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1994: Rumblings

Welcome to August 1994. There’s some peak Gen X nostalgia going on here. Lisa Loeb’s Stay was like that friend's friend sleeping on your couch that your roommate said would only stay for a couple days and now she’s been there for an entire month. Green Day was mud-fighting with the audience at Woodstock 94. Heroin chic models were swallowed whole by their Doc Martens and oversized wide leg JNCO jeans. Missy 'The Missile' Giove and her piranha skeleton necklace where dominating downhill mountain biking; and the barbarian grunge invasion continued unabated. 


For today’s Outdoor History, we’re trudging up a seemingly innocuous little tidbit called, wait for it, Tidbits. This was an occasional column in SNEWS devoted to items of interest they wanted to pass on to their audience.


However, this installment is particularly interesting for a couple reasons. First is the announcement of an industry women’s event at the upcoming Outdoor Retailer. 

Merrell's Carolyn Cooke thinks it's about time women who are in decision making roles in the outdoor industry got together to meet one another. "Many of us have common interests, professional issues and agendas, as well as a clear need to network among ourselves.”

This is two full years before the founding of the groundbreaking Outdoor Industries Women’s Coalition, that would later rebrand itself as Camber Outdoors in 2016. The OIWC not only promoted women's professional development and leadership within the industry, but also echoed larger feminist trends of the time by highlighting the importance of empowerment, visibility, and community support, reinforcing the evolving roles and rights of women in both the outdoor sector and wider society.

These efforts coincided with trends in the Industry toward acknowledging women’s specific needs in outdoor gear and apparel. Brands like The North Face, Patagonia, and Merrell began developing women-specific products that included tailored technical outerwear, footwear built on women’s lasts, and right-sized, adjustable backpacks and sleeping bags, and harness– all enhancing women's participation and comfort in outdoor activities. This era laid the groundwork for the diverse and inclusive outdoor gear available today, marking a pivotal shift towards recognizing and addressing the unique needs of women in outdoor sports and adventures.


And of course, there was the Riot Grrrl movement and sound, which still kicks ass today.


The second nugget is the last mentioned Tidbit, titled Skate Hot.

Our man in the aisles at the NSGA show called in to report that the hottest thing at the show was in-line skates. Apparently, every in-line vendor was swarming with excitement and orders.


Yes, the Rollerblading wave was on its way to the Outdoors, as well as towards an identity change to be better known as in-line skating. This fooled no one but Colin and our dear specialty retailers desperately looking for any extension that could help broaden their customer base.


Kind of like the 90’s version of pickleball. 


Soon, these items would form markdown pyramids of hope on retail floors, right along side telemark ski gear, slap bracelets, and fanny packs. With any luck, this too will be pickleball’s fate.Although fanny packs are back. So who knows, maybe e-in-line skates aren’t far behind?

-David Karstad

The Life And Times Of Outdoor History, by Rock Fight Contributor David Karstad, is available to receive early every week by subscribing to Rock Fight's weekly newsletter, News From The Front. Click Join The Mailing List to sign up today.

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