Women Need An Equal Seat At The Table

It’s hard being a female sneakerhead. Women have fought long and tough for equal treatment in the industry, but it seems like we still aren’t getting everything that our bank accounts deserve – or at least what many would call “normal” sizes! The new Dunk Disrupts by Nike seem to be more of an improvement than others; they’re chunky (but cozy), slimmed down(so you don’t need huge feet), and come with cool colorways targeted specifically towards ladies’ tastes. However, there are some flaws: only one model so far is accessible without paying extra fees because she fits both genders.

At the end of 2020, Titi Finlay, social media manager at Laced and Nike Air Max 90 guest-designer, posted a tile on Instagram to her 7,700 followers with a simple message and in just over 24 hours, the post had been shared over 2,000 times.

We don’t want women’s exclusives. We want inclusive sizing.

Women are fed up with the gender gap in sneakers, but there is a positive side: female sneaker fans have been coming together more than ever before to support each other and speak out against this issue. From designers to collectors marketer editors-in fact everyone from those who work at Nike themselves can agree that these women deserve recognition for their passion.

 

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When it comes to the sneaker industry, there are two things that Helen Kirkum observes in 2017: one is how many women support each other and contribute their knowledge while working within this community. Secondly, she feels like they have responsibility for passing on information about shoes not just through teaching but also by being inspirations themselves. We believe that there are so many diverse and powerful female voices to be heard, which is why we respect each other’s work. We also want our younger generation – who will most likely discover feminism through hip hop or rap music- to experience the movement as it was originally meant: shining light on gender equality. Women are banding together in a time of need to empower and support one another.

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The women’s sneaker boutique NAKED donated $5,000 to the Malala Fund in honor of their first-ever Dunk High colorway. The money will go towards this amazing organization that envisions “a world where every girl can learn and lead.”

Women-led podcasts and feeds are on the rise in sneaker culture, with a focus on connecting women. For example, _Womeninsneakers – Podcast Recognizing Women In The Sneaker Industry_ was started by the global lifestyle marketing manager for On Steph Hulbert Thomas who has spoken to an impressive lineup including Kirkum Titi Finlay of Sneaker Freakers managing editor Audrey Bugeja foot patrol creative lead Asheeba Charles about their experiences working within this industry they say “it’s so important.” Hulbert-Thomas explains,

 started it for several reasons: underrepresentation, sexism, and lack of recognition — not just in my work, but for the amazing women I’ve had the pleasure of working with. _Womeninsneakers was born as a way to give teams behind the scenes a voice.

 

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Women have been absent from the industry for too long. Now, Damaries Negron wants to change that with her Instagram channel @Kickitwitdd365 and 1k sneakers by women in order to show people what they are wearing on a daily basis – all while empowering them as well.

Every woman has a story behind why she collects sneakers. I tell women to voice their opinions about the game. Another reason for the project is that I saw the same women used repeatedly, and I got tired of that. I don’t think brands or blogs know how big the women’s sneaker community is and I want to show them the women who are like me.

The sneaker industry is not the niche subculture it used to be, and yet seeing women in these spaces still isn’t normalized. Hulbert-Thomas speaks of her personal experience:

“Being a Black woman in the industry comes with double the challenges, and I’m not talking about the ‘we have to work twice as hard’ rhetoric that I have definitely felt. It’s more having to validate, and by that I mean companies looking to you to tick the boxes — have we been diverse, are we being ‘cool,’ are we ‘culturally’ relevant? I don’t want women taking up space to become tokenized.”

 

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When the only woman at your table is an award-winning filmmaker and OG sneaker collector, you know that this isn’t just a coincidence. Shernay LaTouche was recently invited to join some friends she knew from back in Crooked Tongues days on a panel about sneakers by chance – they were four of thirty female attendees.

All these men knew women who were into sneakers and could’ve actively put one more person in. But you don’t invite us in the masses, you invite in a very small percentage to then feature in a video that you’ve created to say, yes, we tick the box. It shouldn’t be like that.

“Women need to be in spaces where they can stand amongst one another, that share the same passion without any biases or prejudices.”

 

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LaTouche brings up a good point; women need to control their own narrative in order for there to be any hope of undoing the damage that has been done by portraying them through this degrading and patronizing male lens. It’s without question why biases continue permeating industries like sneaker or streetwear because it makes life so much easier when we can sexualize girls- making agency seem less important than appearance.

As a child, Selma Kaci had limited access to sneakers in her size and she often received US exclusives by mail for birthday gifts from relatives living abroad.

I remember searching ‘Women’s Jordan’ in Google and the first thing that came up was a woman wearing nothing but a T-shirt and a pair of men’s Jordans.

 

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The sneaker industry is not a progressive space and this needs to change. Women are still underrepresented in positions of power, which means they don’t have access or opportunity as much as men do so it’s critical that we work together if they’re ever going to be any progress made on gender equality. Through them, women are breaking into coveted product spaces that have long been male-only. These include partnerships with Vashtie Anderson and Aleali May (who now resell their designs at four-figure prices), Yoon Ambush’s three-way collaboration between Nike Inc., the NBA – making her one of the first fashion designers to collaborate on an official collection for both brands together.

Women Need An Equal Seat At The Table

Even though men buy into these collaborations, they are still mainly being marketed as women’s exclusives. As Kirkum points out: “Men have been designing shoes for women forever, but for some reason, there can still be a stigma against women designing shoes or sneakers for men — that makes no sense to me.” There are many women designers who can step up to prominent projects, and this is just one example. Charlotte Lee created New Balance 327 which has been highly praised by critics across the country for the sleek design elements that make it so comfortable you’ll want to use them every day. It doesn’t make sense why they would only be given smaller roles when their skills could lead an entire industry.

It’s no secret that the women’s wine market is still struggling to find its footing in an industry filled with problems. However, there have been some encouraging signs of change- especially when it comes down to how many voices are being heard or ignored by producers and marketers alike. The female community has only gotten stronger since they were first deprived of access as consumers during centuries past; depriving them any further would be doing our own gender justice.

The female community is one close-knit family. We all know each other and we welcome and support new members because we all know what it feels like to be overlooked and not have anyone relatable to talk to about it. We’re all passionate about a common goal — making sneakers equal to everyone.

 

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In recent years, women have been fighting for equality in the shoe industry. They want brands to take their demands seriously and provide them with high-quality shoes at affordable prices so that all walks of life can enjoy this passion just as much.

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