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Bare knees – 2014’s secret stealth trend

The stealth style hit of 2014 was less about an it item, more about a body part – and not a particularly sexy one, at that: knees. Thanks to a fashion for ripped denim, the more extreme the better and the more knee the better.

Kanye West flashes his knees at the Balenciaga show.
Photograph: Pierre Suu/Getty Images

Take Kanye West, front row centre at the Balenciaga show in Paris this September. His (quite possibly oiled) knees distracted from his wife Kim Kardashian’s more usually traffic-stopping body part – breasts – next to him. Of course, Kardashian is also behind the ripped-jeans trend. She has appeared since in a pair remarkably similar to her husband’s. Rita Ora, earlier this year, went further – she was spotted in a pair of jeans more rip than denim. Forget knees, this was just legs. You can trace it back to the British Fashion Awards winners and denim supremos Marques Almeida, who put extreme jeans with thigh-to-knee rips on the catwalk way back in 2012.

It took us a while to catch up and it wasn’t just celebrity knees we encountered in 2014. These jeans became the denim success of the year, and an eyeful of someone’s legs became standard on your commute to work. Topshop and Asos both reported them selling well, and designer denim versions at Selfridges picked up, too. They became so popular, even as temperatures dropped, that a new adjective was invented, “knee-zing”, to describe weather that made ripped jeans’ wearers feel the cold despite, ostensibly, wearing trousers (note: tights under jeans is a 90s step too far).

Why the knees, 2014? Perhaps it’s down to the realism that comes from wearing jeans that look destroyed, over the immaculate skinnies that are now a ladies-who-lunch staple. They’re the next step from distressed styles. Or it’s a way to show off legs without flashing the whole of them. A hankering for an edge of Axl Rose more than 20 years after November Rain? All possible reasons and ones that suggest this is a denim trend set to run. For 2015, have your scissors – and your knees – ready to go.

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