An Op-ed: My Two Cents on (Pink) Women's Outdoor Gear
Have you been following Outside's launch of Dawn Patrol, the new membership based newsletter on women's gear? The first month is free but then it will be moved behind a paywall. I'm curious to see where this goes. As you can imagine they have received a lot of feedback on taking the decision to charge for the membership. Dawn Patrol actually touches on this decision in their first article. Personally, I want to see more content before I reach a verdict of my own.
What I really wanted to talk about though is the hot topic Dawn Patrol chose to write about first: "Why is women's gear pink?" It's true. If you look at the gear available on the market right now, a lot of women's gear is manufactured in various hues of pink, purple, sometimes turquoise. In my own wardrobe I've got purple and pink fleeces, pink approach shoes, pink running shoes, a pink rash guard, purple and turquoise backpacks... the list goes on.
"Pink-It and Shrink-It"
At the extreme end of the spectrum there is women's gear that is simply a smaller scale men's item. The overall comfort level is usually poor and these items are often too generic to be fit for purpose. Thankfully, there is now so much to choose from on the market that no-one really needs to fall back on these items anymore.
However, too often brands have a men's range and a much smaller women's selection. Take Pas Normal Studio's new SS18 Mechanism collection that went live earlier this week as an example. In this range the brand introduced seven beautiful shades of men's jerseys while on the women's side two new colourways have been teased, only one of which has been listed for sale on the website so far. Based on the pictures I have seen I love all of the items, I just wish there was more for me to choose from.
Similarly DPS make some badass skis. While I wouldn't say no to one of their women's pairs (I actually love the pinks!) I also wish there were a few more choices available colour wise. Again the men's range just appears a little bit more versatile.
And then there is the general positioning of women's lines which is often frustrating. Take Canyon, for example, who believe in a women's specific bike geometry. If you click on one of the popular categories such as road bikes or mountain bikes, you will find a break down of models and then a link to the women's line. Why can't these bikes simply be listed in the same format, one next to the other? Or why can't there be one link to a men's and unisex line and one for a women's and unisex line? If we want to bridge the gender gap then really both genders should be positioned the same.
The Catch-22 of Supply and Demand
But, back to the topic of why so much of the women's gear that is available is pink. It is actually largely driven by supply and demand. If brands supply mostly pink items to retailers and consumers and we eventually buy it, (because there is not a lot of choice), then the wrong message is sent back to the manufacturers. They in turn assume demand for more of the same and so the shelves fill up with even more of the small pink kit.
What we can all do about this? Both brands and consumers need to make the time for an active dialogue and encourage feedback. If you love an item: shout about it. Dislike something? Don't keep quiet. Chances are a lot of consumers feel the same way! Sadly the industry won't change overnight but if you know where to look you can already find a lot of brands that are nailing their women's lines. And men's lines for that matter.
Women Want Exceptional Gear Too
In some instances there isn't even a need to have a gender specific fit. In actuality, an outdoor gear item should be first and foremost fit for the purpose. Bike manufacturer Specialized have, after a lot of research, decided to abandon the women's fit and instead offer what they call Rider-First Engineered™ bikes. Of course this approach might not be applicable to clothing, shoes, or even accessories, but the idea is right: build great gear for everybody, regardless of their gender.
On a related note you can't expect great results from generic gear. Yes, leggings might be really comfortable on a hike or at the crag but reinforced fabrics will last you longer when you are scrambling around on rocks or in the dirt and a insulator made for ski-touring will be less useful than a belay jacket when you are layering up on a rock climbing day.
It is also not okay to cut corners in women's gear. When I recently got fitted on my new Canyon road bike (a high end women's specific model) I was annoyed to learn that the cabling used in my frame was inferior compared to the cabling used in the exact equivalent men's/unisex bike. At the end of the day we all want exceptional gear that will keep us comfortable and safe in the outdoors, and not to feel that we are getting less-good gear for the same money.
Thankfully there are so many exceptional brands out there these days that it's become easy to shop around, no matter your gender, body shape or personal preferences. Some, such as ZAG Skis or Atomic even let you design your own items! When I wear pinks now it is because I want to and because I love the pop of colour. Getting the best quality you can afford or getting simple alterations do make a difference.
Considering the growth of this market no one has to settle for imperfect items anymore. To make it easier for you, I've listed some brands below that myself or Adam have tried and liked and that offer great gear for a wide range of activities, for both men and women alike.