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Investigating Activewear’s Link to Purchased Belonging

Taylor Shenk


As humans, we have an innate desire to belong. How we achieve that goal is often attached to how we see ourselves and who will help us become who we want to be. And the first way we identify which group we belong to is by what we wear. In my own experience working and being involved in fitness culture, I noticed an intense, obsessive loyalty among activewear consumers to their favorite brands. And while each brand essentially sells the same spandex product, the differences between groups were poles apart. Which left me wondering, what is it that brands do to attract community?


After speaking with many members of these niche fitness subcultures, I came across a sociological case study involving two injured runners. What was interesting was that although they could not run with the team anymore, they continued to wear their uniforms throughout their rehabilitation to stay feeling connected. The key here is that activewear is the link between the individual and their chosen fitness community. With that in mind, I started prototyping potential ways to explore and start a dialogue around the strategies brands use to capture that connected feeling. I felt it was important to showcase the hypocrisy that exists between making attractive promises through advertising and the practices that make achieving those promises a toxic transactional experience.


So what if you could actually purchase belonging? EVERYWEAR is a speculative activewear company where purchases equal access to a tight-knit network of friendships and resources. And “The Password Campaign” is a prime example of how brands curate who represents them. They want to be seen as inclusive, but then create barriers like price, location, and time dedication that make it feel like you need a password to get in. My goal with presenting from EVERYWEAR’s point of view before pulling back the curtain is to highlight how easy it is to fall victim to advertising ploys. We spend so much time trying to fix the issue of exclusivity that we don’t notice the reason it still exists is because we are attracted to it. I hope this project sparks a reconsideration of your own purchasing behavior and the lengths you’re willing to go to to belong.

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