Do You Hate Pink Gear?


What do you think when you see a woman in a pink ski jacket, or riding a pink bike? Or climbing in a pink shirt and chalkbag? Do you assume she’s not hardcore? The girlfriend tagging along? Or do you wonder if she’s a true crusher?

For a long time, I’ve not-so-secretly wished outdoor gear companies would branch out from pastels for their women’s lines. I don’t care for pink or purple—I’d rather wear red, blue or yellow. It’s just personal preference, I thought. But what if it’s actually a sign of something deeper? An article in The Guardian says marketing frilly, pink bike gear to women might actually discourage women from becoming more assertive riders.

Is that true? The Guardian article listed a slew of cycling industry marketing fails, and pointed at the industry for alienating women from cycling. Sure, many sectors of the outdoor industry have been guilty of the “shrink it and pink it” mentality at some point, and the bike industry is notoriously male-dominated. But I know lots of women—in real life and through social media—who love pink, and feel empowered wearing traditionally “girly” looks when they’re on the bike, or climbing or skiing or practicing yoga.

Maybe the point is simply that women feel empowered, whether it’s in black, blue or hot pink. I recently I had a wake-up call about exactly how first-world my why-must-this-jacket-be-pink whining is.

In Interlaken, Switzerland, on a rest day during a climbing trip, my boyfriend and I strolled into an Indian restaurant with a small patio. Sitting down with menus, I glanced over to notice the couple at the table next to us. He was in cargo shorts and a polo shirt. She was swathed in black fabric from her head to her feet, only her eyes visible.

We continued our discussion about gear and writing after ordering, and I told Brendan about The Guardian article. As we mused about the marketing to women dilemma, I noticed the lady at the next table finishing her meal. In order to dab her face with a napkin, she had to reach up underneath the long black scarf. I wondered how she could possibly raise a spoonful of Indian curry to her mouth underneath the scarf without plopping it in her lap. And there I was, whining about what color my ideal cycling gear would come in.

As the couple paid their bill and walked away down the narrow street, Brendan leaned over to me, whispering, “She was wearing pink running shoes.”

10 Responses to Do You Hate Pink Gear?

  1. Lynn says:

    I actually love hot pink! It’s one of my favorite colors. But I hate the idea that to buy anything women-specific I HAVE to get it in pink (or maybe lavender). Even worse that the “pink it and shrink it” philosophy of women’s gear, is when women’s gear is less functional. I ordered a pair of women’s bike gloves online (they came in blue!), and when they arrived, they had rhinestones on the backs. The rhinestones made it difficult to wipe sweat/snot off my face, and right into the bottom of the bike gear bin they went!

    • Janet says:

      That would make a hilarious return story at REI. “I’m returning these due to the rhinestones, sorry.” They would probably take them back wordlessly.

  2. Tiffany says:

    Pink running shoes! I love it!

    So, it’s funny this is your topic this week. I was having a similar conversation with myself over the weekend while hiking.

    As I got into this whole “outdoorsy thing” 11 years ago, I tried to avoid the pinks and pastels, as I got very tired of them when I was little. And I didn’t have much trouble avoiding them, actually. I was with guys more than the ladies, so I never really paid attention much to what color I wore, as long as it was functional. But then I’d see some of my few lady friends outfitted in these really super nice-looking pretty-colored jackets and tops and I think, huh, they ALWAYS look so awesome and cute AND they’re incredibly badass.

    As I was humping my pack up and down the many, many, MANY hills in the North Cascades this weekend, in my pink shirt, with my pink and green and blue headband with my pink softshell tucked in my pack, I thought, heh, I can pull off girly AND kick my own butt in the mountains. And that’s awesome.

    Now, when your skis, ski boots, and ski jacket are all THE SAME COLOR GREEN and are incredibly matchy-matchy, then yes, that is absolute grounds for being teased as a “Backcountry Betty.” (Thankfully, my green jacket died).

  3. Jay Long says:

    Interesting discussion. I particularly liked the woman with the pink running shoes; great form of expression. As a guy, it may render my point moot, but pink seems to be a pretty awesome color. I always enjoy seeing dudes wearing pink; it does take a heck-of-a dude to rock pink with confidence. As long as we are out there doin’ it, let the colors fly.

  4. Katie says:

    Nope LOVE it! I used to hate it, but now it makes me feel strong and feminine 🙂 I just sold my crashpad to buy a hot pink one because my ex is gone and I can now. I also want new climbing shoes because they are pink. As I’m covered in mud, snot, blood and blisters I need to feel sexy too sometimes. Remind myself I am the whole package not just the friend that climbs.

  5. sean says:

    Great post, Hillary.

    I’ve always been annoyed by the pink-for-girls clothing trend, even though I’m a guy and it doesn’t really have anything to do with me. It took me a while to figure out why I was bothered by this, apart from the fact that pink is generally a loud and obnoxious color, and I think I’ve figured out the source of my annoyance.

    Unconsciously, when I see all the pink gear for girls I feel that female athletes (and their achievements and toughness) are actually being marginalized rather than respected. It seems that outdoor gear companies believe that girls are intimidated by adventure sports and having pink gear makes these sports more accessible.

    I get that these companies are trying to communicate that their products are designed for the different fit and ergonomic requirements of a female consumer, but consistently using the color pink or decorating the gear with delicate frilly designs just makes me think that they aren’t taking athletic outdoorsy women seriously.

    Maybe I’ll feel better about it when I start seeing women-specific ascenders, ice axes, and crampons – all in pink with little paisleys.

  6. Elan says:

    As a new resident in CO (3 years now), I’m slowly getting into snow sports and biking, so I haven’t quite outfitted myself yet. But prior to moving out West, I sailed professionally, and find that sailing gear manufacturers definitely have the “shrink it and pink it” philosophy down. Even worse, they usually make women’s gear out of cheaper materials or don’t even bother to make it into the heavier lines that are made specifically for men. (I have never found a heavy-duty nasty weather coat in anything smaller than a men’s medium,). It’s a safety issue for me. If something happens to me and I fall overboard, I’d rather be wearing my (huge) yellow men’s coat and orange rubber bibs than my much lighter weight lavender jacket.

  7. Catherine says:

    I was re-reading this article today, and was surprised to find how the changing seasons have affected my opinion of it. When I read this back in September, my reaction was, “I love pink!”

    However, reading this with ski season in full swing, reminded me that I HATE girly skis. It might just be my ego, but I always tell myself girly skis are never burly enough for my skiing style. I would never consider getting on a pair of pink skis, because the only thing they signal is that I’m not aggressive enough to ski a men’s ski.

    That being said, you better believe my favorite ski socks are pink and purple.

  8. Terry King says:

    I totally agree that their is still a “shrink it and pink it” mentality. I am a ski instructor, an accountant, and the ONLY female on my town’s governing council. I NEVER wear pink to my council meetings, or ski on pink-or flowered-skis! I have been hanging with the boys all of my life, but I do agree that there is, and maybe will always be, a certain amount of that condescending attitude bestowed on women by some men. The only way to quell it, I guess, is to just be the strong females that we are. After all, pink IS just a color.

  9. Katie says:

    I know this is a little late, but I have to say that as a woman who spends a lot of time in the backcountry I love pink clothing and gear because it tends to be highly visible. I personally avoid colours like black, blue and green where I can for safety reasons! I care a lot less about what people at the trailhead think about my skiing abilities than I do about my partners ability to see me through the trees in the snow while it’s getting dark. I wish they made more men’s clothing in the bright showy colours we associate with women’s clothing for the same reason!

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