Get access to everything we publish when you sign up for Outside+.
WHEN I TAKE A BREAK FROM MY DESK to go for a run in the hills near our office, I have a bit of an identity crisis. I go into the bathroom wearing all black and come out looking a lot brighter. The running shoes I wear are pink, the technical shorts I wear are powder blue, and the top I wear is purple. This is not a Claire Kent/Superwoman situation, these clothes are the colorful necessities of wanting technical outdoor gear/clothing made for women. And I hate it.
Look at almost any outdoor gear website and take note of the colors offered for Women’s gear versus Men’s gear. We get pink, they get red. We get periwinkle, they get forest green. We get turquoise, they get black. Not every woman is upset about the color of our issued outdoor uniform, but most agree that the pink is a sign of a bigger problem. We are not being taken seriously.
When pinks and purples are the only choices a company gives me for technical gear, I feel like that company doesn’t trust me to know what I’m doing. It’s a throwback to my first bike and my first oven—they were both pink and purple, too, and six-year-old Rachel was not to be trusted alone with either of them. Are my skis the same color as my Easy-Bake Oven so that you can identify me as someone who needs to be supervised on the slopes? Not cool, outdoor companies. Not cool at all.
We don’t need to be supervised. We learn just as quickly as the boys in black. If a company markets to me like I don’t know what I’m doing, I feel alienated and cannot ever trust them as a brand. The stories I tell at the pub after climbing are the same stories my male climbing partner tells. We experience the outdoors the same way, with the same goals, abilities, and obstacles.
And, I’m not alone. In MERCURYcsc’s latest Think T+O Pulse research report, we found that more than 75% of women don’t want outdoor brands to market to them differently than men.
We are skiers first. We are climbers first. We are cyclists first. We are athletes first, then women. If you market to me as a woman (read: perpetual novice) first, and your underlying assumption is that we value comfort over technical ability, and style over weatherproofing, then we are done here. Market to my ability as a capable athlete whose favorite gym is the mountains. Start there, and then we’ll talk about what color jacket I want.
For me, I’ll take my jacket in black or navy or green. My climbing partner will wear hot pink or turquoise or periwinkle. For both of us, the color of our jacket is a minor part of the outdoor experience that lets us show our personalities as we chase our thrills. But you better be sure as shit that when the skies open up and the rain starts to pour, our jackets are going to hold up and keep us dry. Because this isn’t our first rodeo, and we did our research on gear for trips like these. We chose a jacket that can help create the best experience in the mountains and we went with a company who’s listening.
Read more in MERCURYcsc’s latest issue of The Pulse.
Rachel Stevens is the Digital Communications Manager at MERCURYcsc, a Bozeman-based creative agency that connects brands to people who value travel, outdoors, and sense of place. www.mercurycsc.com