“There is so much cool stuff for guys, and it doesn’t come in our size. Or if it does, they’ll take something out and tweak it a little different, use cheaper material, or change the silhouette. They’re not thinking about us, who we are, and I think that’s one of the biggest problems we have.”Suzie Boyle, owner of Sneaker Boutique Rime
With the success of the US Women’s Soccer Team and the attention drawn to the WNBA, sneaker brands should be held accountable for their lack of female-driven, female-designed, and female-targeted campaigns. Much has been discussed at nauseum about the pay discrepancies between the female and male athletes of both the US Soccer Teams and of the NBA and WNBA respectively. Argument behind the discrepancy, to paraphrase, is one driven by marketing and advertising. Where as some would put, simply economics or smart business. The issue at hand is that as sneaker culture grows more global and more diverse. Sneakers are no longer a shoe that is only worn by black men playing basketball. It is now worn by the tech conglomerate showing a new app, by the investment banker hanging out in the Hamptons, and by a CEO showcasing a casual dress code to their employees. And I bet, in all those descriptions showcased above, that you thought of a man.
For anyone that grew up with a two-parent, heterosexual household, odds are you grew up with your mother being the person behind the household purchasing. Growing up, my mom was the one who bought the shoes, the clothes, and the groceries. Most of the time my dad didn’t know his size when shopping let alone my size. And I bet dollars to donuts that I’m not the only person who had this household situation. In fact, as Bloomberg news notes, women drive 70-80% of all consumer purchasing through a combination of their buying power and influence, “if the economy had a sex, it would be female”. And yet, of the big shoe brands, Under Armour, Adidas, Nike, very few of their NBA signature shoes are made for women. All of those athletes have mothers, some of them have wives and daughters. People who are incredibly influential in their life. A small thing like a shared name has led to a relatively big change in the industry, or hopefully the beginnings of change. A shared name like Riley. Who wrote to her hero, Stephen Curry, about trying to find shoes in her size. As Steph found out, “unfortunately we have labeled the smaller size as “boys” on the website.”, now thankfully, Steph went on to discuss this issue with Under Armour about making sure that there is a way for young Riley and other girls like her, to look in their shoe section and find the shoes they want. He even went on to work with her to design and International Women’s Day shoe.
Paul George, Kyrie Irving, Lebron James, Giannis Antetokounmpo , Kobe Bryant, etc. with Nike; James Harden, D Rose, Damian Lillard, etc with Adidas, some MVP no champs, Under Armour, Steph, MVP/champ, then you have Simone Agustus of the WNBA has four championships. Four time champion who felt, “maybe we weren’t working hard enough. We put good quality work on the floor to convince them that we do deserve this. Sure, players like Simone, Briana Stewart, and Diana Taurasi, they get custom shoes as players, but they are struggling with trying to get higher pay. They can’t even get a brand like Nike, Adidas, or Under Armour to make them a signature shoe. All this money they have, and claims of supporting women, no one can take the time to make these players a shoe? When you’re in discussion with Lebron James about the Lebron 18s, and Steph with the Curry 8s, talking with them about how they want their next shoe to look, feel, and represent, try taking a week off after to bring in some ladies and make some adjustments to appeal to them. For starters, make sizes for women, make material or structural adjustments to fit with women’s feet, and develop additional colorways that appeal to them.
Nike hasn’t made a signature shoe for a WNBA player in 20 years. Because WNBA players are not being covered in the media nearly as much. Brands likely don’t feel the need to invest as much in them as the men, but there is absolutely a market out there for them. The conversation I’m having here needs to happen, because not too long ago people were having the same conversation about African American athletes that they are having about female athletes today, that there isn’t a place for them. I want to call bs out when I see it and celebrate greatness. To often, there’s this idea that you don’t have everything you want, but if you have close to it, you should be happy. Take what you have and be happy. What I find troubling is that there seems to be a trend about who is told this. And to me, that’s not acceptable. Being “good enough” is not enough for those striving for greatness.