This is a rant-y opinion piece. If you disagree, or wear any of these jerseys, that’s your style and you’re certainly entitled to it. I am opinionated and can sometimes come off as bitchy, but those things go hand-in-hand and for the most part I’m a very smart and nice person. So hear me out. There’s a comment form at the bottom of the post if you would like to rant, too.
So yeah, I’ve been shopping for cycling jerseys for several years and still only own two. Two of the same jersey. Black, short sleeve, three quarter zip, wool. Why only two? Because shopping for women’s jerseys is awful. I normally have to stop after a few moments of browsing because nothing pops out at me. Or rather, everything that pops out at me pops way too much: it’s garish, pastel-ish, and just plain wrong. I would love the fit of a women’s specific item, but I cringe at the fact that almost all women’s line designers seem to go overboard using this infamous “pink it and shrink it” rubric to convert men’s to women’s:
- Princess seam or dart it, notch it at the waist, flare it at the hips, crop it. Heck! Cap-sleeve it!
- Do something with color-blocking or stripes to accentuate curves, especially waist and breasts.
- Dye it pink, magenta, red, turquoise, or teal. Or just leave it white.
- If you offer a black option, make sure to screen print flowers, swirls, or cute bugs on it in white or pink. Heck! Screen print/sublimate it anyway!
- Girls — I mean women — love that.
That’s exactly it: most women’s cycling wear seems more geared towards girls. Like, little girls. What is that? I already feel pretty marginalized, I do not need a silly, pretty jersey to give people the idea that I’m just a silly, pretty thing. I am a freakin’ beast of a pretty thing, and I want my jersey to stand up for me.
This might seem over-the-top (pun intended), so if you think I’m exaggerating, just try using the filter “women’s cycling clothing” in a shop like Sierra Trading Post. (Bear with me and scroll through for a minute or two.) You think that’s all there on closeout because only a few people wanted to buy it? Darn tootin’ – you’re absolutely right! But go straight to the manufacturer’s websites or women’s specific online shops like Team Estrogen and you won’t see much different. They are not learning from their mistakes. It is mind-boggling. Women are the muscle of most apparel purchasing markets, not only shopping for themselves but also for their families and sometimes even their friends. So why not do a better job designing with women’s desires in mind (instead of male desire) to take advantage of those eager wallets? There is HUGE opportunity here. Take a gander at some examples of poorly-designed jerseys, then consider my lists of hit-and-miss clothing companies at the end of the post. Let’s dive in, shall we?
Gah! Craft can do a pretty good job keeping it straightforward but this jersey is just seriously confusing stuff. Here we have a nice white jersey (useless in that it’s clean-looking for one ride only; at least this one concedes with a black underarm) with a curious but sort of cute red-lipped ao dai neckline. OK. Alright. But then we just HAD to put a butterfly and some swirls on it, didn’t we. NO. WE DIDN’T.
Can someone explain to me how this Sugoi jersey got the name “Sonic?” When I think of sonic I think of sound. Are those sound waves… or wait… are those magnolia flower petals… with some cherry blossoms thrown in for good measure? Because the designer had a cool Adobe brush he was aching to stamp somewhere. Sonic.
The Capo Cipressa jersey in both color options. This jersey is a man’s fantasy and that is almost all I have to say about that. The white version is — for lack of a better word — stunning, and the black version conjures sci-fi borg vixens but looks stiff and uncomfortable.
What was Pearl Izumi thinking (or should I say smoking?) when they issued this “Elite Thermal LTD” jersey?
In a quick effort to try to make sure you don’t think this is just some angry feminist rant, here is one Pearl Izumi’s men’s version of the Elite Thermal LTD. Pretty amazing gender stereotyping, right? I would definitely buy the men’s version over the women’s, but just for some good laughs. I could even buy an extra extra large, take out the side seams, put in the breast darts and notch the waist, and have THE BEST WOMEN’S JERSEY. EVER.
Another offering from Pearl Izumi is definitely “feminine,” has an unexpected color (brown), and might be kinda cool (might, kinda) without that silly frou frou under the left breast:
Icebreaker is buying premium wool from New Zealand farmers, and weaving it up into beautifully tailored jerseys, then ruining them with ridiculous screen printing. Sacrilege! Why? I love these jerseys, but wouldn’t be caught dead in them. They make me feel like grabbing a permanent marker and scrawling pentagrams all over them. That’s how they make me feel. Not “pretty” or “femininine,” just kinda satanic and evil-like. Poor sheep.
Now here’s a doosey. What is Hincapie getting at with this one? Am I pulling away at my jersey, tearing it with my red, glossy manicured nails to reveal my unders? I mean, what’s happening, am I the Hulk? Is this me trying to be sexy for the men I’m riding with? This is something I could picture on some bursting-at-the-seams flamboyant figure skater, not a cyclist. Way off the mark. Take it back, Hincapie!
Now don’t get me wrong, there is absolutely nothing wrong with pink. Here is a nice pink women’s jersey from Santini that I would absolutely wear. I’m actually serious this time.
OK. Enough pictures. Maybe we’re almost on the same page now. For full disclosure I’ll say that I’m heterosexual (if that matters) but a pretty big tomboy (if that matters either). I like to wear makeup and earrings, and sometimes I wear dresses. Yeah, I like to feel pretty and dainty and I like cute little treats.
