This evening before going out to run, I was tugging at my 3/4-length running tights. I bought them a few years ago, so I don’t think they’re available anymore, but today’s equivalent would probably be the Brooks Infiniti Capri. I always end up tugging at them and readjusting them about fifty times before I go out running in them. For one thing, the rise seems a little bit short for me. For another, my butt seems to be too big for them. I’d like them to sit a little higher on my back. Instead, they always feel like they are being pulled down by my big ol’ butt. Which, for the record, isn’t actually that big. I guess it’s just a weird thing about the fit of these particular capris. The material isn’t very stretchy, so maybe that’s part of it? Whatever.
Here’s the thing: I’m not all that concerned about the fit of the capris or what it says about Brooks. I like Brooks, their stuff tends to be good quality and not super expensive, even if it doesn’t always accommodate my derrière. Like I said, I’m pretty sure that the capris not fitting has very little to do with the size of my butt, but even if it did, I still wouldn’t hold it against Brooks. Does this make me a hypocrite, because I’ll go after lululemon but give Brooks a theoretical pass? No. And here’s why.
Unlike lululemon, Brooks makes no pretense of being a body-loving, accept-yourself-for-who-you-are kind of company. Sure, they want their customers to be happy, but their focus is on runners (and a runner, for them, is defined as someone who runs; there’s no implication here about body type) rather than bodies. Said differently, Brooks is much more focused on the performance of the apparel than it is on how the apparel makes the wearer look. I didn’t do an exhaustive survey, but my guess is none of their copy mentions covering muffin top.
Out of curiosity, I also did a bit of poking around to see how lululemon compared to other fitness apparel companies that are primarily or entirely geared toward women, and also focus on being fashionable, the kinds of clothes that can transition seamlessly from the gym (or yoga studio) to your weekend errands, or whatever. I looked at Title Nine, Athleta, and Lucy, which were the big names (apart from lululemon) in my mind. Now, none of these companies feature models of a non-traditional model size (I think models that fall into the normal-model-size range are called “straight models”?), but they also don’t make a big deal about embracing yoga’s core values and promoting a positive body image. Athleta actually mentions carrying apparel for your “athletic physique” (some of the models’ bodies on this site are sick, by which I mean these women must be hard-core, running like 50 miles a day), Lucy puts an emphasis on the fashion side of things, and Title Nine just emphasizes the fact that they want women to participate in sports.
The key difference here, to me anyway, is the fact that the three brands above are pretty consistent in the coordination of their message and the image they present. I honestly wouldn’t expect them to feature non-straight models because they don’t indicate that they have any philosophical reasons for doing so. Is it disappointing? Yes. In an ideal world, every company would use models of a variety of sizes (I have no idea why this is not already standard practice and if someone could explain it to me, I’d really appreciate it). But this world is far from ideal, and there’s a big difference between something that’s disappointing and something that’s disingenuous. As a number of commenters pointed out with regard to the marketing of the Special K challenge, the bottom line for the company is to make money. They don’t actually care whether you lose weight, whether it’s healthy, or whether or not you feel good about your body at the end of the day, but they push a message that would have people believe that they actually do. And as sad as I am to say it, I don’t see much difference between the marketing techniques used by Special K and those used by lululemon.
What I want to see, more than anything, is a company that says it wants women to feel good about their bodies, no matter what those bodies look like, and then actually works toward doing just that. Really, how hard could it possibly be to do this?
- Do You Suffer From Dead Butt Syndrome? (theawl.com)
- When the Diagnosis Is ‘Dead Butt Syndrome’ (well.blogs.nytimes.com)