On Sexism and Jeans: A Rant

UPDATE: REI's Novara line now offers a full section of commuter clothing for women!  Including jeans.  Props to Novara for stepping up and being the first line to offer a whole set of equal options for both men and women!

It was during a a rigorous Tuesday laundry session that I noticed my jeans are getting to a state much like that of tissue paper, mostly in the area that sees the most contact with my saddle.  My rule with jeans is that if I can see through them, it's time for a new pair, and I'd heard some buzz from various other blogs about cycling jeans made by various companies, so I decided to spend a little time digging up reviews.

There's definitely a group of people who think cycling jeans are stupid and unnecessary, and while I do somewhat agree and think any clothing is good for riding, there are three little words that get me to sway the other direction: seamless, reinforced crotch.   Seamless.  

Plus, the little add-ons: reflection, stretchiness, and knee room, amongst others, had me intrigued.  Jeans are expensive, and if I'm going to be spending an arm and a leg anyway, why not opt for something more beneficial to me than just pants?

So in my research, I found two things:
- (Most) Cycling jeans are actually pretty freaking awesome
- Nobody makes them for women

Reiterating on that:

Now, I would venture to say that a few years ago there wasn't quite as much of a market for women's cycling jeans - not that the market was by any means non-existent, it just hadn't exploded like is has in recent years.  And still it is male dominated, but not nearly as much as it used to be - come to SF, we've got plenty of lady riders out here. 

That aside, the fact is that nearly half of the ridership I see these days is female, and many of them (myself often included) ride in street clothes.  There are a few companies that make cycling knickers for women, and as nice as that is, it sure as hell ain't optimal for the low thirties we've been getting here in the mornings, not to mention winter in general.  But I guess there's some sort of predisposition that everyone at these companies thinks women who do ride only ride in cute skirts or sundresses or similar bullshit (nothing against skirts or dresses - you get my point), and, well, not jeans. 

"But," I've been asked, as I tend to complain about this to everyone who will listen, "why not just get a pair of the men's style?" And as much as I would like to be able to, seeing as I've been told the Rapha Jeans are life-changing and bring you eternal happiness, I have an ass.  And hips.  Which equates to a combination that doesn't work with men's clothing - believe me, I've tried. 

The closest equivalent I've found are Hincapie Athletic Jeans, which at least get a shout out for having a women's line, but aren't cycling jeans per se. I've been told there are small companies that do make them for women, but I haven't been able to find anything.  

The point here though is less about jeans, and more about the blatant sexism in assuming only men rides bikes.  

And I am not alone in my rage. 

I did write to Levi's, and they did say they would pass their message onto their marketing department, which I'd like to be optimistic about.  I am also planning to write to Rapha, Muxu, SWRVE, and a few others.  A few other bloggers have also inquired, some who received the response that there wasn't enough of a market.

Maybe there isn't enough of a market because the market is so damn sexist.  Maybe. 

I would really like to hope that Levi's claim that they were just "testing the market" is true, but this advert seems so blatantly geared towards men (not even anyone riding with a girlfriend?  Come on!) that I don't know. 

I could go on, but it's all been said, and I've probably been beating a dead horse for the past three paragraphs anyway.  

So this weekend when I go out to replace my disintegrating jeans, it looks like I won't be getting to replace them with the same style my male friends have been able to.  

My dreams of a seamless crotch seem to far away.


  1. swrve doesn't advertise it anymore, but they do carry a couple of women's items. However, sizing was an issue for me--I could barely wedge my thighs into a pair of women's size large pants (and I normally wear a 6).

    I really resent every company that tells me to just try the men's version because it's basically the same. No it's not!

    1. I read the first line of your comment and got really excited, but now I'm bummed again - I'm a size 8, so I doubt I could fit into a large.

      And the next time a guy suggests I try the men's version, I'm going to suggest they try on a women's size :]

  2. Amen, sister! It annoys me that there limited choices in urban cycling wear cut for women, and I totally resent the idea that we just wear the men's cut.

    Even in the rare case that they nominally fit, they're often too masculine for me. I don't want pink butterflies, but it's nice to have short sleeves that don't come down to my elbows.

  3. Have you seen the Morrison Stealth Pantaloons from Clever Cycles in Portland? They now offer a women's cut. http://clevercycles.com/blog/2012/12/04/some-long-awaited-restocks/

    1. I haven't seen these! I've seen something similar, but I might look into getting a pair of these for my dressier days. Thank you for sharing!

