Why Heist is missing the point on uncomfortable undies
If you’re in Instagram and are at all interested in underwear, you may have seen Heist’s campaign for their soon to be launched new range. Best known for their tights that don’t roll down or dig in, Heist are now expanding their offering to include what they call ‘bodywear’, and they’re doing a good job of creating some buzz around the launch by channeling a collective loathing of uncomfortable underwear in a couple of different ways. The coming soon page on their website doesn’t give much away about what types of garments will be included, but they’re certainly alluding to it with this text:
Shapewear? #NOTHANX. It’s not for us – or for the 1,025 women we spoke to about it. We refuse to squeeze, sweat, or struggle into something that’s not worth it. So we’re doing something about it. Better bodywear is coming.
As reported in The Pool (twice!) in the last couple of weeks, Heists’s campaign on Instagram started with images of skin with impressions that have been left by tight clothing and they went on to share videos of comedians wrestling with shapewear. Both of these articles and the campaign they’re referring to frustrated me enough to begin writing this blog post because, well, I have opinions. I’m going to address the latter point first though, as I have way too much to say on the former.
First things first… shapewear doesn’t work if it’s not tight!!! I mean, how is it going to smooth wobbly bits, lift your bum or nip in your waist if it’s not tight? Magic?! Spanx offer extremely good garments that do their job very well (the shorts I have are very comfortable and don’t ride up or dig in), and if you don’t want to pull on a firm control bodysuit like Celeste Barber is doing in the video below, there are in fact other options – like choosing a different dress, going to the gym regularly, or not giving a fuck about what other people think of your squishy bits. Nobody is forcing you to wear tight shapewear but, if you do choose to, please enjoy the effects and stop whining about how it should be more comfortable.
Which brings me to the other part of the campaign – the rather beautiful photography of imprints on skin left by clothing. The brand says in the caption of their Instagram post below that they “chose to post this photograph […] as the image accurately shows the side effects of bad underwear.” Except it doesn’t, because even well-fitting clothes can leave marks on your skin. The elastic around the top of socks often leaves a dent in my squishy legs, hours after I’ve taken them off. They aren’t bad socks – in fact, they’re good because the elastic means they stay up – but they leave a mark. I mark very easily and get all sorts of indents and impressions on my skin from jeans, skirts, my watch, and even my wedding ring. It’s not that these items don’t fit properly, they just like to show my skin some love. You can’t tell by looking at this photo whether or not that woman’s bra was uncomfortable. You can only find out by asking her.
View this post on Instagram
Thank you to everyone that commented on the last post. We knew there was a chance Instagram would remove the original image – which it now has – but we felt it was a risk worth taking to start a conversation that’s really important to us. We didn’t share it to encourage controversy, we wanted to start a discussion around uncomfortable underwear. After spending time sourcing imagery that would best capture the confinements of underwear – and the marks it leaves on us collectively – we felt this image did just that. We wanted to share something that reflects that feeling when your bra digs in, when pants leave marks on your sides and tummy. We chose to post this photograph by Scout Paré-Phillips (@scout_pp) from a body of work called ‘Impressions’ as the image accurately shows the side effects of bad underwear. You’ll know from our tights that we’re on a mission to change that by bringing innovation to the forefront with new products that work for everyone. We hope that you like what we have in store next, we’re excited to share our new product and campaign imagery with you very soon.
And Heist did plenty of asking, by speaking to over 1,000 women about what they disliked about their underwear and looking at how they could fill a gap in the market. I’ve nothing against their attention grabbing social media campaign per se, but what I do have an issue with is the constant claim by brands – blatantly or, in this case, indirectly – that they’re ‘reinventing’ the bra. You might be making something that is more comfortable for some people, but not all, and comfort is one of many things that we expect from our bras. After all, if comfort was your number one priority then you’d probably choose not to wear a bra at all, or to wear one of the many options that are already available – pretty lace bralettes, cami tops with built in support, or seamfree pull-on bras that you can sleep in.
But comfort is not the only thing a bra is expected to do. The main job of a bra, as opposed to any other garment that covers the breasts, is to provide support. Many women choose underwired bras with seams precisely because they are the only available option which provides the support they need, and so complaining about how underwear is ‘torture’ is slightly missing the point. We all know that high heeled shoes are uncomfortable to wear for long periods of time, and are probably not the best choice if there is a lot of walking or standing involved. However, we choose to wear them because they look great with our outfit and make us feel good. It’s the same for a bra. You might choose a bra that lifts your breasts to exactly the right place, pushes them together for knockout cleavage, or that creates a full rounded shape that you like. To expect a bra to be able to do that without any structural engineering shows very little knowledge of how bras actually work.
The majority of the weight of the bust should be supported by the band of your bra (80%) with the straps taking the rest (20%) so there is no way a bra can actually support a lot of breast tissue without being like a firm hug for your rib cage. Some of us have skin that marks relatively easily and so removing a bra at the end of the day can leave red indentations in the skin but, if the bra is well fitting, these shouldn’t really hurt. However, not everyone needs/wants that level of support and, as I mentioned before, there are plenty of options for those who don’t. Criticising the bra as a generic garment for being painful to wear is about as pointless as saying that all shoes hurt. I once complimented a rather dapper colleague on her impeccable suit and brogues, but she complained that the shoes hurt (despite being flat) as she usually only ever wears trainers. Comfort is relative.
I very much doubt that what gets revealed at the end of this campaign will be revolutionary but I find it frustrating when fashion writers believe the hype and suggest that it might be. That a brand might be reinventing the bra or creating some miraculous slimming device that slips on easily yet also smooths out every lump and bump. What Heist are actually creating with their mysterious new ‘bodywear’ range is more options for women who don’t like the current ones. But, of course, that doesn’t make for such a good marketing campaign.