November 6, 2007

Men Vs. Women



All snowmobile clothing is not created equal

When asked to write this article, my first thought was I would be preaching to the choir. Women would read this and probably agree with it.

But the women aren’t the problem—the manufacturers are. So my hope is these manufacturers are reading this also and will try to come up with some alternatives for us women. I realize that we women are the minority and in manufacturing it is not cost effective to make patterns for all shapes and sizes, but we do matter and we can contribute to the sales market.

I also realize that we women are hard to please because we have “cold” issues as well as “fit” issues. Most guys are easy to manufacture for. They are rarely, if ever, cold and most men fit into the regular size category.

My husband (who plays the devil’s advocate very well) said if the manufacturers did take on the extra costs and develop better women’s apparel, would women buy it? We girls must admit, most of us don’t spend money as readily as the guys.  We seem to feel it needs to be spent on the kids, groceries, and of course, the guys who need sled stuff. But my argument back is I do not want to spend hundreds of dollars on apparel that doesn’t even fit well or keep me warm. But if I find something that is just a great fit and does its job, I will spend the money.

Since I am in the snowmobiling business, I know a lot of the companies out there and what they’ve been doing and what their products are. Some have been trying and others have pretended to try. But as a general rule, I think they all could do better to help us.

So, here’s my list of what does and doesn’t work for me in the world of snowmobile apparel and what I dream of having. Please remember I am writing of women in general.

Gloves: The past few years I have seen a little improvement on the selection of women’s sizes, but the problem is a lot of those are just men’s gloves sized down to a small or if we’re lucky, an extra small. But they are still somewhat odd fitting. My pinkie finger usually gets completely lost. I can fold the glove finger completely in half and still not touch my finger.

And, of course, even with handwarmers, my fingers still get cold. I know most guys will agree that we women do not circulate blood to our extremities. It is a cold hard fact (no pun intended).

Since guys sweat, most men’s gloves are created to wick away moisture plus have some insulating capacity for those really cold days. I can honestly say my hands have never, in their entire existence, created moisture. There are those really big gauntlet gloves that don’t do too bad a job for warmth (I’ve had a pair). But they are so large that it makes aggressive riding impossible due to the bulk. We need a woman’s glove that is sized appropriately for smaller fingers and palms and doesn’t dwell on moisture issues (except waterproofing from the outside).  We desperately need warmth, especially in the fingers, without adding undue bulk.

Boots: While I am on the subject of cold extremities ….

This is one of the most frustrating of all the clothing items I need. I’ve spent more money on shipping and return shipping for boots that I’ve seen advertised as “womens.” My boots (in a man’s size) are ready to be retired, but I spent all last winter looking and have yet to find something. Every pair I ordered I returned. After getting them all laced and tightened up, with big wool socks on, I could completely pull them off. The toe length is perfect, with enough space that my toes aren’t crammed at the top, but the width of the boot is extraordinary. I honestly believe these women’s boots are just men’s boots sized to a smaller length, but they don’t do anything about the width.

It is so frustrating to try to move around in deep snow. The suction of heavy snow just leaves my boot in the hole as I lift my foot out. So then my feet get wet and then they get COLDER. Note I said colder. That is because they are cold to begin with.  I know that air is a good insulator and you don’t want super tight boots like a street shoe, but that theory works only when heat is generated to reflect back. Is there a married man out there who thinks that women generate heat in their feet?

I am an aggressive rider. I only sit when I’m stopped (trying to warm my hands and feet). I just don’t make heat in my feet, regardless of how much I jump around. So it’s not just the trail riders who have this problem, we all have this problem. We need a boot designed for our feet, not just a smaller man’s foot. We don’t need all that width and bulk, and in general, we don’t need the moisture wicking (again, no sweaty feet here). With all the great insulations available, there’s got to be one that works really well by keeping the foot warm without relying on heat reflecting back. Then we wouldn’t have to torture our husband’s backside when we get home.

