My beef with the outdoor apparel and gear industry:

 

My beef with the outdoor apparel and gear industry:

stop making women's things pink.

....and while you're at it, stop making them soft, flowy, flowery, paisley, rounded, anything really that you think makes stuff "appeal to women". Cause really, honestly, I am a woman and I am a woman who spends a fair amount of my money on gear for athletic pursuits and I hate pink. In fact, I and my friends will run away from anything geared and marketed towards women that are "catered" to us as such. I do not expect you to "cater" to the tastes of women by making things pink with flowers no more than I expect you to cater to men by making things black that have skulls and cross bones. All that stuff, is bullshit.

In some aspects, I applaud you for the good marketing sense to know that yes... some people will buy into that. Some girl somewhere dreams of being a ballerina, living in a Barbie Dream House, and wants a bike. A pink bike. A pink bike with white wheels and a basket on the front. Just like some boy out there thinks that having a bike with big burly wheels with dragons or ninja's and tattoo like tribal designs will make him more manly and less likely to be beat up at school. I applaud you for knowing that you can make money off of it. But really, I'm sick of it.

While for the longest time I used to think that when companies made gear for women, they pretty much shrunk it and colored it pink (aka: shrink it and pink it!). And, for most companies this was and still is the case. But, some companies have evolved since then and have matched the technology they give "men's gear" to "women's gear"... but ideally, there should not be a difference in what is considered mens or womens when it comes to coloring (or cost for that matter too). I do recognize that a woman's fit and sizing is different than a man's. I like how some companies... due to the recent trend in men's clothing being massive and huge... are making things more slim and trim for women, but overall... stop it with the pink and the fuisha and the flowers. And the bling? WTF is this shiny thing doing on my sunglasses?

Basically, I want the cut and fit of my items to be catered to my body and the special needs of women. However, the colors and the style and design? Just go with strong, bold, and basic colors. Don't follow the "trends". I want this coat that I payed dearly for to look just as good and as timely and classic in five years as it did the day I bought it. Give women's gear the same respect you'd give men's gear. Size it appropriately, but treat it with a sense of style that crosses "supposed" gender boundaries.

Take for example, snowboard designs.

Recently REI had a contest sponsored by Arbor. Formerly, I had pretty much liked Arbor boards as the superficial design of them wasn't really gender specific. They tended to incorporate a basic wood grain aesthetic that appealed to women as much as men. I was curious with the contest though, if the majority of the entries would reflect the current horrendous trends in snowboard designs, or if we would be witness to stuff that was really new, exciting, and perhaps....gender neutral? As well, based upon the entries.... would Arbor chose something that dared to be different or would they cater to the unoriginal trends, thereby repeating the cycle?

And the winner is.... a disappointment.

Granted, the hummingbird work in ca-junction with the wood grain is pretty cool... but the hot pink magenta bottom decking? WTF?

The designer said:

"This board was conceived for the main purpose of speaking to Arbor snowboard's female demographic. The bottom design was inspired by elements in nature like the clouds, wind and snow. In order to reference Arbors discipline in sustainable design I utilized natural root-like swirls emanating from the logo and a cloud-like textures in the background. The top of the board was meant to embody a similar type of beauty in nature but to contrast it by illustrating it in a much more grungy, industrialized urban expression."

I'd like to point out several key words here: clouds, swirls, beauty, grungy, industrialized urban expression? (WTF is that?... I'm sure the meatpacking district has art shows every month to express their grungy-ness in their proper urban environment!) Mainly, my main beef is that the designer wanted to speak to Arbor Snowboard's female demographic... and he did so by making it PINK! It's not that I'm bitter that I didn't win the contest or anything... I knew that after I saw what boards were getting votes (tattoos, scrolls, butterflies, skulls, dragons, flames, eye-roll eye-roll, etc) that the general public who prefers those cliched designs that are repeatedly shoved down their throat, were getting exactly what the industry thinks they want, the board that I designed for the contest doesn't fit those permitters. And honestly... that's fine with me.

This is why, when my snowboard was stolen from me in November, I was most upset (not at losing my board... the first board I had seen after months of looking that I had really liked) but upset at having to navigate the snowboard design world, yet once again, in vein attempts at looking for something that spoke to me and my picky design leanings as much as the last one had. This is also why, I got the same board from the same designer that I had prior (as seen below). It was easier that way.

Another example is bikes.

Ugh... once again last year I was faced with the daunting task of finding a new bike... and if you thought choosing a snowboard was hard, I use a bike waaaay more than a snowboard so basically how it looked and how it spoke to me was ten times more challenging than finding a snowboard I like. Once again, much like with a snowboard, I'd enter a bike shop looking at women specific frames hoping I'd find something that I liked... but more often than not I was disappointed. I feel like bike companies have come a long way in introducing more women specific frames... but, when it comes to the stylization of them, it feels like they are one step ahead of putting a basket on the front. Take for example Obrea, a popular company that makes top of the line racing bikes and recently introduced a "women's line" of bikes. To their credit, they did offer one or two "race bikes" in a basic white and black... but the majority of their other bikes (esp ones that bike stores stocked) came in splashes of pink and light blue. How cute? Really....?


