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Diverse "Outdoorsy" Fashion

If we are going to talk about living a slow, outdoorsy life, then we must chat about clothes. As Alfred Wainwright wrote in his 1973 book Coast to Coast, "There's no such thing as bad weather, only unsuitable clothing."

I pick out my outdoors clothes at night and place them in a pile on my closet's prayer mat. I stack my pants, shirt, and sports bra, before placing my shoes beside the pile. It alerts me in the morning for "go" time. The next day at 5:30am, after my prayer and stretch, I prepare to get outside.  

I'm not alone. In "Outdoor Companies Address Their Lack of Racial Diversity," Peter Verry writes:

"[In the] Outdoor Industry Association's 2018 Outdoor Participation Report, 34 percent of African-Americans, 49 percent of Hispanics and 51 percent of Asians in the U.S. ages 6 and up participate in outdoor activities. And while the number of African-Americans over the past five years dipped 0.4 percent (the same as whites), Asian and Hispanic participation has risen 0.9 percent and 1 percent, respectively. The report also states that the number of times whites get outside annually (76) is trumped by both African-Americans (86) and Hispanics (87). Only Asians get outside less (74)." 

For me, my outdoors/workout clothes are primarily from Athleta. I like Athleta because their marketing ads are diverse in race, skin tone, hair texture, able-bodiedness, and body type. Their "ambassadors" are also diverse. Athleta is a B Corp company (meets the highest standards of verified social and environmental performance, public transparency, and legal accountability to balance profit and purpose) and tries to create sustainability for both the planet and the people who make the clothes. Within a capitalistic society, there are always layers. But for where I am in life - showing me stats and allowing me to see myself in ads - is critical for me. The clothes also fit like a glove; rarely do I have my pants roll-under my muffin while I run. 

Another company I enjoy is REI. According to an article by Claire Martin, "Is Diversity Just a Marketing Strategy for Gear Brands?" REI has been an industry leader when dealing with diversity. "The site also offers a glimpse at the company's racial diversity: currently, 18 percent of its workforce and 30 percent of its board of directors are people of color, and in 2017, it increased the ranks of executives of color from zero to 6 percent." 

Despite this, the numbers seem low because they are. In the same article, Martin discusses the difference between the trend towards more inclusive marketing campaigns vs. the homogenous working environments within the outdoor clothing industry.

Thank God, for organizations like Green 2.0, that look at the "Green Ceiling" or the lack of diversity within the Mainstream Environmental Movement.

Besides the articles above, I suggest reading "Opinion: The Outdoor Industry’s Inclusion Problem", by Marinel De Jesus (

If you know of a minority-owned outdoors clothing company, please share. I did read that Gear Coop was a minority-owned business, but I have yet to see someone that looks like me on the

Polepole friends,

Shelby S.

Edited by Ashley Yancey


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