But women’s cycling clothing is still atrocious. It needs serious help. Someone, please!
Forward-thinking Women’s Cycling Clothing Lines
Here are some women’s cycling clothing lines that I, as queen of this blog post, deem acceptable. Enough range to include ladies that might like the jerseys I’ve shamed, but also able to please hard-to-please “perfect people” like me.
- Luna Sports – a line from CLIF with no website, but some straightforward sporty stuff made from recycled materials.
- Ibex – mostly getting it. Gorgeous, sometimes unusual, and saturated color, something I
always look for.
- Smartwool – kinda getting it, but the socks! OMG my eyes! They hurt! Why do you do that with your women’s socks, Sportwool? Why?
- Gore Bike Wear. Very focused, very utilitarian, sometimes good color, has a straightforward hardcore-commuter feel to it.
- Vaude hits bullseye with its single-color jerseys, offering good colors and GREEN! Anyone making women’s jerseys in straight green is breaking a mould and is therefore progressive IMO.
- Ana Nichoola (founded by an female aggressive rider in the UK) does this hard-to-pin thing where the jerseys are definitely “feminine,” but still cool. I see a difference between these jerseys and the jerseys with cute bugs on them. Do you agree?
- Harlot Clothing Co.. Good mission, not sooooo sure about the business name. But whatevs. Mine is called Little Package.
- Cafe du Cycliste. (added 6/23/12) Scroll for the three women’s offerings. They are seriously onto something. Timeless stripes. Not girly but feminine. All said, still gender-neutral (obviously, since these are carry-overs from the men’s line) and sturdy-looking. Very pricey but understandably so — look at the details! Oui oui, I’m in love.
- Dakine Girls. (added 6/25/2012) Aside from calling it the “Girls” line (sooooo confusing – I had to click around for a while to confirm this IS women’s gear and not intended for little girl bodies), these jerseys (a bit more on the ATB side) are great.
- Zoic. (added 6/29/2012) Seems like Zoic has something for everyone color-wise (click a jersey to see color options) and some diverse jersey styles (mainly ATB-specific but some would work great on the road as well).
- Maloja. (added 7/22/2012) Also check out the “jackets.” Great range of things to choose from. I also like that Maloja is staffed 50:50 with women, and really embraces sport & outdoors.
Not Forward-Thinking Women’s Cycling Clothing Lines
Oh, the irony! Near hits, super misses from companies run by women (what’s up with that, ladies!?). Time for your designers to step up their game and diversify offerings for women for whom the “pink it and shrink it” algorithm doesn’t add up.
- Terry. Terry, terry, terry. Terry takes the insane “women’s print” and sometimes pulls it off in a cool way. Like, “we know women love prints so lets give them something outrageous.” Reminds me of some grunge graphic tees from the 90s. Another tragedy is their jerseys all appear to be very short. Crop tops? Um, Terry? Join us in the 21st century.
- Sheila Moon. Dude, Sheila. I know your customers are cool because they don’t take themselves very seriously. But I have that problem already of dudes not taking me very seriously, so I’d like to be taken seriously. They already think I’m a crazy bitch sometimes. If I wore one of those it would cement that suspicion. Please send me some of your crazy jerseys I can use to clean up with next time I overhaul my hubs and suspension fork.
- She Beest. By women for women, or something like that. I’ve owned some of their stuff and it’s high quality. Their site is down at the moment. But looking at what She Beest has available on Team Estrogen, I cry a little.
- Skirt Sports. Nooooooooooooooooooooooooooo! Founded by a woman who didn’t want to sacrifice femininity for performance bla bla bla… Why is it about “masculine” and “femininine” and not about what looks and works good?
I am at a loss for words just now.
- Trashy Cat. Take a look. Bring some one dollar bills. Try to decide if this company is run by men or women.
Oh, I’m so opinionated! It’s as if I think I could do a better job, right? I don’t know about that, but I am a very frustrated customer.
If I was designing jerseys, here’s what I would want to happen. I would want other women to see my customer wearing my jersey, and want those other women to say,
“Wow, that jersey is such a great color! Where did you get that jersey?”
Right? I don’t want my jersey to be a washed-out (baby blue, baby pink, etc) or over-played (pink) color, or to be too garishly patterned such that other women aren’t interested. Aside from price, comfort, versatility, and ease of cleaning, women love color and it’s a big factor in almost all purchase decisions. Sometimes I find myself wanting to buy something JUST because it has a great color. I know, crazy, huh? Beautiful gemstone colors with the option of black is a safe bet. I would love to see interesting greens (olive, forest), chocolate browns, eggplants, burgundys, greys, and more all-black, black-on-black blackouts. I’d love to see more companies staying away from bold stripes and silly, washy patterns. Spend the money instead on details like quality zips, elastics, and contrast facings to make a long-lasting AND attractive garment. For many people, a logo on a garment is enough “pattern,” and sometimes too much. We don’t want to feel like billboards (FOX Racing, I’m looking at you). Which is why Rapha’s same-color logo is so smart. Too bad about those big stripes. Some of us women and men just really, really, really want a simple (ie “plain”) but really nice jersey.
Why can’t we have it?