      I agree with you completely about mens' items being too masculine - though fortunately it seems that lots of womens' cycling apparel these days has broadened beyond just pink butterflies, and I can still dress like a serious cyclist or a casual rider while looking feminine.

      And I have bookmarked your blog and plan to read through it (and link it here, if you don't mind!). Glad to find another bay area rider!!

  4. Have you tried Outlier jeans from NYC? They seem to have a greater size and color selection: http://shop.outlier.cc/shop/retail/womens/

    There's also BetaBrand from SF: http://www.betabrand.com/women/womens-black-bike-to-work-pants.html

    1. I hadn't heard of Outlier, but I have looked at Betabrand! The thing is I'm not so much looking for black riding pants, per se, but actual riding jeans. It seems like companies tend to make pants (and knickers!) for both men and women, but jeans are strictly male-oriented, which is what bugs me.

  5. Huh? I'm a guy, and all my jeans are in the "not to be worn on the bike" category. Isn't there a seam in an awkward place in the item of clothing labeled a "Jean"? At least in my collection of Levi 501's it's unwearable on a bike saddle. And there's too tight in the knees. And in general too tight to pedal. I don't think this is a gender issue - all jeans are not suitable for cycling. Maybe just guys are gullible enough to buy them.

    Can someone enlighten me on this issue? I just wear army surplus and/or safari style pants when it gets cold. Baggy with a very small seam in that vital contact spot. And there are wool knee socks to go with warm wool knickers. In car avoidance hi-vis colors too. I usually opt for bike shorts underneath.

    1. I'll give you my viewpoint on the riding in jeans issue :]

      I don't find that jeans are too uncomfortable to ride in - although I should mention that I by no means wear "skinny jeans." I can't fit my calves in skinny jeans. And cycling jeans describe exactly why you don't ride in jeans: they have a roomier knee, offset inseams, and aren't super skinny fitting. They're also stretchy, have a raised back so you don't moon everyone, and have water/odor resistant fabric. Plus you get reflective bits and reinforced areas in the crotch and for a u-lock! Read about Rapha's Jeans: http://www.rapha.cc/rapha-jeans

      My main issue that I do about a third of my riding in jeans. If I go out on an actual ride I will certainly wear cycling tights, but if I get called to a friend's house, or need to run an errand, or have to catch a train fairly quickly, I'm just going to bust out of the house in whatever I'm wearing, which is usually jeans. Of the 100 or so miles I do a week, I'd say at least 30 are done in jeans, which makes my jeans wear out much faster than they used to. So if I'm going to be buying jeans, and cycling jeans are an option, I'd most certainly love to try out a pair!

      Sure, perhaps it's just a clever marketing ploy - some people despise this idea and think it's just catering to hipsters or those gullible enough. But I know people who swear by them, and ride in them all the time.

      Anyway, just my two cents.

  6. hear, hear! i'm wearing out my jeans like it's my job, and they start getting baggy in the knees veeery quickly after washing with a good hour and a half commute everyday. do write those companies and i hope things start to change quickly as they realize not only men ride bikes. (c'mon...!)

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  8. I came upon your rant because I too was looking for bicycle jeans. Some one had suggested the Levis commuter. And of course had the same reaction as you after years of waiting for a company to realize it has a market breathlessly waiting. And waiting.

    1. Now Novara has them - and they'll have full length jeans in the fall too (right now they have shorts and a capri style). It's a bit hot now, but I've been using the shorts almost daily and love them. At least someone finally realized that we wants pants too!

  9. It's been years now but, Rapha has women's cycling jeans these days and I'm wondering if you've tried them and if you can speak to how their sizing works? I fit in cycling gear but I'm a bigger gal and I have my doubts that a 34 will fit as it is not my real waist size (real waist size is bigger).

    1. I do have a pair of Rapha jeans - and I love them! I ended up trying on three sizes, and went with size 28 despite my waist measuring at 26, because my thighs are huge and don't work well in skinny jeans. Their sizing measurements are true though, if that helps.

    2. I do have a pair of Rapha jeans - and I love them! I ended up trying on three sizes, and went with size 28 despite my waist measuring at 26, because my thighs are huge and don't work well in skinny jeans. Their sizing measurements are true though, if that helps.


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