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Meet The Female Fighter Building A Better Boxing Glove For “Badass Women”

by Sarah Stankorb

May 3, 2016
Competitive boxer Alex Arrache in Society Nine gear

It was 1972 when Title IX was signed into law, declaring that girls couldn’t be excluded from school sports based on gender alone. Back then, the No. 1 song was “The Candy Man” by Sammy Davis, Jr. (featured in the Gene Wilder classic Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory), and the Sears catalogue put forth a hooded, polyester, floor-length red gown as a viable beachwear option.

Though it may seem like times have changed, it was just last month that U.S. women’s World Cup champion soccer players sued for equal pay. Women’s sports still receive less coverage than men’s. (A lot less.) And the gear? It’s frequently subpar—even dangerous.

Lynn Le, Founder, Society Nine

That’s one of the first things Lynn Le, a former dancer turned combat fighter based in Portland, figured out when she started to train in boxing, Muay Thai, and the Israeli mixed martial art Krav Maga. According to Le, the only gloves available to her and other women combat fighters in her community were shrunken models of men’s gear, ineptly sized to women’s proportions, and often colored pink. Plus, smaller women often found they needed to resort to wearing kids’ gear, which wasn’t built to take the abuse that occurs in intense adult fighting.

I beat the crap out of those gloves and quite frankly, my hands were numb. They were not good because they were not supportive enough.

Studies have shown that women’s different bodies mean they require different athletic equipment than men. And that was a big consideration for Le when she launched her new apparel company “for badass women,” Society Nine, via Kickstarter last year. The name is a riff on Title IX; the line of gear and apparel is catered to the needs of women combat fighters. The first product? A woman’s boxing glove that wasn’t pink—and, more importantly, would better protect women fighters in the ring.

Before they produced that glove, Le and her designer, Rafael Montes (a boxing trainer who previously designed equipment for the U.S. military), met with a hundred women fighters to find out what they hated and loved about their gloves. Then they measured their hands and got to work. 

The first design failed. Le trained with an early prototype herself and remembers, “I beat the crap out of those gloves and quite frankly, my hands were numb. They were not good because they were not supportive enough.”

Lynn Le in Society Nine MMA gloves

I started talking to Le about Society Nine over a year ago, around the time of the Kickstarter campaign, and checked in periodically. There were production delays on the factory side, but Le admits that those early gloves exhibited subpar performance, and her dissatisfaction with the prototype added to the waylay. As Le says, “I'm not putting a purchase order in for 500 units of these because I can’t go to bed knowing some customer is going to feel same thing.”

Eventually, the gloves were improved and tested until deemed up to snuff. The final product sold today was recently approved for competition by the Nevada State Athletic Commission." Society Nine’s investor success story was recently featured on the Oxygen channel show Quit Your Day Job, funders initially questioned whether the brand could appeal to more than just a niche community of women fighters. (That “niche” community is 17.5 million strong worldwide, by the way, and growing every day thanks in part to pop culture icons like Ronda Rousey or Holly Holm.) 

Sure, it might be a stretch to believe that athletic wear could magically make it possible for women everywhere to tap into their inner warrior, just because it features a shattered glass design (I suppose the thinking goes that if you’re going to shatter glass ceilings, you might need to protect your knuckles?). Perhaps it’s enough, and maybe even a step up, for Society Nine to make gear that women in high-endurance sports can safely use—less about showing off your tight buns than flexibility and comfort.

But like a lot of fashion, athletic wear is aspirational. As kids, those lucky enough to score a pair of Air Jordans wore them because it made them feel like they could fly, or at least might be able to dunk, someday. We buy new track shoes hoping we’ll stick to a new jogging habit. And those of us who work out regularly or otherwise actively engage in sports do so with the intention to constantly improve, to be better, stronger.

For a generation of women taught to play (and fight) with that ethic in mind, perhaps a line of clothes that recognizes our abilities and celebrates the fight—the fights we wage to better ourselves and to be taken seriously as athletes—may be one that succeeds in meeting women where they are, and who they are fighting to become.

Competitive boxer Alex Arrache in Society Nine gear

Images courtesy Society Nine

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Meet The Female Fighter Building A Better Boxing Glove For “Badass Women”