Activewear: Why are women paying more for less?
I’ve joined the gym for the first time in 23 years, and I’m thankful to say that everything is going swimmingly so far. One month in, I thought it was about time I invest in some workout clothing that goes beyond the baggy t-shirt I’ve been wearing as a pyjama top for the past year. I wasn’t looking for anything fancy or branded, just a basic gym top that would keep my dignity covered and stop me from overheating. The search began on an online clothing website I must use at least twice a month. As far as brand loyalty goes, I’d consider myself a brand advocate. I’ve always highly commended their customer service, actively engaged in campaigns and competitions, and as far as value for money goes, I’ve never croaked once at their prices. This is a brand I never thought I’d find fault with…until I reached their ‘activewear’ section. A section of their website I’d never delved into before.
As I often do when searching for items on a budget, I set my ‘sort by’ to low to high prices. As I scrolled through the tops (and I stress, all clothes mentioned were filed under ‘tops’) I noticed that I’d been scrolling past a lot of trendy work out bras, crop tops, and the occasional vest.
I eventually landed on the first top that just about covered my modesty. It was a basic t-shirt, but it was also £22.00… Is that expensive for a workout top? I hadn’t a clue! But as I continued to search in the hope of a little variation (and something with a little more fabric) the prices were creeping up faster than I could scroll. I drew the line at £30.00 and went to my basket with two items, setting me back around £50.00. ‘These are investments’ I thought, it’s worth it! But I couldn’t help but feel like I was paying a lot for some tops to get sweaty in.
Out of curiosity, I paused at the checkout to take a peep at what the men’s activewear was offering. And to my surprise, laid out before me, was an array of affordable, functional gym tops, all for a fraction of what I was about to pay for my two skimpy t-shirts. I couldn’t believe it.
I sat on my phone dumbfounded at how ripped off my future self could have been had I not just checked to see what the chaps were getting offered. Was there a legitimate reason for such a high mark up? Who knows, but it made me start thinking about the bigger picture of what this high mark-up was really representing.
Nearly 80% of women think that activewear is sexist, and having been exposed to the fitness industry not just through Instagram, but now through the eyes of someone who actually goes to the gym, I’d consider myself a part of that 80%. I don’t want to look sexy at the gym, and unless I dropped a few bra sizes, the ‘tops’ that are offered to me on a budget would cause a riot. Now don’t get me wrong, if you’re confident enough to wear these outfits then GO GIRL… but for a lot of women, girls, whoever it may be, these outfits aren’t even on our radar.
For women who are new to the world of fitness, wearing little sports bra, skimpy crop tops and vests aren’t the outfit of choice when walking into a gym for the first time. So, when we’re presented with the proposition of paying MORE money for LESS material just because we’re female, I can see why motivation falls flat at the waist.
Of course, with anything, if you look hard enough it’s possible to find cheaper elsewhere and yes, I could just keep schtum and buy from the menswear section until I look good enough to wear a loincloth in the gym, but for the biggest online-only clothing retailer in the UK, surely there’s an element of responsibility to offer equality for the sexes without the additional price tag? The obesity epidemic the UK are currently facing isn’t breaking news, and I can’t say there’s an obvious solution with how to solve It, but what I can say, is placing hurdles like these in front of women before they have even attempted to change their lifestyle around is a step in the wrong direction.
What started as a browse for a breathable t-shirt resulted in me reconsidering my loyalties towards my favourite online clothing store. Creating advocates for your company can take a long time to achieve, especially in such a competitive industry, and if this experience has taught me all but one thing, it’s how easy it is to break that trust. I’ve spent at least five years of my life championing this brand, spending thousands of pounds, yet it took all of ten minutes for me to completely revaluate where I was spending my money.
Written by Meg