Are harem pants the most offensive fashion item of all time?
Girls love them, men loathe them. What is the enduring appeal of the drop-crotch trouser?
Elle Macpherson - never one to knowingly shy away from experimenting with 'tricky' trends - was out in London last night at the re-launch of Bottega Veneta's flagship store, dressed in a pair of jazzy leopard-print harem pants.
'What the Elle was she thinking?' one website asked today. 'One Elle of a fashion faux-pas' crowed another. But the comments below those articles tell a different story, with women uncharacteristically lining up in support of Elle's divisive pants.
"I think she looks amazing! Yes the harem style trousers aren't everyone's cup of tea but if anyone can pull them off Elle can!" said one, "I'm sorry but she's managed to carry that off..." agreed another.
The overall look has its downsides for me, (criminal abuse of blusher being top of the list), but even though I know it's so very wrong, I have to admit I have an eye for her trousers.
And I'm not alone. Harem, or 'drop-crotch' pants have been loitering on fashion's radar for a few years now in various guises. From combat style, to tracksuit bottoms, to your more trad, Elle-style printed silk, girls just can't help falling for them.
Ask any man what he thinks of the harem pant however, and you'll get a standard response: "Hammertime!" they chorus, in memory of '90s rapper M.C Hammer's iconic video for monster hit 'U Can't Touch This'. "She looks like she's c***ped herself" came the response from pretty much every guy I polled.
Leandra Medine who writes fashion blog manrepeller.com , dedicated to the clothes women love - and men love to hate, goes as far as labeling harem pants as the number one 'man-repelling' item of all time: 'Definitely. I've said before: mine are so roomy they could sleep an army. The only problem here is that the members of this hypothetical army would probably take their chances and opt to seek refuge elsewhere."
And I can see why - no offence Leandra - with a crotch dangling somewhere between mid-thigh and knee-level, they really should have been written off long ago as a cruel joke by misogynistic male fashion designers. But there they were again, sneaking onto the spring/summer catwalks at Gucci, Giorgio Armani and Marc Jacobs, and even though they have - strictly speaking - been eclipsed in the trouser stakes by the wide-leg flare this season, you can bet that drop-crotch trousers will still be filling the rails on the high street.
The bottom line? They hide a multitude of sins in the derrière department, and chosen carefully (avoid jersey at all costs), can be the perfect summer holiday trouser - loose, cool, a taste of the exotic, and above all, comfortable. And when it comes to women's fashion, 'comfort' is truly a word men hate.