Leather shrugs off its bad girl reputation

How to dress like a grown up with Shane Watson: Leather shrugs off its bad girl reputation

  • Shane Watson shares advice for embracing this season’s leather trend 
  • Suggests keeping skirts midi-length and opting for a one button blazer
  • UK-based fashion expert takes inspiration Kaia Gerber and Charlize Theron

Never mind Adele in her chocolate brown leather matching trousers and top, lounging courtside alongside her new boyfriend at an LA basketball match the other day.

That’s leather old style: glossy, luxey, worn with big hair, high heels, 3D-make up and limo-ready nails.

Back in civilian world, leather is making a bid to be an everyday wardrobe staple — the shirt or skirt you wear to the office, the trousers you wear to the party, the blazer you throw on for lunch at the weekend. I counted seven leather skirt styles 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 the unthinkable and shrugged off its tough, subversively sexy image, partly thanks to advances in quality fake leather making it affordable, lighter and generally more accessible. Now leather is no longer naughty, it’s there to add texture, polish and a small jolt of the unexpected.

Shane Watson shared advice for embracing this season’s leather trend at any occasion. Pictured: Kaia Gerber in a classic blazer

Yet when it comes to picking it, we still hesitate don’t we?

Leather suffers from a serious case of the Yes, buts: ‘Yes, but . . . wouldn’t it be more useful in wool?’ ‘Yes but . . . will I actually 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 its ability to create a smooth, clean, no bumps silhouette — to make the effort of getting it right worthwhile.

Starting with the easiest and most familiar leather article — a jacket — the style that’s selling like hotcakes at the moment is a blazer. There are bombers and bikers out there, but a slightly oversized black blazer is the one that looks the most grown up and it’s the only one that’s going to polish up your work clothes.

Zara does a lot of faux leather blazers, including my favourite, a classic with shoulder pads (£69.99, zara.com); M&S has a neat one in faux leather (£59, marksandspencer.com); and, for the real thing, try Jigsaw’s version (£325, jigsawonline.com).

You don’t want there to be any crackle about a leather blazer; it should be smooth, left undone and worn with a crisp shirt and tailored trousers or a long-line skirt, or shrugged on over a dress. No age limit on this look and it has modern workwear written all over it.

Then there are leather trousers. The style that’s broadened out the appeal of leather all on its own is the elastic-waisted track pant. It’s everywhere at the moment from Mango’s leather-effect style (£35.99, mango.com) to Me+Em’s range, which starts around the £500 mark, if you’re in the market for that. The appeal of these is obvious: something relaxed and dressed down made special, so you can wear it with a cashmere rollneck and flats, out to dinner.


Shane Watson said cropped leather trousers work best as they allow you to show off an ankle or a close-fitted boot. Pictured left: Charlize Theron. Right: Emily Blunt

But for my money you’re better off getting a tailored trouser you can wear with a nipped-in blazer, anywhere.

For me the leather trousers that work best are cropped: they allow you to show off an ankle or a close-fitted boot, they’re lighter, more feminine and stop 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 

  • Buy nothing tight.
  • Try cropped trousers.
  • Keep skirts midi-length.
  • Get a one-button blazer.

The style that all the grown-up fashion press have 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, is selling fast (£125, kitristudio.com). That said, I’m also tempted by Mango’s straight leg, full-length style, in faux leather (£35.99, mango.com), which, it goes without saying, must be worn fitted but not tight and never with heels — or only the chunkiest mid-height variety.

I think we might be revisiting leather trousers before very long; their crossover appeal is only just warming up.

Skirt-wise, you’re better off steering clear of pencil shapes (a cliché and not easy to move in) and going with something more A-line and longer.

Of Mango’s seven skirt styles, the real leather flared midi in ecru (£169.99, mango.com) has a good, not too full shape and its pale colour means it will work in spring, too.

Zara does a flared cutwork faux leather skirt (£49.99, zara.com), which would look smart with a tucked-in turtleneck and boots if you happen to have a small waist.

But my tip would be Cos’s soft real leather midi skirt (£250, cosstores.com). It has a discreet split at the front which gives it movement without baring too much leg, and hidden pockets so it’s more slouchy chic than trim and sexy secretary.

This time around think not ‘Ooh naughty’, but ‘Hmm, smooth, flattering . . . Nice’.

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