Feature: Why the Sneaker Industry Isn't More Inclusive For Women, and How We Can Change That

  • Navi Ahluwalia

In-depth feature for POPSUGAR UK examining the UK sneaker industry, and its lack of inclusivity for women. Includes interviews with Jessy Law, Titi Finlay, The Sole Womens, Hypebeast, Crepe City, Sheaker Magazine, and Women In Sneakers.

I've always felt intimidated by the sneaker industry, despite having worked for two major sneaker brands in my life. As a humble shoe size four, there are immediately limits to what sneakers I can and can't wear, and I'm not alone in that exclusion. The industry has predominantly favoured the needs of men over women, and it's a problem that has existed for a long time. "The reasons for the sneaker industry not being inclusive stems right back to women's sporting history," Angelee Kholia, the founder of Sheaker Magazine, told POPSUGAR. "Sneakers were primarily made for sport, and of course, it was frowned upon for women to participate in sports, unlike for men. So the sneaker industry has always favoured men's needs over women's, and unfortunately this hasn't changed with the times."

Despite having come a long way in recent years, the sneaker industry is still missing the mark when it comes to gender inclusivity. Whether it's women missing out on exclusive collaborations because our size isn't stocked, being overlooked for opportunities in favour of male counterparts, or falling prey to the narrative that "women can't be sneakerheads", there are a number of ways that the lack of inclusivity in the industry is evidenced. I spoke to collectors, founders, and members of the communities at the forefront of the industry to get their views on why this might be and how it can be changed.

An Industry Geared Toward Men

"The sneaker industry is built on this gender disparity," Kholia said, explaining that "it has always been geared more toward men, from separate drops to more media coverage on men's content. While there is a big call for change, there is still a long way to go in order for brands to become more inclusive."

And it's not just women in the industry who feel this way; some of their male counterparts feel it, too. Ronal Raichura is the founder of Crepe City, one of the most well-known sneaker communities in the UK. For him, the industry has continued to grow in this way partly because of the people inside it. "Historically, the industry has always been male dominated. There's guys who were able to get into the industry in the '90s who have then brought in their pals, sometimes because they're biased, and sometimes just because they want to bring in people they trust. Some brands are very much geared up to pub culture, though, only working with people who want to go out and drink pints all night," he told POPSUGAR.

Titi Finlay is a creative for Nike and has been collecting sneakers for years. She feels there are two main aspects where the industry lacks in terms of inclusivity: sizing and storytelling. "To give some context on sizing, the majority of the time, the hype sneakers only release in a UK6 and upwards, so people with smaller feet (mostly women) miss out on so many great releases. There is sometimes a grade-school (GS) version released alongside the adults' drop, but these usually have cheaper materials or altered design features. It's really frustrating not to be recognised in that sense, and I'd love to see brands work on releasing sneakers in a full size run for all the drops," she said.

At the core of it, women consumers just want to be taken seriously. Jess Lawrence, an influencer within the community, boiled it down to the fact that "as loyal consumers, women want to be heard by the brands and companies we buy from. We've been asking for size-inclusive runs, so that those of us with smaller size feet aren't left out of releases. We don't necessarily want women's exclusives, but just to be included in the messaging and marketing for all the releases that do exist. Often, women's releases come with patronising gender signifiers, such as classically feminine colours or having a platform, when really, we just want pure inclusion."

FULL ARTICLE: https://www.popsugar.co.uk/fashion/inclusivity-in-sneaker-and-trainer-industry-48232349