It wasn’t long ago that the motorcycle and powersports industry used a very simplistic formula in making women’s gear known as “pink and shrink.” In other words, take whatever the apparel offering was for men, size it down and slap some pink on it.
It’s good to see that the industry has recognized 1) women need apparel tailored to their own body shape, and 2) not all women like pink. Think about it. Of the female riders you know, how many actually wear pink? My guess? Not many. While there still aren’t nearly as many apparel options for women as there are for men, it’s understandable, given the laws of supply and demand.
After all, according to the Motorcycle Industry Council 2021 Statistical Annual, in 2018 (the last year for which the report has data), only 19% of all motorcycle owners were women. That said, while they’re quite the minority, they’re still nearly one-fifth of all owners, and when you consider that only 14% of owners were women just four years earlier in 2014, it’s clear that female ownership is rising quickly.
As such, their lines of apparel will have to grow proportionally. But for now, let’s break down what’s out there and how women’s apparel does — or doesn’t — currently differ from men’s.
Part of the appeal of buying motorcycle gear isn’t just for comfort and safety — it’s for fashion. Just as many riders like to customize their bikes, they also like their personal styles reflected in their clothing. And when it comes to clothes, it has to fit right to look good and be functional.
Now, it’s an undisputable fact that men and women have different anatomies. So, why would their clothes be tailored the same?
Take jackets, for example. All else being the same — e.g. materials and adjustability — women’s jackets are tailored primarily to fit over the bust and perhaps to flare slightly around the waist, accentuating the female figure. Men’s jackets, on the other hand, have a straighter, tapered approach that aligns with the male silhouette. A jacket tailored for men wouldn’t lay properly on a female body, resulting in gaping material that is bound to flap annoyingly as she rides. A look at the Joe Rocket Ladies ‘92 Jacket, for instance, illustrates that while it boasts the same cowhide frame as the men’s version, it is tailored specifically for a relaxed, feminine fit.
Another key difference between men’s and women’s gear is the amount of pockets. In the case of the same ‘92 Jacket, the women’s version actually has one more interior pocket than the men’s, while the number of exterior pockets is the same. However, for other types of jackets, the men’s version may boast more pockets.
Whatever the case, by stocking multiple jacket options, you can let your female customers decide how many pockets they want. After all, women love pockets just as much as men do, and it’s much easier to stash keys, wallets and more in a jacket than lug around a purse on a bike.
Just as men and women have different upper-body anatomies, so too do they differ in the lower court. Therefore, it again makes sense to tailor pants to fit better in the hips and crotch. But, for everywhere else, pants are generally adjustable (unless they’re jeans), come with several pockets and armor, and may even come with removeable liners and panels, allowing riders to adjust to various weather conditions. Some pants even come with a waistband that’s raised higher in the back to prevent unfortunate plumber-scenario situations while riding.
Speaking of riding, what’s important for customers trying on pants is the sitting test. Invite them — male or female — to throw a leg over a bike while trying pants on. After all, the main purpose of riding pants is to ride, so customers should know how they feel when on a bike, whether the pants ride up the legs too much, gape in the back or get too tight in the seat.
At first glance, the only difference between men’s and women’s gloves (aside from the variety available to the former) appears to be cosmetic — different colors, more feminine font (think curls instead of angles) and organic graphic designs. Once again, however, take into account that women tend to have smaller, slimmer hands than men.
A properly fitted glove can not only keep hands warmer, but also reduces fatigue, increases protection to the knuckles and fingers, and offers easier touchscreen sensitivity. Stocking gloves specifically made for women will help ensure they get all the benefits gloves have to offer.
If you’ve ever been to a shoe store, you’ve probably noticed that over half the store is geared towards women — whose footwear styles vary far more than men’s. Women are picky about their shoes, from the fit and feel, to the look. Stocking women’s footwear isn’t just about getting the correct shoe sizes in — it’s about letting women choose their style.
Luckily, outfitters seem to have gotten the message, because if all other motorcycle apparel seems similar between the sexes, footwear does not. Men’s and women’s footwear have distinct styles and colors. For instance, some women’s motorcycle boots even have hidden wedges inside that will give women a boost (in height and confidence) — the same they get from wearing heels. Of course, other women may prefer the classic, lace-up combat boot, and still others may want a thinner sole and buckles or zippers instead. While the differing styles available are a great start for outfitters, pickings are already slim for ladies in the motorcycle footwear department, so stock whatever you can, because you can be sure that footwear will be a priority for women, and they’ll be willing to pay for it.
In fact, if there’s one thing you take away from this article, it would be to stock whatever variety of women’s gear you can find. Your female customers will appreciate the extra choices.