I woke up this morning to see that about half of my Facebook friends list had fallen into near-religious reverie over a Kickstarter launched by Barbell Denim, a functional clothing line by and for athletes. From the Kickstarter page:
Designed for athletes, these jeans are made to fit comfortably over muscular legs by accommodating your quads and butt without forcing you to buy larger sizes for the small waist you work so hard for.
I was among those in ecstasy. My quads and glutes are not quite so developed that I require special jeans to accommodate them, but my calves are another story. I have to tug on my favorite skinny jeans to get them around my calves, and then once they are on, I spend most of the day feeling as though my calves are sausages in a denim casing. When I bought them everything about them fit perfectly, but now…not so much. They still look great and I wear them regularly, but it would just be nice if my calves didn’t feel like they were being swallowed by a denim boa constrictor every time I put them on. I imagine this situation will only continue to intensify the bigger my quads get (which I hope they do).
So when I heard about the Kickstarter, my response was *throws money at computer screen* Fortunately, it appears as though a lot of other people have also thrown their money at their computer screens, as the Kickstarter raised more than ten times the amount of money the company initially aimed for, which hopefully means these “anti-thigh gap” jeans will be a reality some day soon.
Barbell Denim is stepping in to fill in a gap (no pun intended) that a lot of others have written about. Sam at Fit, Feminist and Almost Fifty has a post about trying to find clothes to fit her athletic build. Mother Fitness asked a bunch of high-profile fit ladies for their favorite picks when it comes to jeans for women with dumps like a truck. Fit and Feminist pal Jen Sinkler posed this question to the Thrive community and community members responded en masse. It’s pretty much well-understood among Iron Ladies that the world of apparel has not quite yet figured out what to do with the fabulousness of our lower halves.
Reading about the response to Barbell Denim made me think about a shoe-shopping trip I took this weekend. Shopping for shoes is about as difficult for me as shopping for clothes of any type. I am six feet tall (which poses its own set of issues whenever I go clothes shopping, as anyone whose body puts them on the tail end of humanity’s various bell curves can attest) and as a result I’ve got some pretty honkin’ feet, which narrows my selection down considerably.
Further compounding the situation is that I’m tired of spending my money on things that don’t fit right or make me feel uncomfortable or look weird on me, which means that I maybe buy about one out of every hundred or so things I try on. It is a journey on par with the Odyssey.
With shoes, I’ve found that the more I run, the pickier I get about what goes on my feet. (Insert “Clueless” gif here.) Heels that are over an inch in height put weird pressure on my knees and make my arches hurt, which makes it difficult for me to run later in the day. If the shoe doesn’t have any sort of arch support, I am probably not going to buy it.
I like wearing cute, stylish clothes, but I like being able to walk without suffering even more. Unfortunately, most shoe makers seem to believe my desire to be pain-free and comfortable means I want to shuffle around in nurse shoes, perhaps with a lovely pair of chartreuse polyester slacks with an elastic waist band that I found in the coupon section of the weekly community newspaper.
Because so few companies provide reasonably stylish shoes that don’t put me on the express train to Foot Pain, pop. me, the companies that DO prioritize comfort without assuming I have the sensibilities of a 93-year-old ALF resident are basically welcome to help themselves to the contents of my bank account. I am so grateful for the acknowledgement that form and function are not mutually exclusive concepts when it comes to dressing my body that I reward companies that understand this with my hard-earned money. I understand why so many people were willing to go in on the Barbell Denim Kickstarter, because I do the same thing when it comes to shoe companies.
I think it’s worth noting that the enthusiasm for something like Barbell Denim represents a flipping of the script when it comes to women’s clothing and bodies. I’ve become quite used to hearing women say they hated their bodies because they would try on an item of clothing and not like the way they looked or felt in it. I used to feel that way too, until I realized I was judging my body according to the standards put forth by a $20 schmatte that had been mass-produced in a sweatshop somewhere in southeast Asia. That makes about as much sense as hanging the Mona Lisa in a garbage-filled alleyway, then deciding the painting is utter shit as a result of its surroundings.
If a piece of clothing doesn’t look good on me – and the truth is that even though I am tall and thin, most clothing doesn’t look good on me at all, especially when it’s cheap fast-fashion – it’s not my body’s fault. Sure, it’s aggravating and inconvenient and sometimes I would like to be able to find a pair of jeans that doesn’t flood without having to try on half the damn store, but it’s not evidence that my body sucks. It’s just that the clothing doesn’t work for me. I’m not about to stop lifting weights or let my muscles atrophy like that woman in that sad Harper’s Bazaar article just so I can make some clothing fit a little bit better, you know? And if a pair of shoes makes my feet bleed and gives me hammer toes, I’m not going to have my feet surgically altered so I can wear the shoes. I’m going to wear different shoes.
It seems like more and more women are understanding that the problem isn’t their bodies but rather with the clothes available for them to put on their bodies. That’s is what I love about Barbell Denim, as well as all of the other clothing-specific crowdfunded projects I’ve seen lately (and there are a lot of them!) It’s a rejection of the idea that we have to change the body to fit the clothes instead of changing the clothes to fit the body.
The project is not without its issues. Someone pointed out on the blog’s Facebook page that the leather patch on the back is not vegan-friendly and the size range is still quite limited, which means a lot of athletic women whose bodies do not fit straight sizes will not be able to buy themselves a tricked-out pair of super-stretchy skinny jeans. But despite these drawbacks, I’m still excited about the project and can’t wait to see how the finished product comes out.