clothing · cycling · fashion · gear · stereotypes

Bettina shops for cycling clothes: too much pink and a happy ending

My partner and I are currently on holiday in Spain. At the time of your reading this post, we will hopefully just have hiked three stages of the GR11 Transpyrenees trail. That’s why the other day, we found ourselves last-minute shopping for some hiking equipment. We also had a quick look around the cycling section of the two large sports shops we visited (we had spare time and road cycling is very serious in the Basque Country, so we thought we might make interesting finds).

In both shops, we were taken aback by the differences between the male and the female sections for both hiking and cycling. The men’s sections were larger and much better equipped. In particular, the cycling section at one of the shops was so cliché it was basically a joke: it was about one-third of the size of the men’s section and everything, really, I swear, everything was fluorescent pink, or had elements of fluorescent pink on it. OK, I exaggerate. There was one fluorescent yellow jacket. One. No, not one model in various sizes. One. Single. Jacket. Unfortunately I didn’t take a picture, I was too busy bringing my blood pressure back down. Urgh. I often find myself getting annoyed at the lack of choice and, in particular, the lack of not-pink sports clothing for women, but this was out of this world. It’s not that I don’t like pink at all, I just don’t want all my gear to be hot pink! I’d quite like some choice, please. This was a public display of gender inequality in sports even at the most basic level, that of equipment.

Luckily, our story had a happy ending: we found a charming bike shop in the city centre of Bilbao, which kept its promise of “interesting finds for cycling in the Basque Country”. I bought one of their long-sleeve jerseys. The shop was the kind where you immediately start chatting to the guy who runs it, get competent advice and a sense of community. And they had the same-size shelf for women and men, with an ample selection of not-pink clothing. Yay!

Shot of a person from the back in a long-sleeved cycling jersey.
Bettina from the back in her new cycling jersey, which reads “Véloze Cycling Club Bilbao”, and looks sort of powdery pink in this picture, but is actually beige in real life.

I will say that it was also the sort of shop you might be hesitant to enter if maybe you were still a bit intimidated by a new sport, perhaps didn’t feel like you belonged just yet, or were self-conscious for any other reason. It’s not the kind of place where you can shop in undisturbed anonymity, which is sometimes preferable to one-on-one attention. It was also more expensive than the large multi-sports department stores we had been at earlier. It’s one of those annoying situations where you just can’t win: if you don’t have a certain level of privilege, you don’t make it into the shop that sells the good stuff, and if you go to the shop that might look more accessible in the first place, you don’t get much choice, either style or size-wise.

Oh world, you still have a long way to come.

cycling · fashion

On not attending meetings in cycling kit, or the challenges of summer work clothes

There are different challenges about bike commuting in the summer months. One big one is what to wear and I think it’s one that affects women more than men.

I’m writing this at my desk wearing full cycling kit: bike shorts, jersey, cycling socks, and clip-in shoes. I try not to do this but sometimes it happens. I went for a short ride before work with a colleague. I landed at my desk with intentions of changing right away but then the phone rang. It was urgent and so 30 minutes later, I’m late for my first meeting. Now I’m a dean the first meeting is in my office. Luckily it’s not a formal meeting. It’s about our United Way kick off and so I apologized and went ahead. After drafting this post, I’m changing. Promise.

Of course, you don’t need to wear bike kit to bike to work. Often on my commuter bike I wear skirts and dresses. But it’s still a casual look. It’s more casual than some people can get away with at work. And not everyone can afford the time to change at the office. When I’ve got a busy week I drive in on Sunday and drop off clothes, shoes, and food for the week.

This week an article posed the question about office dress codes and alternative methods of transportation.

“When it comes to getting more people on bikes, showing them the convenience of cycling is only half the battle. The other half is creating work environments where looking like you arrived by bike isn’t a source of embarrassment, and where you don’t have to dispose of the evidence by showering and changing clothing as though you just committed a crime.”

TreeHugger followed up, Are office clothes an impediment to green transportation?

Now the CBC is puzzling why fewer women than men commute to work by bike.

Lots of people think part of the story comes down to clothes.

From the CBC story: “Several of my [female] colleagues said to me they would do more cycling if they did not feel compelled to meet certain criteria regarding their appearance at work,” said Noel. “We associate cycling with a sport, we think we’ll be hot or that we’ll have to pedal fast. I had to rethink some of these ideas to make my bike commute more suitable.”

We need more wiggle room. Just like you don’t need to wear fancy cycling kit to commute by bike, everyday clothes are just fine, maybe we don’t need such fancy clothes for work. We can relax the rules both for commuting and working and wear the same thing all day.

Do you commute by bike? How do you handle the clothing question?

