Thursday, September 17, 2015

If You Don't Like It, Leave

Dear Steve Tofan, 

You seem to be rather unfamiliar with the cycling industry. Or rather, your company's behavior seems ignorant of the developments and trends within the cycling industry, something that a former outdoor industry rep's company should never be. But. It seems as though you are fairly uninformed about the issues within cycling, which is why I'm writing this letter. 

Steve, the problem here is that your company, Save Our Soles, made socks for the cycling industry's annual North American show, Interbike. As such, you chose to represent that show. And you made a terrible choice by putting an objectifying image on socks. It's okay. We all make terrible choices. But your company did one even better: when members of that industry voiced their concern and dissatisfaction, you told us that if we didn't like it, we didn't have to keep the socks. Steve, that's not how this works. 




Whether a tradeshow is in Vegas or on the moon, making socks for any industry that represent the seediest, saltiest qualities of Vegas is simply inappropriate, but especially in an industry where half of the population is actively working to rid their market of sexist, objectifying material. I know of plenty conferences and trade shows that will be in Las Vegas this year, including a computer technology one and a human resources conference. Will you make them ass socks as well, then blame it on the location? Steve, let's be honest: it's a bike show IN Vegas, not ABOUT Vegas. Those socks are no more closely related to cycling than cats in wizard hats are. And yet, you chose those socks to bear the name of an industry show. Strange. 

Steve, the issue here isn't the socks. It really isn't. It's the fact that your company, based in Denver and fairly close to the cycling community, was so ignorant to the issue that you thought those socks were a good idea. Even  more of a problem? Your company issuing a statement reeking of #sorrynotsorry. You should be sorry, Steve. Because we won't keep your socks; not even Interbike, the company you probably paid, wants those socks. That's a preeeeetty bad sign. 

My point in all of this, Steve? Women in the cycling industry matter. We're spending, growing and developing faster than any other market segment, and your brand has failed to notice any of that. According to Havard Business Review (https://hbr.org/2009/09/the-female-economy), the global economy has shifted -- the long and short of it? Their prediction is that women will control a vast amount of global wealth within the next decade. Between more employed women than men, more wealth inheritance to women than men and more involvement in spending, one would think that not dismissing and objectifying your ideal market is an important part of owning a sock company.

But. There are still men in the industry, although those men often know and love other riders who happen to be female. They respect women. They have wives and daughters and sometimes (gasp!), girl friends, female friends, and all sorts of vaginally-inclined members of their inner circles. What I find, Steve, is that this leaves you and Save Our Soles with a very small portion of the market that is uninfluenced by women. Of that portion, few are mysogynist or sexist enough to buy socks from a company that doesn't give a damn. There are other sock companies out there, Steve. They are GOOD sock companies. Companies who have built their brands on catering to customers who like bikes, beer, unicorns, going fast, insulting friends, sriracha, traveling and even leprechauns... But none of those companies are built around selling sex and especially not on objectifying the very customers they are targeting. 

Steve, socks matter. Most of us (the non-crazies) wear them every ride. I love fresh socks. Nothing quite like a brand new pair, either. And to a cyclist, what we wear on our feet is as clear an indication of who we are as the components we have underneath us. Some of us advertise only black, others their preferred brands. This is why they're such strong promotional material -- WE LOVE SOCKS. And even if we hate a particular pair of socks, they'll go into a collection and when all the others are sitting in a filthy, stinking pile next to the washer, we'll pull those socks we hate out and we'll rock them like there is no tomorrow. And it's free advertising. But your socks? Your unapologetically sexist socks? Not even my hardcore buddies wanted those socks. Not even my wealthy, unmarried, cad-of-a-beautiful man pal Jared (who makes jokes about my gender and pokes fun at my feminism) wanted your socks. If even Jared doesn't want your socks, you have a problem. 

Regardless of your personal feeling about socks (which I'm assuming is positive; you do own a sock company, after all), you also have to look at the big picture: thousands of buyers from all corners of North America received these bags. These bags represent the bike industry in no small way -- they are handed out to everyone, from the most clueless of Walmart buyer and that guy from Target to the specialty shop owner and the multi-sport big box stores. A small joke to you about the seedier qualities of Las Vegas makes the bike industry look like a bunch of drooling, sex-frothed monkeys with nothing better to put on our socks than SEX! in bright neon letters. And that's not what we sell, Steve. We like sex, but we're in the business of selling bikes here, and that's what we should be adorning our ankles with -- the things we love. 

Steve, think about the concepts of cycling: challenge, endurance, performance, adaptation and FUN. How is any of that represented by a few ass cheeks spread naughtily across the tops of socks? 

Perhaps you're under the impression that bad publicity is good publicity; I'll tell you right now (from personal experience) that it isn't. And from here on out, you now have a massive purchasing group that is hell bent on never buying your socks... And I'm going to help that along. I'm going to do my personal best to make sure that your company, Save Our Soles, never is brought up in conversation without this story attached. And frankly? I don't care if your socks are the best. Why? 

Because your practices aren't. 

And we won't tolerate that here, not in the bike industry. If you don't like it, leave. 

See that? It works both ways. 

Best, 

A.