The Power of Representation
By Steph Wetherell, Every Body Outdoors
How do you feel when you see a body like yours represented in a space? For me, it makes me feel like I belong, that I’m a valued part of that space or community.
I am a walker and outdoor enthusiast with a love for long distance paths but have never seen a body like mine on any of the major outdoor brands social media accounts or websites. While there has been progress with representation in the fashion and activewear worlds (though there’s still more to be done), the outdoors industry is still stuck in the 1990s. Not only is there very little kit that fits my size 20 body, brands don’t seem to want to show their clothes on anyone above a size 10 or 12.
Despite going hiking every weekend for years, for most of this time I didn’t feel part of the outdoors community - I felt like an outsider. It took me a long time to have the confidence that I could do the hikes I wanted to do or go to outdoors events, because I never saw bodies like mine represented in these spaces.
My journey into cycling has felt different. After being a city commuter cyclist for years, I started to get into cycling properly about three years ago after meeting my partner who is a keen cyclist. The first summer of the pandemic, I dug out my ill-fitting and too-small cycling shorts that I’d been wearing for years and discovered the joys of country roads and cycle routes.
I quickly decided that my cycling shorts could do with an upgrade, and discovered Fat Lad At The Back. And I saw bodies like mine - proudly displayed on the website and across social channels. It wasn’t a token gesture - instead these bodies are integrated into the core of the business and branding. For the first time, I could see how the clothes might fit me, and decide how comfortable I might feel in them. It made me feel welcome in the cycling community, and best of all, it gave me a massive confidence boost that a body like mine could be a cyclist.
This is why better representation of larger and plus size bodies is one of our core asks at Every Body Outdoors - it’s all well and good to fight for clothing and kit to be made in larger sizes, but until brands start showing that clothing on plus size bodies, we still feel on the outside. We deserve to see the clothes we are going to buy on bodies like ours - to judge the fit, to assess the style, and to feel like our bodies are just as valid. Some outdoors brands seem to think we can’t do these things, but there are lots of people in larger bodies who are involved in the outdoors - cycling, hiking, climbing, kayaking and more. And it’s not just those of us who are currently doing these activities - better representation will inspire and encourage new people to get outdoors and give these activities a go.
Seeing bodies like mine used in advertising has made me feel more comfortable in my body - instead of focusing on the negatives, now I see what it is capable of doing. It no longer feels like a limitation.
Representation is powerful. It brings people in. It makes you feel welcome and like you belong in a space. It has the potential to change peoples lives.