Me at work after changing out of bike clothes in a variety of summer casual outfits of the day. #ootd

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#ootd

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commute · cycling · fashion · fitness

The femmiest bike helmet ever

While riding my Brompton in Vancouver I realized my road cycling helmet didn’t quite match my bike. You could tell I was a road cyclist riding a commuting bike. That’s okay but I was also riding the Brompton in skirts and dresses and sandals. No road cycling shoes either.

The pink Brompton requires a different cycling aesthetic. I wanted something cute. I googled fashionable adult bike helmets and found sparkly ones. I have a bit of a thing for things that glitter and sparkle. I ordered one and I love it.

I know it’s a luxury. So too is the Brompton. But I can’t walk very far these days and I’m happiest, more joyful if I’m moving. I’m riding the Brompton to meetings, taking it into movie theatres. We even went to dinner together, me and my Brompton. So, for me, in this context, matching matters. The Brompton is about fun and about an active lifestyle, not really a serious fitness thing.

I know that here on the blog and in my book reviews, I’ve been critical of the “look cute” imperative. Tracy likewise tackled the “pinkification” of women’s athletics six years ago. You might think something has changed but it hasn’t. Not really.

I’m still all about choice. If you find looking good while working out a thing you enjoy, go for it. I’m still wearing scruffy t-shirts to the gym. But the Brompton, for me, is about everyday movement. And sometimes, when it comes to everyday, I’m enjoy pink and cute and sparkly.

My new helmet is made by Sawako. I’m wearing it to Pride festivities this weekend. When I shared photos of my new helmet on social media this week, Danielle from Guelph’s College of Arts social media and communications team commented with this gif. It’s a motto is can get behind.

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?

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.

accessibility · clothing · fashion · fitness

Online shopping, sizes, and winter. Brrrr! Grrrr!

I’m getting angry about shopping this spring.

And I realize that I’m privileged in terms of my size, my job, and my income.

First, there was my need for a warmer coat for walking to work and walking Cheddar the dog in this winter than never ended. It needs to be above the knee and past the butt. I don’t want black. I have major ethical qualms about Canada Goose brand clothing. Prefer plant sourced down. Oh, needs a good hood and non strangling cuffs. Also, I’m frugal about clothing and I’ve never paid more than $300 for a coat. I also try to be an ethical consumer when it comes to clothes. I’m unsure if I have an ethical commitment to buy from companies that carry the full range of sizes. Those are the challenges.

Then I found one online, size XL, made of milkweed “down.” You can browse the milkweed collection here. Pretty, pricey, ethical. Fine. Two out of three aren’t bad. I ordered.

Photo by Robert Zunikoff, Unsplash. Image description: Milkweed. Black and white close up photo.

It arrived. The XL fit Sarah who is normally a medium and I couldn’t even get my arms in it. Fit tip: Articulated sleeves equals skinny arms. No more bicep curls. Ugh. Part of it was just mislabeling. That was an XL in no one’s books. But the arms were extra bad and I think represented the challenges faced by women who strength train (and who build muscle) when it comes to clothing. See here.

So no more online ordering of coats! I returned it. That part was easy. And now I’m so sick of winter I can’t even stand to try on cold weather coats. See you here next year but in the meantime recommendations welcome.

Second, there’s my ongoing leggings challenge which I’ve written about lots. See my love of leggings post here. But since I need them all of the time for the knee brace I also need different varieties of leggings. I’ve got gym leggings covered and casual weekend leggings under control. But sometimes I need leggings with dressy outfits. If I didn’t need the knee brace then tall boots might be the answer. But a) knee brace and b) cyclist’s calves. I want high waisted size 14. Black. Full length. (The 7/8 ones are in this year and I keep shuddering watching university students with bare ankles and Canada Goose coats. I want to yell in my loudest mom voice, “Put some socks on.” But I don’t.)

Lots of friends recommend Lululemon. I’ve resisted in the past but if they work and last, I’ll pay the big bucks for leggings. So online I go. The ones everyone seems to love–hi Anne!–are “align.” And I know I’m lucky that I’m a size 14 not a size 16 or higher which doesn’t exist in the world of Lululemon.

But it doesn’t matter if I’m a 14 because they don’t have them. It’s a large company. This is one of their most popular items. You’d think they’d keep a size 14 in black in stock. But no.

Argh.

Spring had better come soon. I’m done.

cycling · fashion · fitness

Sam gets her quilted mini-skirts on

Hey, I have two! (I’m not providing links but you can find the black one by searching for “Sugoi black mini skirt.” My other one is grey, not pictured, and made of smart wool.)

And just the other day a friend posted that she had seen ads for them in her newsfeed and thought “what the hell even is this?” If you’re cold, she wrote, why a mini-skirt? Winter mini-skirts? What’s with that? Friends chimed in, some equally puzzled, others admitting that they owned one and liked them.

