Though Black athletes make up the majority of NBA, WBNA, and NFL players, representation seems to stop there. Despite their presence, very few brands are made by people who look like them. Even worse, many fail to meet the needs of diverse groups. No two athletes have the same hair, body types, or skincare needs. However, there are Black-owned fitness brands that are helping to bridge the gap for every athlete.
Ahead, 10 of the many Black-owned fitness brands that seek to diversify the fitness space with athletic wear for every body.
Being a celebrity does not mean that one can afford to wreck a blowout in the gym, especially considering the damage caused by repeated styling. Actress Nicole Ari Parker sought to fix the hair dilemma, which many women consider a barrier to working out. Parker says that she thought of the idea in 2011, and not long after, the surgeon general Dr. Regina M. Benjamin called on women to stop using their tresses as an excuse to avoid physical activity. Parker explains on her website, "This nationwide call to action inspired me to perfect Gymwrap workout headwraps and finally bring them to you."
Parker has patented her line of headbands and bandanas made with Evapotech heat transferring, moisture-wicking material—which wicks sweat away from the skin, leaving you cool and dry—and you can snap up a solid black version to go with everything in your wardrobe. Also worth noting: The brand also makes face masks.
By creating her line of swim caps in 2016, founder Nomvuyo Treffers sought to fill a void in activewear for the Black community. According to her website, "I'm a mother who was frustrated by not finding a cap that could fit over my long locs and my daughters afro hair." Her South African line of products includes swim caps available in different sizes as well as swim goggles designed to go over braids and afros.
Triathlon racing is a sport that could use more diversity, with less than one percent of participants being Black. It is also among the most cost-prohibitive sports (just the necessary race bike can cost upwards of $1,000) with the average participant making over $100,000 a year. Even more shocking, the average household income for Ironman participants is $247,000—no wonder, considering how quickly equipment and race fees add up.
Soj Jibowu is aware of these barriers (and the lack of diversity), and this, along with his passion for the sport, are what inspired him to create a line of high-quality and accessible products. His mission: "To provide the best products by never sacrificing quality and executing upon innovation. We seek to inspire the spirit and empower the will of every athlete to shatter goals and create a new reality of what is achievable." While you can pay upwards of $200 for bibs and tri suits, many of Jibowu's products are in a price range that could invite more budget-minded athletes to enter triathlons.
Shark Tank alumni and former football players Wale Forrester and Justin Forsett want you to smell fresh no matter how tough the workout. Their individually-wrapped body wipes are FDA-approved to kill germs and provide freshness when a shower isn't an option. However, the hustle doesn't stop there. Forsett explains, "It's a mission more so than a product." The pair provide sports scholarships to underserved youth and wipes and supplies to disaster areas.
Tennis great Venus Williams' Eleven brings vibrance to tennis wear. The line promises, not only do her skirts, visors, and dresses come in an array of styles, but they are made of soft organic cotton and recycled, moisture-wicking fabrics. The line also features picks perfect for the golfer, high-impact sports bras for any sport, and sunscreen for all your indoor and outdoor workouts. Shop the line at Carbon 38, Dick's Sporting Goods, and Ulta.
Powerhandz weighted gloves are designed to improve strength and performance, as well as to aid in rehabilitation for a wide range of physical activities. The gloves are made to make dribbling more difficult and increase awareness of hand positioning for sports like golf, MMA, and baseball. Gloves, as well as dribble sleeves and resistance suits, can be found at Target.
In honor of Black History Month, Sidney Baptista launched PYNRS this month via Kickstarter, and the line is about more than just style. The name pays homage to the New York Pioneer Club, which was founded by three Black men and was one of the first integrated athletic organizations. According to Baptista, "There was a need for products tailored to urban runners and diverse bodies." Each cut of fabric keeps in mind the unique needs of runners, from thicker thighs to curvier hips.The product line caters runners of all sizes, and is made with high quality recycled fabric.
Kareem Cook and Claude Tellis started their nutrition business in an effort to help others reverse the effects of diet-related illnesses, which plagued both of their families. In 2002, the pair started their mission by placing healthy vending machines in schools. In 2012, they acquired the brand Naturade products. Now, their protein powders and nutrition shakes can be found at major retailers including CVS, Walgreens, and Target.
The maker of the SLAP—or the silk-lined cap—Grace Eleyae also creates products that any athlete can appreciate. According to the website, "Our goal is to take the sweat out of your morning routine by offering protective hair accessories that are fashionable and functional."
Grace's products were originally designed to protect hair against friction; she got the idea after enduring an eight-hour road trip through Kenya that led to the hair on the back of her head to break off due to rubbing against the headrest. The same frictional hair loss can actually be caused by headwear, so her scrunchies, baseball caps, and headbands help protect your hair—whether you're in the gym or on the field.
Like many people of color, founder Nancy Twine's entrepreneurial journey began in her grandmother's kitchen. There she helped to craft homemade beauty products, a practice she would return to after moving to New York City in her 20's. This line of quality haircare products cater to all types and textures, and many come in travel size, perfect for your gym bag.
To buy: Briogeo Farewell Frizz Rosarco Milk Leave-In Conditioner, from $9; sephora.com
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