Sports bras are often made with one breast type in mind. This Adidas campaign, featuring 25 bare breasts, is changing that.
The range of activewear has gone through a positive change in recent years, with size selection and body diversity expanding. We’ve had Nike launch plus-size and modest ranges, ethical brand Girlfriend Collective stocks from XXS to 6XL and period activewear is available to make sports more comfortable for those who bleed.
But there’s still plenty still to change. One such issue: boob diversity. Sports bra ads might be starting to include both the big and the small, but they still have a limited vision of breasts as perky, symmetrical, cleavaged and easily strapped down.
That narrow stereotype is probably why Adidas’ latest campaign is going viral on Instagram. The image shows 25 chests – with a range of sizes, shapes and sagginess that aren’t usually shown in sports bra ads.
It feels like the first campaign that shows the reality of what it is to have boobs. According to Dr. Kirtly Jones, professor of obstetrics and gynecology at the University of Utah, 90% of women have asymmetric breasts, with differences up to 15% between left and right. Then there are those who have sternal gaps, rather than cleavages, saggy boobs, or those that point out rather than up.
It’s always crucial to have access to bras that support you, but in sport and exercise, it’s even more important. It can be painful and distracting to wear something that doesn’t fit properly – gaping upper seams thanks to the fact that our boobs don’t sit high on our chest, or the wrong shaped pads not holding natural boobs in place. Around 80% of women are thought to be wearing the wrong size, too – how often have you taken off your sports bra to find indentation marks left on your skin?
To not see any boobs that resemble theirs is also a huge confidence knock for women. In 2015, research by the University of Portsmouth found that breast concerns were the fourth greatest barrier to physical activity. Seeing images like this by Adidas, who published the post as part of their new collection campaign which features 43 new bra styles, is clearly huge for women, who commented with applause for Adidas.
“Real bodies deserve real representation Thanks for showing ALL of us support on our socials and in our sports,” one person commented. While another added, “Amazing [work] on normalizing the female body all the way & providing the support that our body actually asks for.”
While some bras in the collection go up to a size 4X, which is around a J cup according to Adidas’ size calculator, many commentators rightly pointed out that a lot of the bras in the collection go only go up to a DD – far from inclusive. And we have to ask why, for a brand that has existed for over 70 years, it taken until 2022 for them to fully recognise the individuality of their customers’ bodies?
Plus, the irony of this diverse campaign being dulled by Instagram’s sexist policy against the female nipple isn’t lost on us. In the post, the nipples are coloured in with nude tones to get around the policy that campaigners have been fighting for years.
“We can’t share your post Instagram doesn’t allow it. They removed it from my stories. Great initiative, you are inspiring,” commented one frustrated viewer. “I already see instagram panicking on this post,” said another.
For now, we want to celebrate the fact that all boobs are being welcomed into the world of exercise. And anything that helps more women feel represented and confident enough to start moving is a win for us.
Chloe Gray is the senior writer for stylist.co.uk's fitness brand Strong Women. When she's not writing or lifting weights, she's most likely found practicing handstands, sipping a gin and tonic or eating peanut butter straight out of the jar (not all at the same time).