If you're sitting on the sofa at home, reading a book or watching TV, it's pretty easy to keep your legs warm. You can pile the blankets on, start a roaring fire in the fireplace or invite a cat to curl up on your lap. On the other hand, if you're waiting for the bus in the rain or sitting at your desk in an underheated office, your options grow more scarce.
On a moderately cool day, simply wearing trousers rather than shorts or a skirt might keep the legs sufficiently warm. However, more extreme cold weather requires additional steps. Over time, people have developed increasingly efficient, comfortable and fashionable methods for keeping the legs warm during the day.
This is the obvious solution for those with a more extreme need for leg warmth. Ski pants are designed to withstand low temperatures, heavy moisture and strong winds; they also layer well over other sources of warmth, such as long underwear. While ski pants are available in a variety of fashionable styles and colours, they are not generally seen as appropriate indoor wear1. After all, they do have an annoying tendency to make a 'swish, swish' sound when you walk.
While leg warmers seemed like a good idea during the 1980s, we were all horribly wrong. They're not. The only people who can get away with wearing leg warmers today are dancers and even then only when they're actually wearing them with other dancing attire. Leg warmers worn over jeans or under school uniform skirts go well beyond being a simple fashion faux pas - they are a fully fledged fashion disaster. There are far more effective methods of warming the legs that do not require looking quite so idiotic.
This is how people dealt with cold legs in Little House on the Prairie. Wearing long underwear underneath clothing does provide warmth, but adds unnecessary bulk. As such, long underwear is best suited for occasions for which fashion is not an issue - like camping. Long underwear can also make for a decent pair of pyjamas, assuming there's no one in bed you're trying to impress.
There are now new, high-tech versions of long underwear on the market that are considerably less bulky. The most common material for this product appears to be polypropylene, which is both lightweight and warm. One of the primary disadvantages of polypropylene long underwear is that it seems to smell of sweat much more quickly than similar products made of cotton or wool. The other disadvantage is that long underwear made of polypropylene tends to look suspiciously like girls' tights.
Knee Socks and Wool Tights
This is the method most commonly employed by young girls in primary school2. Knee socks or wool tights are commonly seen under the skirts or jumpers of school uniforms, but can be used in other situations as well. In fact, the use of tights does not need to be restricted to outfits with skirts or dresses - wearing wool tights underneath a pair of trousers can provide the same warmth as long underwear without the added bulk. Unfortunately, today's society tends to look oddly on men who wear tights, so this option is restricted to women and certain groups of men - the army, steeplejacks, jockeys, ballet dancers, bikers - where the wearing of tights has either become accepted professional apparel, or where adverse comments carry a risk.
Lined Pants, Trousers, or Jeans
Luckily for us all, there is a solution that overcomes the challenges presented by the previous method. Pants, trousers and jeans can all be purchased with linings made of wool, flannel or cotton. The lining adds no noticeable bulk, but the warmth is equal to that of the long underwear or wool tights methods. The warmth provided is not excessive for an indoor office or school environment, and yet ample for those dreary, wet mornings waiting at the bus stop.