Ah, the various pains of having a period. There’s the unavoidable side effects of cramps, mood swings, back pains. Then there’s various cultural stigmatisation around the world, from period-shaming and lack of education to silencing. From a young age, the experience is, let’s just say, unpleasant. For those playing sports though, there’s an added layer of complication. Activewear hardly accounts for menstruation, either making physical activity highly uncomfortable or putting people who menstruate off sports entirely.
Now, though, the world of athleisure wants to account for this monthly tribulation. Adidas is leading the charge, launching a new, period-proof product. The collection’s name, Stay in Play, is a nod to a study Adidas cited as motivation to create the line: globally, one in four people who menstruate stop participating in sports during growing years. The reason is largely due to the fear of leaking.
“Our ambition with this product is to keep more people in sport by giving them the confidence to train on their period,” says Kim Buerger, Adidas’ senior product manager for women’s apparel.
In preparation for the line, Adidas conducted extensive research, including surveying 14,000 athletes around the UK. For those who have a coach, 81.5% said the topic of periods has never been addressed. A larger 82.3% said that they never encountered any education regarding menstruation while playing sports.
IMAGE | ADIDAS
The fabric and final product took two years to produce. Three layers are ensured for ultimate protection, including a wicking layer, one to prevent leaks and a third allowing for absorption. Yet, the company promises ultra thin, lightweight fabrics, best to replace one-tampon or one-pad usage. The line, made with recycled fabrics with sustainability in mind, will feature leggings and shorts, suitable for any sort of athletic activity during the time of the month. “It’s really that additional layer of security and confidence that we are bringing to the market with this product innovation,” Buerger says. The range was created to improve conditions for girls and women, but the brand insisted that the messaging and garments be gender-inclusive. Buerger says its a “fairly unisex looking product”, made for “everyone who menstruates. The stigma surrounding period-related discourse is another obstacle Adidas hopes to overcome. This ambition is cinched with their lesson plan, made to be used in schools, and created in collaboration with Dr Georgie Brunivels, director of sports science at athletic analytics company Orreco.
“It is great to see that the landscape for girls and women in sport is progressing, however it is evident that despite this, the menstrual cycle is still an area that is of embarrassment, and as a result is typically neglected and ignored,” Brunivels said. “Given the impact that the menstrual cycle can have on participation and overall quality of life, this must change. Education will enable progressive discussion, helping to break down barriers associated with physical activity and the menstrual cycle.”
While brands such as Thinx and Modibodi have tackled menstruation in sports, Adidas is the first major sportswear brand to do so. This is possibly the final push for the activewear world to follow suit. Fashion forecasters have already predicted that period-proofing will be an essential for athleisure, In 2020, the market for period-proof underwear was projected to reach USD$1.3 billion by 2026.