Leg bands were a form of legwear for men that marked a transition from the clothing habits of ancient Rome to those of Europe in the later years of the Middle Ages (c. 500–c. 1500). When the Middle Ages began following the collapse of the Roman Empire in 476, many people in the colder parts of Europe wore the crude breeches or trousers of the Gauls, from the area that is today France, called feminalia by the Romans. Wanting to keep the fabric of these breeches from hanging loose about the legs, men began to tie leather or woolen bands about their lower legs. Over time these bands became more than just a solution to a problem. They became a garment of their own.
By the seventh and eighth centuries, men wrapped their leg bands in regular patterns around their breeches, and the rising hemline of their outer garments allowed others to see these bands. People soon preferred the close-cut look the bands gave the legs, and this helped encourage the creation of hose, which were very snug fitting. After 1000, breeches with leg bands slowly gave way to hose as the primary form of leg covering for men.
Hartley, Dorothy. Mediaeval Costume and Life. London, England: B. T. Batsford, 1931.
Payne, Blanche, Geitel Winakor, and Jane Farrell-Beck. The History of Costume. 2nd ed. New York: HarperCollins, 1992.
[ See also Volume 2, Europe in the Middle Ages: Hose and Breeches ]