At Literally Outside, we work to make all people feel empowered and confident. We can all be trailblazers – the outdoors is for everybody, on every journey, literally. Our team found this article by Kiran Herbert worthy of sharing, as many of the tips and actions noted are used in our strategic plans, and placed in our values and actions.
Everyone should feel welcomed and included when spending time outdoors and when purchasing outdoor recreational products and clothing. For some individuals, however, that is not their relationship to outdoor activities or their reality when shopping for outdoor recreational gadgets and clothes. Kiran Herbert describes how outdoor specialty shops can create a welcoming environment for all people, regardless of their race, size, gender identity, sexual identity, or expertise.
Herbert, in this article, shares two different but also similar stories of black outdoor gear shop owners who experienced hardship in their journey of becoming more involved in outdoor recreational activities.
Jahmicah Dawes, owner of Texas-based outdoor gear shop Slim Pickins Outfitters, recalls the high level of intimidation he endured while shopping and interacting with stores selling outdoor-recreational items. Dawes recalled the feeling of being an outsider and not fitting the mold, starting when he would pull in the parking lot to when he stepped into the store and shopped. He commonly became overwhelmed by the gear and customers themselves. Dawes recalls his experiences of shopping and discovering that the point-of-purchase displays featured people who were predominately white, male, and “fit” by mainstream image. He remembers his experiences of feeling that the outdoors, as traditionally portrayed, was unattainable for him. Mark Boles, the owner of Intrinsic Provisions, a gear shop located in Massachusetts, had similar experiences. One of Boles' most unforgettable experiences was when he was given his mother’s Amex Gold Card to purchase ski racing gloves from a Ski Shop. He recalls being run out of the store by an employee, which was likely attributed to his skin color; he was only 12 at the time.
The experiences of Dawes and Boles were foundational to both of their businesses. Each works to mitigate similar intimidation and the biases that they experienced in hopes of not allowing history to repeat itself for someone else. People of color, outdoor rookies, plus-size individuals, and those who don’t reflect the stereotype of an “outdoorsy" person find shopping for outdoor gear to be intimidating and unwelcoming. Dawes and Boles believe that the feeling of non-inclusivity is the greatest barrier to reshaping outdoor recreational shopping into a more diverse industry. Review Herbert’s article to learn more about the 10 actions items and tips outdoor recreational shops can take to be more inclusive and diverse, as outlined by Dawes and Boles.
We hope that our customers and supporters find inspiration in the items shared within this article, many of which are principles we follow, uphold, and will continually work to learn and improve upon. For our partners and colleagues, we hope you find this writing a tool to better improve your services, in the hopes of creating a more inclusive and diverse outdoor recreational industry supporting everyone – regardless of race, size, gender identity, sexual identity, or expertise.