In a sport overwhelmingly catering towards men, the products have followed a path carved by that market. Whether that be as softgoods like shirts sized for the average male or boot sizes optimized for the average man between US 8.5-12 / 42-45 EU. Products aren’t designed by companies for anyone who doesn’t fit the law of averages.
Before the outrage starts, companies shouldn’t be blamed for considering the overhead costs of too many product options in a niche market. They should however consider who they are excluding when they make decisions that impact the longevity of a sport longing to attract a burgeoning demographic like girls and women. All you have to do is go onto Instagram and search the hashtag #Bladies to see the plethora of young women picking up skates. There are girls and women worldwide who want to skate, yet oftentimes face the challenge of finding a smaller skate boot. The average women’s shoe size hovers around a 5.5-8 US / 36-39 EU or converted to men’s sizes, 3.5-6.5 US. Most blades bottom out at a 6-7 shell. Every blader I know has worn at least one pair of skates that’s been too big. It’s uncomfortable, tricks don’t feel right, your feet shift around, parts of the boot and liner rub wrong. It’s no one’s idea of a fun time. Expand that towards women who oftentimes have to wear the smallest men’s skate and it still feels like wearing a boat. That’s off-putting and can be a deterrent to staying in the sport when women don’t feel catered to. I’ll put it like this for you larger footed gentleman out there. Imagine if the largest boot you could buy was a 10 US / 44 EU. If your foot didn’t fit these boots, you’d either find a way to make it work or quit altogether. Neither case is one we as a community should or would stand by. You vote with your dollars and your voices on social media.
That’s where the Bladies x USD powder pink boot collaboration by Megan Petersen and Mery Muñoz comes in. It’s an Aeon boot design at its core with modifications that gear it towards women (gendered colors aside), tested and agreed upon by women. The boot is the product of necessity to address the call of girls and women looking for a product that accommodates for them, to feel like they are part of a community and industry that wants women involved. With the skates now out in shops and in the wild, there’s an overwhelming tide of support that shows more companies need to take serious consideration as to what they can do to advance women in rollerblading.
In the months leading up to the release of the boot, I went back and forth with Megan and Mery, learning more about boot as they were allowed to tell me, expressing their thoughts on the creation process, and how the industry as a whole could take the next steps necessary to keep women rolling forward. Here’s what these two had to say on these matters.
Jonathan Labez |The USD X Bladies skate collaboration centers predominantly between yourselves, Megan Petersen and Mery Muñoz. What was the initial seed for the collaboration and how has it blossomed since its inception?
Megan Petersen | Actually, Mery messaged me. USD mentioned doing a Bladies skate, so she linked us up to make the collab happen. I cannot tell you how incredibly amazing it feels to have a skate company make the first move. A Bladies skate is something I obviously was dreaming of and had reached out casually to 2 people about a possible collab skate previously, so this was like, the best message ever!
Mery Muñoz | We were always asking for small shell boots for female riders and kids. Finally USD offered the idea of designing it as a group of girls. I contacted Megan in [regards to the] name ‘Bladies’, which I feel represents the female inline skaters community. We put our ideas together to share our vision of a female rider nowadays.
JL |What was the process like working with the USD designer and your group of women providing feedback on the skate design?
MP | Working with Kenneth [Dedeu] on the design was a really rad process. He had 2 pages of mock-ups of different colors and variations of the Aeons with the logo in a few places. What made the process special was bringing in 10 girls to pick the favorites and make the final decision with input from the girls!
MM | We got offered a looot of different colors and combinations. We had to choose 3 from all of the ones designed previously. The pink boot was chosen by nearly all of us.
JL |Were there any requested features that skate that girl and women riders asked for which were incorporated into the final boot?
MP | Liners that would fit our feet better as women have more narrow feet than men. The new 36-38EU shell size fits like a true US Women’s 6/7. The liners are really easy to lace up and make snug. The Velcro strap was a requested feature and the logo across that looks pretty sweet!
MM | They’ve created the small shell boot for sizes, 36-38 , which means the frame is smaller. I’ve tried them and they really feel lighter. I hope many young riders will love [the skates] when making the jump from fitness skates to aggressive skates.
