We created the Strong Athletic and Fat shirt after a request came in from Major Chaos, aka Wendy Marois, from Maine Roller Derby. In her email, Wendy said, "I would love to be able to to represent the strong athletic fat girls out here in the Derby world. This is a word that I have a very long hard history and struggle with. As a child it would hit me like a brick and no less painful, as a teen it was a word that I'd never dare let pass my lips like a curse and cringe when it was sent my way but as a grown ass woman finally this is no longer a word I fear. I know I'm not alone and I'm proud of what this big, strong, body of mine has been able to do in the last several decades, no more shame. Roller Derby has proven to me time and time again that I can use what God gave me and I am worthy of being seen as an athlete regardless of what has been shoved down our throats, because I. Am. An. Athlete! Whatever way you may choose to phrase it I will rock it proud."
We were stoked when this email came in and in agreement that this needed to exist. The only thing that kept us from creating this design immediately was that we were having a hard time finding apparel to print on that was truly body size inclusive, and we weren't going to make this design until we were truly body-inclusive in the clothing that we carried. In the t-shirt industry clothing is sold by weight. Typically a wholesaler will sell items under 4 oz. for a certain amount and then as more material is needed to create the item, the cost of the item goes up. This creates a strange link to body inclusive fashion even more because many wholesale companies choose not to carry sizes that cost more and most companies don't even make clothing for people that wear beyond a 2XL. This statement basically says that people don't come in sizes larger than a 2XL, which is nonsense and a lie. Strong Athletic went with the status quo for the first 3 years of our company's existence and always felt awful when we couldn't accommodate a person's body with our t-shirts. We were sending out a weird mixed-message, "Strong Athletic is for everyone, but there's a chance you can't wear our shirts, because they might not fit you. Sorry." This apology possibly understandable when we were just getting started and had no money or knowledge of how to run a t-shirt company, but it wouldn't be okay now. Moving forward, our goal for 2020 is to carry all of our designs in sizes XS-4XL with some designs going to 6XL. To do this, we will need to invest in having shirts created for our company which will cost money and take time, but it's an investment we want to make. Many of the designs we adore are not made in sizes larger than 2XL, so there is a chance we will phase out some of those products for the more important goal of being more size inclusive.
While in the process of designing this shirt and also deciding if it would say "Strong Athletic Fat" or "Strong Athletic & Fat" we met Caitlin Schultheis and Eleni Burd of Chub Club, a Fat-Positive Clothing Brand and Collective. We already knew that we were going to make this design, but thought it would be more impactful to do so with another company that had set out to specifically highlight all of the amazing fat athletes that there are in the world. As Caitlin and Eleni said to me when we met, "fat is our favorite f-word."
Strong Athletic has never considered the words Strong or Athletic to have to do with body size. We're turned off by the idea that you must "look" a certain way to be an athlete. The moment a person plays sports, or is in the spectrum of sports, they are an athlete. The moment a person chooses to identify as an athlete or as the word strong, they are those things. Athleticism is not only for some type of sports-elite. It is an empowering word that is for all of us.
The athlete is in this photo is Alex Evans, aka Bruiseberry Pie from Vancouver Murder and Canada Roller Derby