Dear Nike: Just Do Better

Dear Nike,

I like your brand’s style and aesthetic; when I walk into your stores, I can usually find something that I really like. Your clothing is a staple of the American-athleisure style, and your name is known all across the world. For the most part, I really like you (although you definitely need to refine your labor practices).

On a recent trip into one of your stores, however, I noticed something that didn’t seem to fit. Your clothing appeared to be sending a rather contradictory message. What I saw was this shirt displayed prominently in your store:

A black t-shirt with the word “EQUALITY” across the front, and the female symbol standing proudly as the “Q.” The shirt was made in celebration of International Women’s Day, and at first glance it seemed really empowering and forward-thinking. In the context of the Time’s Up movement, Women’s Marches, and many societal gender gaps, the message on this shirt seemed progressive and admirable. As a major athletic brand, I appreciated your choice to stand with these important movements for equality.

As I took a closer look, however, I realized that this shirt perpetuated inequity in a pretty substantial way. This shirt was “athletic cut,” a unisex style of t-shirt that fits men perfectly well, but doesn’t do the same for women. Unisex shirts simply do not fit over the distinct curves of a woman’s body. As you can see on the female mannequin in the background, the shirt doesn’t fit over its hips, so it’s been styled into a crop top. Your website states that “the EQUALITY tee promotes diversity and inclusion and Nike's commitment to those ideals,” but this shirt isn’t sending that message at all.

If your intention is to promote “EQUALITY,” treating everyone the same no matter their starting point, then the sizing of this shirt makes perfect sense. I feel, however, that based on the stated intention of this shirt it really should say “EQUITY,” treating everyone justly by considering their advantage/disadvantage in society. The fact that an entire group of people can’t comfortably wear this shirt demonstrates that this product is not serving your customers in a just or equitable way. If your intention is to actually promote fairness between genders, then the message and design of the shirt should reflect that.

Upon further research, I was disappointed to find that you actually do sell a women’s cut EQUALITY shirt that is more expensive than the unisex version. If that doesn’t scream inequality, I don’t know what does.

My suggestion for you, if you truly want to be inclusive and just, is to create two different styles of this shirt, women’s and men’s cut, and price them the same so that people of more diverse sizes can wear it comfortably. Change the message on the shirt to reflect this alteration as well; I’m sure that your customers would appreciate the opportunity to wear an “EQUITY” shirt that truly promotes a progressive ideal.


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