JL |Can you tell us about the women you’ve recruited for the Bladies x USD Skate team and how they became involved?
MP | Mery Munoz, pro rider for USD OF COURSE! I have to say, Mery helping make this happen, being so involved has been a truly humbling experience. She is an amazing athlete, teacher, and leader. Legendary Fabiola DaSilva, steeze queen, and new mama Aarin Gates, the incredible Liene Nulle from Latvia, my right hand woman Gaby Velasquez, and myself. Mery recruited Fab and Liene – so stoked! Aarin really got me into skating and is incredibly talented. Gaby has been shredding hard and helping us with some Bladies design work. All these girls both deserve a skate. It’s also just… super unreal that all these people who have inspired me so hard in life will be riding these skates. Thank you, everyone!
MM | Due to some transport problems in China, the skates have been arriving very late, Fabiola and Alice are still waiting. The idea is to make a video all together, to share the message we want to communicate [to the community]. All of them represent women in sports – from the young talented Alice to the legend Fabiola to growing a family like Aarin to being a Doctor while traveling to skate… many different women all with the same passion.
JL |The inequality of contest prize winnings between men and women has been a hot topic lately. We’ve discussed the differences in private and have seen several pros (notably Montre Livingston) publicly call out contests and brands for fairer payouts recently. Those looking to buy a pair of the USDxBladies skates should know royalties will go towards a women’s event or presenting a larger prize at an existing contest [whenever circumstances allow post-pandemic]. Was this a decision you two made from the beginning?
MP | The royalty money going towards a women’s event was proposed by USD. It’s a Bladies collab skate but instead of royalties going to the brand, it’ll go straight to an event to make a better prize or possibly even a Blading Camp. It’s really hard to say right now under the circumstances [surrounding the pandemic]. The E-FISE contest is a good example of this inequality.
MM | Our initial idea was to make the royalties go back to our female industry. The most direct way we thought was putting a prize money towards a known contest such as Winterclash or Blading Cup. Due to the epidemic and most contests cancelling, we decided to donate 600€ to the E-FISE street online contest organized by FISE World Skate. FISE listed a voucher + “special” prizes for the Women Pro… versus 5000€ for the winners of Men Pro in the same category.
(Editor’s Note – FISE lists the women’s pro skate park edit winnings at 3000€, which is half of the amount men’s park edit, 6000€; women received special prizes for amateur park and pro street edits. When FISE representatives were asked by Be-Mag about what the prizes would be, no clarification was provided.)
We see these injustices every day and we want to make it known to everyone that this needs to change if we want female riders to feel respected as equally. We have a long way to go, but with the help of every single voice [in the community], we can make it possible.
The rest of the royalties will keep supporting the female scene, for sure.
We need smaller skates in the industry really bad and more opportunities for women’s skates where more royalties can go towards prize money
JL |What are your thoughts about the discrepancy in prize money from contests and how does that affect the morale/participation of women/girls in rollerblading?
MP | It’s gnarly. I mean, there’s way more dudes than girls skating at events, but also… like… there’s very few skates girls can buy that will fit. We need smaller skates in the industry really bad and more opportunities for women’s skates where more royalties can go towards prize money and helping fund women’s events. If there were more skates available that more girls would want to buy, more girls will skate. If more girls are skating and there’s more support, more girls will participate and compete. More support, more opportunity, MORE SKATES!
MM | It affects women not taking the sport too seriously. It’s hard to risk your body in order to win. [Often times] it does not even cover the travel expenses.
I’ve seen how the number of female participants has raised in the last [few] years, so has the level [of skating]. So why not the prize money too?
JL |What could other brands in blading learn from this collaboration?
MP | GIRLS WANT SKATES! Make skates in smaller sizes, with a better fit for women and throw in trending colors. Powder colors are hot hot fire! Personally, I love all black everything with pink accents. There’s so many variations. Powder pink has girls in skating stoked and girls who don’t skate wanting to get them!
MM | I would like to make them realize the importance of having a small proper size for the female and young riders (35-39 size). Making it more approachable to skate comfortable and get more in touch with our sport.