I’ve written about them before in a post about my mixed feelings about sports dresses. ” Like these skirts, which I also like and even tried on several times over the winter, I can’t decide if they are about warmth and function or butt modesty. And if the former, I’m all in, and if the latter, I’m a bit uncomfortable. “

But thing is, who knows what your motive is?

I wear them over leggings. And yes they keep your butt warm.

But they also side with the “leggings aren’t pants” crew.

Once you make a move into a certain kind of modest dressing, it’s hard to go back. I decided against a swim dress for that reason. Getting comfortable wearing a bikini was a hard won body positive victory. I worry about going back.

Back to the mini-skirts–one in grey wool and one in black, like above–life is short. They’re cute. They expand the range of places and times I can wear leggings. There’s clothes I wear to the gym that I wouldn’t wear in other environments. Throw on the skirt and I’m good to go. Ditto over cycling tights.

Given that I bought them in winter, to wear in winter, I’m sticking with my butt warmth story. And they’re cute.

beauty · Book Reviews · fashion

Beauty, barbells, and blush for the gym: Sam has some complicated thoughts

I read this article, Make Up is the New Work Out Gear, with a sad feeling. Really? Really? Can’t there be some places (like the gym) where we are free from beauty’s demands and normative femininity?

I knew it was on the horizon thanks to the Clinique counter. I was there recently because of my own vexed relationship with make up. I’m all in favour of the fun stuff  (pink lips and sparkly eyes!) but I’m not such a big fan of foundation and cover up and blending (whatever that means).  I like my artifice to look like artifice. I like my hair best when it’s bright blonde or pastel pink. I never colour my undercut so you can always see the grey and silver. So it’s not about looking like I’m young, or in the case of make up, tanned and well-rested. But I just don’t want people asking me every winter if I’m sick. “No, I’m just pale. This is what white women without make up look like in January!” That’s what I want to scream.

Back to the Clinique counter where they were outfitting with me foundation and blush etc which, when I remember, I sometimes wear to work, grudgingly. They’re also selling “CliniqueFit”–a line of make up just for working out with the slogan “Life is a marathon. Look good running it.”  As usual, there’s a lot of it. There’s pre-workout this, post-workout that, not to mention the stuff you wear while actually working out. And it’s sold as an essential, not an optional thing, “essentials for your highly active life.” 

I get it. Who doesn’t want to look good?

See  our fellow former fitness blogger Caitlin. She writes Athletic women want cute clothes and shoes too! 

And my musings on looking good while working out, 

And, of course, I also think, hey, you do you. I’ll be over here in my ratty workout t-shirt, unbrushed hair, and gym relegated leggings wearing definitely zero make-up. You can wear your pricey matching Lululemon workout outfits with your bared midriff and your smokey eyes. It’s a big tent. Let many  flowers bloom.

Yet, it’s also not simply a matter of personal choice. Feminists know this. We don’t choose alone. We choose in a context. That doesn’t make the bottom line any different. I’m still a strong supporter of not judging others and of individual women picking their own way through this minefield. My sense, as I watch young women get ready to work out in the university change room, is that in these days of Instagram and fitness influencers, it’s getting harder to make the choice to not care.

I’m writing this blog post on holidays in Florida, where I am I here to ride my bike. But since there are only so many hours a day you can ride, I’ve brought some fun work along. I’m reviewing the book Perfect Me: Beauty as an Ethical Ideal by philosopher Heather Widdows. The Irish Times ran an article about her work:  Why are beauty standards becoming more onerous.

Ironically, she says, the beauty demands are greatest in cultures where freedom is highly valued. Thus she provides today’s idea: “As beauty norms get harder to attain, we all have less choice rather than more choice.”

So I am trying very hard here not to be a grumpy old ‘get off my lawn’ feminist. But I worry we’re all upping the ante and making it harder and harder to not look in the mirror and judge everything we do by appearance. I know for me too once I start doing a thing, it can be hard to stop. I laughed at Mina’s naked yoga toes story but it also rang true. I had my first ever pedicure in 2017 as a treat before the bike rally. I liked my pink toes. But when it came off, I wanted more. Now in the fall when I stop wearing toe nail polish my toenails look all worn and mangy to me. When a thing stops feeling optional, it starts feeling more like a duty and less like fun to me.

So what makes the ‘wearing make up to work out’ choice complicated isn’t just its effect on other women. That’s the issue of collectively raising the bar and making it more difficult for other women to opt out. But it’s also the effect on our own individual, future choices. Think carefully before you allow beauty into a realm where it wasn’t before. If you’re like me you’ll have a hard time in the future chasing it back out.

How about you? Do you wear making up while working out? Do you wear special make up for that purpose? How do you feel about your choice? (Let’s stay away from the choices that others make.)