In 15 years working in the fitness industry and at least another 100 as a consumer of fitness, I’ve seen one of everything come and go (and come back and go again).
Long before the attitude 'strong is the new skinny' was made popular on a singlet, as a fitness collective we were edging toward this approach in any case.
The launch of BODYPUMP to group fitness studios more than 20 years ago introduced weight training to masses of women. The popularity of Pilates peaked a decade after teaching us that strength training didn’t have to involve picking up and putting down weights.
The explosion of social media after that exposed us to images of strong looking women we’d never seen before in the media.
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Whilst that singlet verbalised the direction we were heading back in the day, what it should have said was: Strong is the new Skinny* on the front with a big disclaimer on the back.
The ambiguity of these words is the reason I believe the message is being re-analysed all these years later; in 2021 we are more woke to putting ourselves or others in a defined box and labelling these boxes 'good' or 'bad'.
In the case of this singlet, strong = Good, and skinny = Bad.
The issue is that we all interpret these five words differently.
I never thought I’d analyse a slogan singlet more in my life. But here we are.
The consensus in my experience is that we agree in theory to the sentiment, but the reality is very different: be strong, but not too strong. Strong, but only in your glutes. Strong, but don’t look like a 'man'.
As a personal trainer, females (always females) say to me, "I don’t want to get big" or ask, "Will this exercise make me big?". At the end of one particular gym session a member asked me, horrified, "What is wrong with my arms?". They were just 'pumped' from the workout and I had to talk her down off the proverbial ledge.