Tuesday 20 March 2018

Fishnets are finally back - but for how long?

A throwback to the 1990s sees Insta-babes enjoy a fleeting resurgence of fishnets, writes Sophie Donaldson

Sophie Donaldson in her fishnet tights. Photo: David Conachy
Sophie Donaldson in her fishnet tights. Photo: David Conachy
Kendall Jenner in clear boot and fishnet socks
Sophie Donaldson

Sophie Donaldson

It's official: fishnets have gone from striptease to street style. One of fashion's most divisive taboos are cropping up everywhere from the red carpet to the Gucci catwalk.

Last week I succumbed to the trend and bought a pair of fishnet socks. If you are thinking they are of the thigh-high variety, I'll stop you right there. They are the length of your average sport sock, and just about as sexy.

But even still, as I pulled them on and wore them into the office, I have to admit I got a little tingle. Yes, I was admiring my ankles in the cold, mirrored interior of the office lift but I was wearing fishnets! And it felt kind of naughty.

Fishnets are basically a pile of badly woven thread, but they are laden with connotation. We associate them with the risque, the forbidden, all things bold and, of course, burlesque. Even as a sock, the least sensual of all garments, they manage to be a teeny bit racy. At the very least they will garner a second glance (my editor admitted he was "perturbed" by my choice of hosiery, to which I say, "It's fashion, don't ya know?")

The term "fishnet" is largely attributed to one of Aesop's ancient fables, The Peasant's Wise Daughter. In it, the king proclaims he will marry the peasant's daughter if she can fulfil his riddle. He instructs her to "Come to me not clothed, not naked, not riding, not walking", and so she strips bare, wraps herself in a fisherman's net and is dragged along by a donkey to the king, who promptly marries her.

Throughout the 20th century the fishnet has ricocheted from outre to haute couture and back again.

Kendall Jenner in clear boot and fishnet socks
Kendall Jenner in clear boot and fishnet socks

Their bawdy reputation emerged in the 1920s as they became the stocking of choice for pin-ups and cabaret gals.

With the birth of punk in the 1960s, their sexuality was subverted by goths and vamps who ripped their fishnets and paired them with stomping boots and studs. In the 1990s, fishnets were embraced simultaneously by Hollywood darlings and indie grunge icons.

Currently, they are enjoying a renaissance as fashion revels in a 1990s throwback. They're a favourite of influencers and Insta-babes and the most daring (Kim Kardashian among them) wear their tights hoiked up over the waistband of their jeans, flat tummies covered in a spindly diamond criss-cross.

For a social network built on image sharing, where nudity is banned but empires can be built by posting a bikini shot a day (seriously, the account is @abikiniaday and has 652,000 followers), the fishnet stocking is the ultimate Instagram fodder.

A whole new generation has latched on to the greatest virtue of the fishnet - the ability to at once reveal and conceal.

It's an oxymoron that has appealed since the days of Aesop. Fishnets have the same allure as lace, with its peek-a-boo glimpses at the skin beneath, and sheer skirts that show the silhouette of the legs but, crucially, not the legs themselves.

We find such sartorial tropes far more titillating than just naked flesh - there's a reason fishnets, lace and sheer gussets are the bedrock (ahem) of lingerie.

Fishnets have been embraced by the high street and high fashion, a trend born in the throngs of fashion week that has filtered out into the mainstream.

At the recent Met Gala, Gigi Hadid paired her nude asymmetrical Tommy Hilfiger gown with a pair of thigh-high black fishnets, posing with her leg cocked out for maximum effect. Her sister Bella upped the ante with a fishnet-inspired Alexander Wang catsuit.

In January, Kendall Jenner was papped with fishnet ankle socks showing through her clear vinyl boots. Marion Cotillard, a bastion of French style and face of Dior, paired hers with a LBD at a Parisian film premiere last year. On Gucci's Spring 2017 runway both male and female models sported lacy fishnets with dainty circular eyelets.

So, how to wear fishnets in 2017?

They are not punk or grunge and certainly not glamorous. Baggy 'mom' jeans, flat loafers and loose band T-shirts are the perfect foil for their potent sexuality.

As with all things in fashion, fishnets are destined to fall out of favour as the fashion pack takes to the next big thing, which I think could be the final frontier in fashion taboos; socks and sandals. More specifically, socks and high heels. Jenner was rocking the look at Cannes recently and where she goes, her legions of fans will fearlessly follow.

Sunday Independent

Style Newsletter

Stay on top of the latest fashion, beauty and celeb gossip in our Style newsletter.

Also in this section