discreet front slit that gives it freedom of movement without exposing too much leg, and hidden pockets, so it’s more slouchy chic than trim and sexy secretary.
Don’t think ‘Ooh naughty’ this time, but ‘Hmm, slick, flattering. . . Nice’.