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Ankles – the only way to flesh the flash this winter

Weather-permitting, the case for flesh flashing has found new legs this year. If we learned anything from 2014, it’s that ankles were the new sideboob.

Irina Koslovan in Saint Laurent shoes last September
Photograph: Vanni Bassetti/Getty Images

Ankle grazers or ankle teasers – trousers which are cut or rolled to a few inches above the foot, were arguably autumn’s most subtle trend. And, with next spring’s collections coming into store now, the ankle grazer is fast becoming the way to navigate that tricky period between winter and early spring when it’s too cold for bare legs but you’re still desperate to flash a little flesh. To coin a new portmanteau, we are officially in flankle (flashed ankle) season.

Fashion’s relationship with exposed bodyparts is no new thing. In the past few years, the skill of looking naked while still wearing clothes has become a red carpet impasse. From sideboob (everyone) to navel grazin tops (Miley Cyrus); sidebutt (see Gwyneth Paltrow) to knee-flashing (think: Kanye West on the FROW) no season in fashion is complete without a little bare skin. Exposed ankles, however, are a new source of fascination when it’s too chilly to go bare legged but you’re too skint to get a cab.

ASOS Premium wide Leg Trousers asos
Photograph: asos

As new trends go, this one is relatively entrenched on the high street – slightly cropped or rolled jeans, geometric print trousers and dungarees were two-a-penny at Levi’s, Topshop and Whistles this past season. Asos, as well, have seen a sharp spike in ankle grazers to the point that they even have their own subsection. In the last 12 months, they’ve introduced 14 new styles, with five more to come over the next month, altogether an increase of 300% on last year. The ever prophetic Topshop Unique showed some subtle, nautical striped extra-long capri pants at their SS15 show, Chanel plumped for turned up tweeds while Nicole Farhi went the whole hog and made the ankle even more of a statement with front slits exposing a v-shape of ankle.

Whereas most trends can be traced directly to the catwalk, this one arguably (and unusually) stems from its more practical sister: street style. Bare legs are a sign that you have an interest and understanding of fashion. The Autumn/Winter shows which take place in Paris, Milan, London and New York February are usually flush with bare legs and huge coats as editors and bloggers rush from show to show, trying to look chic while being able to withstand the chilly Parisian winds between shows.

Ankle flashing in the Whistles AW14 campaign
Photograph: Whistles/whistles

Contemporary Buyer at Selfridges Ciara Flood thinks the ankle trend has become “prevalent” but that it’s less about fashion and more about status: “a tanned winter leg, be it shin or ankle, evokes a global life, one week on the beach, next week in the big city.”

Since autumn, the Selfridges buying team have seen it translated in two ways: “a cropped wider pant worn with a classic black high pumps (think Comme Comme’s cashmere trousers, which are warm but cropped and Jimmy Choo’s Abel in suede) – or for the a more relaxed look, socks and ‘furkenstocks’”.

The good news is that ankle flashing is relatively accessible, regardless of whether you have a second home or a Jimmy Choo budget. The key to exposing an ankle in winter, Flood explains, is simply about balance. The wearer should be top heavy: “a cropped pant should be worn with a chunky knit … and a large scarf”.

Owing to its versatility, there is an argument for exposing your ankles under a winter dress. Flood recommends “a large turtle neck knitwear dress skimming the shin to reveal a small section of skin, built up from the bottom with a chunky ankle boot….a peeping ankle sock in a grey or black is also totally acceptable” or Acne’s AW14 cream Gala dress which hits the ‘awkward’ length sold out in two weeks.

If it still feels too cold, the good news is that this trend is expected to segue neatly into late spring/summer, via Bermuda shorts. Philip Lim, Acne, and Helmut Lang are all bringing out awkwardly length shorts, too.

To many of us, going completely bare-legged remains relatively impractical (not to mention high maintenance) in this season. But a sliver of ankle, with a statement shoe or luxe sock might be the only way to marry chicness without contracting hypothermia.

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