This one, the Onix Dama T105 apparently "brings women-specific fit to a new high on an entry-level monocoque carbon frame, and distinctive style and performance to the female cycling market." Wow, did you hear that? A female cycling market? Well, when did they ask us? Did I miss a meeting or a survey or something? And... if you read further in the description, you'll notice the bike even has a butterfly themed saddle! Wow, that even makes it more adorable. Obrea goes on to mention that "through the European design and functional through the women-specific Dama geometry, this bike brings advanced technology and all-around performance to the more sophisticated female rider who may be new to the sport." Which tells me that they think anyone who may be new to the sport of bike racing, will be less aggressive and thereby will be attracted to the light blue coloring of this bike than a red or black one. And... it has a butterfly saddle!

The bike I ended up getting (as seen below) attracted me not because of pastel colors and saddles with butterflies and script writing, but because I was attracted to the strong basic colors and helvetica type face. Granted, if anyone is known for their pastel colors on bikes it's Bianchi, but for them... almost all of their bikes are their famed color of pastel celeste blue (which means even the men's bikes - aside from mine that is, which is rather ironic when you think about it). I applaud Bianchi for their reverse sociology in color themes as I applaud any man who rides one and is not afraid to appear less masculine.

Also, things I've been in the market for was a new snowboard coat and outerware.

I knew I wanted a red coat and I had a basic style in mind. Mainly, as opposed to most popular snowboarding coats these days, I didn't want anything too big and baggy. I wanted it to be a pretty slim and flattering fit. I didn't want tons of pockets and nor did I want any "bling". This task took about a year and was harder than expected. While several companies had red coats, many of these coats were filled with faux fur trim, gold buttons or unnecessarily huge pockets. The coats I found that were rather plain when it came to "flair" were all men's coats and even a mens small was way too huge to ever be effective on the mountain. Thankfully, that's where companies like Orage excel. Not only does Orage, a Canadian company, offer a wide variety of coats for men and women, they also come in a variety of attractive and fresh (and also basic) colors, and they offer a variety of cuts based upon your chosen style of riding and fit. I decided on purchasing one of their coats that came in perfect color of red and had also the perfect slim and minimalist fit without all of that crap companies like to throw on.


At Orage, you can shop for coats based upon the fit...

Another company I applaud for their slim fitting and functional outerwear is Nau. Based out of Portland, not only is Nau clothing environmentally friendly, but they have a pretty consistent basic color palette across their clothes for each season. The women's colors are all pretty basic and range from a clean cream to a gunmetal grey and back to a subdued purple. Strong, basic, simple, and classy. Year after year and season after season.


classic...

It'll be interesting to see what the cycling company known for "the finest in cycling clothing and accessories in the world" Rapha, plans to unleash for their upcoming women's line of clothing. Currently, Rapha is nothing but expensive class and sophisticated style going on with their lines of "gentlemen's" apparel such as jerseys, coats, and shorts in basic and colors and styles (including tweeds!). I've long awaited to see if they would indeed join in with the ladies apparel industry and how they plan on doing so? Will they size down their classic stowaway coats to women's sizes and cuts and offer them in the same color schemes and fabrics as the mens? Or, will they introduce new items in new flashy colors to try and appeal to the "female cycling market" that according to other companies... likes the color pink.


I'd like to see this in a women's please....

As you may have noticed, I can talk or write about this topic at great length. In fact, I recently had the opportunity to discuss my feelings on sportswear - specifically women's sportswear - with some designers at Mountain Hardware. While it was fun to sit back, drink beer eat pizza and talk coats and gloves with a panel of women and designers, it became apparent that women do look for different things in their sportswear. However, hands down person after person said that if they spend a lot of money on an item and expect to wear it year after year and season after season... they want to go with a more tried and true color and style that they will not get tired of. And... for all of us... pastels, swirls, butterflies do not fit that label. Sitting there in the Mountain Hardware sample room, surrounded by coats for their upcoming fall 2010 collection... I looked at the wall of women's coats and became extremely disappointed in the colors they chose for their new lines. My eyes glazed over at the bright teal, fuschia, and magenta, with overly ornate detailed decorative stitching. Instead, my eyes shifted at the men's line which had bright and solid blues, action oranges and reds, vivid greens... things that drew my attention in and warranted closer inspection. Granted, to Mountain Hardware's credit, in each line they do offer most coats and apparel in a basic black for those of us who tend to cringe at teal. But really, how many black coats do I need in my closet?

Basically outdoor industry, stop making women's things pink or putting text in script just cause you think we like things soft and girly (as well, don't make things in pink and try to tell us it's for "Breast Cancer Awareness" to try and sell more things). Give us the same time and consideration you'd give the men and the same strong, active and bold colors. I'm not asking for things to be separate and equal, I'm just asking for things to be equal. As well, don't downgrade our athletic ventures, goals, capabilities, or worry about "scaring" us or being too aggressive. Be more fluid in your design sensibilities and cross more boundaries than gender stereotyping. And... while it may seem easier than faulting on a color choice, we do get a little tried of black.

 

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