Goggles: I wear an open face helmet with goggles (that are too big). Most manufacturers make an adult (which is synonymous with “men”) or a youth. Women’s heads are smaller and their eye spacing is narrower, so a man’s goggle is just not going to fit properly. You can find smaller skier’s goggles but they are not created to fit a helmet. Since mine are too big, I have two problems—my eyes are not centered in the lens and it doesn’t seal well around my face so air gets through. The lenses are so big that my eyes are actually “centered” just on each side of the nose piece. My whole day sledding consists of looking at my nosepiece with an ice cream headache. I have tried the youth size, only to find that they assume kids are not going to be outside very long because the insulating foam around the goggles is truly not very thick. But I have to say the fit is a whole lot better.

I have seen, and tried, a newer goggle made for “the smaller face.” Again, women were not what they had in mind when they created these. I believe they were thinking jockey size compared to linebacker size. But they work a lot better for me than the standard adult and that is what I use now. I’m not quite sure why the industry has not created a goggle with a woman’s smaller face in mind.

I will mention that helmets have never been a problem for me or other women I’ve talked to. We all have our personal preferences in what we want or how it feels, but I don’t think there are helmet fit problems.

Coats: Men and women are built differently—we all know that. Women have hips. Men have wide shoulders. That means we are a triangle and they are an upside down triangle. It doesn’t take physics expert to see that just isn’t going to work. So we have struggled for years with wearing a man’s medium or large size just to get it to fit over our hips and then we drown in the rest of it up top. And the arm length … does the word monkey conjure up images. I think men should spend a day in a fitted woman’s coat and then we’d see how fast they came up with a solution.

Clothing manufacturers do make women’s coats, but they are not winter sports coats. They are work related, dress related or for skiers (who have different needs than sledders). Along with the fit issue is the warmth issue (I know, I sound like a broken record with that cold thing). Again, men sweat and maybe get a little teensy chill occasionally. So these coats are made to wick away moisture and have zippers all over to open up for venting. Venting in the winter—isn’t that an oxymoron? I want one zipper, and trust me, it will always be closed. On those deep powder days when I am working hard, I am not cold. But I’m sure as heck not hot and the minute I stop I will be cold. We need good insulation and a woman’s fit. Most of us don’t want the layering system.  We will rarely, if ever, be removing a layer.

I have to admit this used to be an area of big frustration but this spring I actually had my choice of several coats that were women’s sizes with the claims of good insulation for warmth. I did buy a coat but it was at the end of the season so I have not used it yet. But it fits great with a flattering fit and feels like it will give me the warmth I need. I think the manufacturers have finally stepped up to address the issues we have.

Bib/Snow Pants: I used to really get on my soapbox about these things. There was absolutely nothing for women snowmobilers (skiers have a different pant/bib) so I had to deal with a man’s bib that I had to get big enough to pull up over the hips so of course they were huge everywhere else.

But lately it seems there are more and more manufacturers who are making a women’s pant or bib. I ride with pants as they give me a less restricted feeling and I was thrilled when Klim finally made a pant for girls. What a liberating feeling to have such a great fit in all the right places. A gal just has to be careful when looking to buy. Some retailers will have the man and woman’s sizes with the exact same product number. That tells you it’s the same pant and they’ve just created smaller sizes for the woman. You can also tell by the cut, which will be fuller in the hip area. Younger gals have a straighter body shape than we older girls, so I have found that some women’s pants, especially the snowboarder type, still have that narrower cut in the hips, so watch for that.

And, because I couldn’t really complain much, I will have to say that I think it was a guy who came up with the “drop down seat” on a pair of bibs. I think it was just to make us feel better for having to wear their bib. While it looks good on paper, without going into details way too personal for this magazine, let’s just say it really isn’t a Nobel peace prize idea.

So, I know you are laughing, but it is very hard being a girl in a guy’s world. I was a rancher (wearing guys ranch wear), I co-own a manufacturing business (where tools absolutely don’t work for our small hands) and I snowmobile (thank God I have access to custom made sleds just for me).

But on a more serious note, I hear from women all the time saying they don’t go sledding with their men folk because they get too cold or they have to ride an older model sled that just can’t keep up with the men (which is another soapbox I have).

So, for all you guys in the clothing business, remember—Happy Wife … Happy Life.

 

(ED—Cassidy is co-owner of Fabcraft in Florence, MT—406-777-1200. She has been snowmobiling for more than 15 years.)







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