clothing · fashion · gear · Guest Post

Attention Barbell Apparel: I am your target market

I lift weights. I am cis-female. I buy jeans.

When I go to the mall to buy jeans, I can literally try on every style in Macy’s or Nordstroms and walk away without a single pair that fits me well. I have a narrower-than-average waist (28-29 inches) and wider-than-average thighs (each about 24 inches around). So, I often have to choose between fitting my legs into pants and then having enormous gapping at the waist, or squeezing my legs in tight enough that I’m at risk of losing circulation when I sit down so that it fits around my middle.

Needless to say, I was THRILLED therefore to discover Barbell Apparel, who markets their jeans to lifters–with sizing not just for the waist measurement but with a THIGH measurement too! I enthusiastically became their customer and signed up for their email list to keep up on marketing. These pants are not cheap, and I knew I’d want to restock when they were on sale.

And for the last 2 years, EVERY email I’ve gotten from them since, minus perhaps one at Christmas, has been targeted exclusively to men and their men’s line.

Some weeks ago, I sent them feedback–are they aware that they only market their men’s line? It might be good to have two types of emails–one targeted to the folks buying women’s clothes and one for those buying men’s. Alternately, maybe include images from both lines in each email? It would help me feel valued and part of the club! After all, women lifters already are a minority within a minority (I’ve written about my own experiences with this previously). Any company that helps me feel like I’m in the club will win my appreciation and loyalty!

The response I got back suggested they didn’t get it. “We are excited to announce we will be adding to our women’s line very soon!” Ok, but do you hear me saying that you are excluding me by marketing only the men’s products?

It is frustrating. And I now feel more ambivalent about their products. I love the idea of celebrating my proportions–my big, strong thighs are NOT typically treated as admirable, but here is a clothing line with proud tank tops declaring “Thunder Thighs!” I don’t think it’s too much to ask that they show that pride in their marketing materials, too.

What say you? Do you feel included and celebrated by the manufacturers of products you are loyal to? What types of inclusivity do you value in advertising?

2021 Update: I want to give credit to Barbell Apparel for improving their marketing of their women’s line. Many more of the emails I receive now include images of their women’s products next to their men’s products. In addition, they have added more women’s products on their website. Thank you Barbell!

Marjorie Hundtoft is a middle school science and health teacher. She can be found picking up heavy things and putting them back down again in Portland, Oregon. You can now read her at .

6 thoughts on “Attention Barbell Apparel: I am your target market

  1. Your post irritated me – mirroring you and your legitimate complaint and then, in italics at the end…you made me ink….I mean LOL. I can’t say for sure but I think I might be more…aggressive in getting their attention if I’m spending that kind of money on their products..but then again, time is precious and why waste it on people who clearly don’t care.

    1. Hehehe. There’s a nice old guy at the gym (incidentally, on oxygen) who asked me some weeks back what was I “going to do with those,” in reference to two 45lb dumbbells at my feet. I informed him that I was going to “pick them up and then put them down again.” He called me a smartass. 🙂

  2. That does sound frustrating! It’s disheartening that they didn’t even take your feedback into consideration – I would think that a good-faith response from them would include an apology for overlooking you in their marketing materials and a promise to do better. (I don’t know much about marketing, but I doubt it would be too difficult to throw in a few ads for women’s apparel.)

    Although I’m hard-pressed right now to come up with specific brands that I’m loyal to, I appreciate going to a company’s store or website and feeling like:
    A) They acknowledge that people like me exist and might want their products. (I am a petite woman who plays a sport – ultimate frisbee – and have had trouble in the past finding things like cleats and gloves that fit properly. Like, I know I’m smaller than average, but I’m not bizarrely tiny – I know multiple other people in my sport who are around my hand/foot size.)
    B) They understand my specific needs/desires, and what makes a product most useful for me. (I am willing to pay much more for running/athletic shorts with functional pockets!)

    In general, I like to feel seen. In products that are available to me (like the aforementioned shorts and cleats), but also in media. This is straying a little off the blog topic, but I appreciate when books, movies, television shows, and video games feature strong female characters (physical strength is a plus, but emotional strength or even emotional complexity are good too), female friendships, and LGBTQIA+ representation – all those things make me feel like maybe something was made with me (or someone like me) in mind rather than as an afterthought.

    1. I hear you on being acknowledged and making products useful! Practical, well-designed products that really work for me always get my dollars. I also completely agree that it goes much farther than marketing–I want to feel represented, heard, and like I am valued by society, even if I’m a bit outside of sociocultural norms. Or maybe exactly because of that! It makes being seen so much more powerful when every day life can include seemingly too rare of moments of validation and inclusion.

  3. Hey Marjorie,

    I’m one of the founders of Barbell Apparel, and I’d like to expound a bit –

    The reason you’re getting male marketing, is because we started primarily selling mens wear, and as such our marketing was tailored to that.

    But, we’re trying step by step expand our women’s offering, and one of our big agendas for this year is building out our women’s clothing availability, and subsequent marketing campaigns.

    It’s a bit more involved than just flipping a switch though, as we need to build out the technology to allow users to opt in to the type of marketing they’d like to receive (male, female, both, etc.).

    We also need to invest (a lot of) money into stocking a larger variety of women’s inventory, and building out women’s creative assets for marketing.

    We’re a team of 5 people that started this company from the ground up, so we do things as best we can. But it’s all self funded, grass-roots, entrepreneurship so it can go slower than we’d like.

    We do recognize our female customers, we support multiple female athletes (powerlifters, crossfitters, etc.), and it IS a priority to make women feel included in our mission, and empowered with our clothing.

    I truly hope we can grow to be a company that can inspire women to embrace lifting and strength, and feel good about the results they’re getting out of their training.

    If there’s any other feedback feel free to email me!

    Founder @ Barbell Apparel

    1. Hunter,
      Thank you for taking the time to read and reply to my post! I hear you when you say that Barbell is a small company and that you are still growing. I appreciate that it takes time and money to develop clothing lines, and I can imagine building the inventory could be a challenge for a newer business.

      And, I would suggest that it is clear that women simply haven’t been a priority to the business. Beginning as a men’s line, I can see how you’d have more invested (literally and figuratively) in men’s products. However, you DO carry women’s clothing. There are models wearing it on your website. And the products are not all out of stock and are often on sale concurrently with men’s products. I would contend that the act of including a single photo of a woman in your email newsletters from time to time, while perhaps not the equity I would desire, would go a long way to acknowledge that some of your products are, indeed, designed for women, and you value maintaining a business relationship with your female clientele.

      It is admirable to support women athletes, and I agree with the mission of encouraging more women to join strength sports. But just as we should not validate our lack of racial prejudice by pointing out a singular friend of color, applauding a few female athletes is not enough to lift all women to an equal playing field. I challenge you to hold yourselves to a higher standard.

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