Along with thong bikinis and crop tops, leather trousers feature high up in the list of clothes that spark a flare of dread in most women. But while the first two are rightly terrifying for anyone over 30, leather trousers are fast becoming the sleeper hit of the autumn - and you don’t have to look like Olivia Newton-John circa 1978 to wear them.
Despite being a fashion editor with a penchant for leather shirts, skirts and coats, I have always avoided leather trousers. This is partly because of the frankly dated fear that they would make my hips look big, and partly because I’ve watched that scene in Friends far too many times - the one where Ross ruins his date by mixing leather pants and body cream and emerges from the bathroom with his trousers around his ankles.
As well as the terror that I too would end up with lava-hot thighs, I always felt there was something slightly suburban sex party about leather trousers. But quarter of a century on from David Schwimmer’s mishap, I found myself studying various images of celebrities walking the streets of New York, London and Los Angeles in leather and feeling a stab of envy. Then the Duchess of Sussex wore a buttery brown style for a few different interviews from her Los Angeles house and I was hooked.
Helpfully, not only has the styling of leather trousers changed (goodbye grungy T-shirt and matching leather jacket, hello suit jacket and shirt) but the cut and colour have also transformed. Once upon a time, the only available styles were ultra-tight and legging-like and all too often paired with stiletto heels. Today, they are high waisted, wide-legged, lightly cropped and in biscuit and chocolate brown. Most of all, they look comfortable and feel like the ideal way to diversify away from jeans in an autumn where few of us are wearing dresses or tailored suits.
One thing about real leather is that it is rarely cheap - even H&M’s offering costs £199 - so you want to buy a pair that is flattering and can be re-worn often in various situations. A soft supple leather is usually the best option, as it's feels great and is always practical, but whether you opt for tight trousers or a high-waisted, looser design largely depends on your age and your body shape.
Given that this is a year where we're all prioritising comfort, I would err on the side of a wide-legged style - although Spanx has just released a curve-defining pair that is just as sculpting as you'd expect.
And don’t think you have to stick to the classic rock-star black – there are lots of biscuit brown options; The Attico has a khaki pair, while Miu Miu’s lilac design is lovely to look at and the perfect match for a chunky cream cable knit.
My favourite designs are from & Other Stories - high waisted and flared and made my legs look much longer than they actually are - and from Cos for the above-ankle crop. Joseph has a beautifully made pair that is well-cut on the waist and loose on the thighs and almost as comfortable as an old pair of jeans, but be prepared to splash out price-wise. All of the above look great with a white shirt and jacket or a chunky pullover.
Content that I had vanquished the ghost of Ross Geller, my last question was how on earth I wash them - and the answer seems to be, you don't, as dry cleaning bills for leather can be as high as £80 a pop. "For spot stains, use a warm damp cloth, and dab," says Melina Passari, a buyer at Joseph. "Don’t rub the stain or use cleaning products – this can damage the leather. Prevention is best, so waterproof regularly and use leather creams to nourish and maintain."
Well, at least nobody can spill pasta sauce on my thighs during the socially distant park walks I'll be wearing them on this autumn...
Four of the best leather trousers on the market
Tuba Nappa leather trousers, £995, Joseph
Flared leather trousers, £265, & Other Stories
Imitation leather trousers, £24.99, H&M
Straight leather trousers, £250, COS