Guest Blog: Austin Bonds

What? Athletic Apparel and No Logo!?

I was recently skimming a running website for stories of interest, and I came across an article title that provoked me enough to click the link and read the piece in its entirety: “Lose the Logo.” After reading the article, I discovered that a company based in Canada, Athletes Collective, has developed high quality athletic apparel for men without any identifying brand marks on the clothing. As the company website puts it, “We are athletes defined by our actions, not a logo across our chests.”

The article I read about Athletes Collective was brief, but the significance of what the company is attempting to do is worth a closer look. This initiative is worth a closer look as branding is a cornerstone of our culture. Branding, along with the corresponding dollars that are spent on advertising, inform and influence our decision making process on what products to buy (or not buy) every day.

Can They Compare?

Branding adorns the packaging of the foods we eat, the cars that we drive, and the clothes that we wear. Speaking of athletic apparel, I’m asking myself if Athletes Collective can compete in the midst of companies like Nike, Under Armour, and Adidas, along with a host of other companies that design and sell apparel that is – unsurprisingly – branded.

On the shop page of the Athletes Collective website, this text readily stands out: “Because you’re an athlete, not a walking billboard.” I’ll be the first to admit that I have been a “walking billboard” for companies at one point or another. My years as a teenager were defined by Aeropostale and American Eagle and Banana Republic. As to running, I trained for much of 2014 for a December marathon, and I discovered that the Adios Boost, a racing flat by Adidas, would be my shoe of choice for those daunting 26.2 miles. The branding journey was beginning with a shoe, and other products would follow.

Dressing for Success

Since I had lofty expectations for the finish time, I decided to dress for success by purchasing an Adidas singlet, a pair of shorts and socks, leg sleeves and arm sleeves, and a thermal cap and gloves. Though I didn’t meet my time goal that day, I ran a respectable finish time and have no doubt that the running division of Adidas would be highly approving of my ensemble at the race. In short, I was a walking billboard for Adidas. I had Adidas gear on from head to toe.

Prior to the marathon last year, I usually cobbled together a hodgepodge of brands for prior races. In fact, training runs also follow this approach as I tend to pull old race finisher shirts from the drawer as I complete the day’s run. I don’t seem to care much about how I look as the colors of my athletic apparel usually mismatch.

Maybe this is what the Athletes Collective has in mind with their line of clothing – a lack of interest for the presence of a logo but a strong emphasis on feeling good about the finish of a solid run. I applaud their efforts and hope that they meet with success in the upcoming years as they enter a crowded marketplace as companies compete for the interest (and corresponding dollars) of runners.

Comfort over Fashion

Whether a runner has an affinity for a brand (e.g. Saucony, Brooks, or Asics) or opts to pursue unbranded clothing from the likes of Athletes Collective or similar companies that may be taking this same approach, the bottom line is this: comfort is king. Personally, I believe that comfortable running apparel is lightweight, functional, visible to others, and soft to the touch. The best way to discover this is to try a garment on and gauge it for comfort and fit. Does it feel good? There are lots of brands and lots of styles and lots of colors to discover, and the pairings are seemingly limitless.

Does having a logo matter? The Athletes Collective believes that the answer to this question is no, but I foresee no shortage of the Nike Swoosh around the gym or at local races across the United States and the world. This goes for Adidas and Under Armour and Reebok and even Puma. I’ll probably pull out my Nike shirt in the next day or so as I sock away some miles. I ran in some Pearl Izumi apparel and one of their shoes at a recent race. I’m not a walking billboard though – I’m a running billboard.

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