Interbike, the largest trade only bike expo in the US, has barely made it out of the desert before it finds itself fending off a PR cock-up spawned in part by a pair of socks.
Visitors to the trade show are welcomed with a goodie bag usually packed with promotional material and trinkets from paying show partners. In this year’s goodie bag there was a pair of socks. This is not unusual and it’s been a regular PR trick of sock manufacturers over the years to deposit a single sock in the bag along with instructions to visit the manufacturers stand (booth) to collect the missing item to complete the set. This year however, the design has left some visitors not so much angry as fairly, comprehensively disappointed.
For an industry packed with many individuals and manufacturers actively trying to encourage more women into cycling to redress the long standing male bias, this was a bit of a let down. Enough to spark a blog post from Surly marketing manager Christina Julian that not only expounds on the Interbike #sockgate saga but is an excellent reflection on the current state of sexism within the bike industry at large.
Julian (Jules to work colleagues and friends) describes herself in her official Surly blog bio as, “..a green-card-carrying Canadian raised on the mean streets of Dallas, TX and somehow ended up in the sweet tundra of the USA.“. She describes the sock PR stunt as, “..an antiquated marketing strategy“, going on to explain that, “Pairing your product or service with something or someone described by the herd of humanity as “sexy'” is an easy way to get attention.”
She further highlights that it’s not just this sock company that’s engaging in misguided PR at this year’s Interbike, pointing out that outdoor gear brand Chrome Industries was using topless models to hand out marketing information to trade show visitors around the show halls in Las Vegas. “..using images of women’s bodies to promote your product is not supporting anything but yourself.”, explained Julian.
Why is this such a big issue? It’s just some socks and boobs, isn’t it? To anyone who’s not clear on the reasons Julian explains with personal examples of how she has been treated throughout her career including one instance where she was sexual assaulted following a meeting. “I have been sexually assaulted after a business dinner because the Manager I was meeting with had such a good time he said.”, was one of several instances quoted in her Sockgate blog.
On Twitter #sockgate condemnation was swift.
Danielle Kosecki is Health Editor at Glamour Magazine.
US CX rider Tim Johnson commented on the likely employment status of the person responsible while spawning the hashtag #sockism.
At the time of publishing it’s not clear to us which company is responsible for making the socks although at around 5pm UK time the official account of the Interbike show added an explanation and apology.
All in all not the most edifying of starts to one of the world’s largest bike shows. Keep it here for all your #sockgate updates as they develop.