The newsletter Trendwatching.com says women comprise over 50 percent of the US population, but make over 80 percent of the consumer purchasing decisions. In the US, as well as in Canada and worldwide, the number of female do-it-yourselfers is growing rapidly. According to the Canadian newspaper, The Star, 25 percent of Canadians planned to remodel or renovate their homes in 2007, and 50 percent of those fixing them up were women.
Companies like Tomboy Trades (Canada) and Tomboy Tools (a different company in the United States) have latched onto a movement with encouraging growth potential.
Tomboy Tools began in the US in 2000 and held its first “Tool Parties” in 2002. The company expanded to Canada two years later and entered the UK in 2005.
Tomboy Tools focuses largely on tools and offers pink and blue hammers, and a pink “Tomboy Traveler,” a tool bag that includes a selection of basic tools. Tomboy Tools’ approach is different from Tomboy Trades'.
Tomboy Trades Ltd., which concentrates on apparel, got its start in Canada in March 2007. Company founder Marissa McTasney took a course called “Women in Skilled Trades” with the intention of starting her own construction company.
“On the first day of school, we were given a voucher for a pair of boots,” says McTasney on her company’s website. “Half of the women in the course had to buy men’s boots because of availability for women. I asked the sales manager, ‘Where were the pink boots?’ She responded, ‘I get asked all the time.’"
The light bulb clicked on. McTansey saw the potential for not only pink boots, but for an entire line of apparel and merchandise targeting the female construction worker. McTansey chose a graphic logo that depicted silhouettes of two women, one with a saw, one with a hammer. Tomboy Trades was born.
McTansey developed work boots, a hard hat, safety glasses, and a t-shirt tailored to a woman’s figure instead of a man’s, all in pink. But she had to figure out how to sell them. She put all of the items in a pink bucket and delivered it to the executive offices of Home Depot Canada. The president of Home Depot Canada happened to be a woman. She loved the stuff and agreed to carry the apparel in the chain’s online division.
By the end of 2007, the line was one of Home Depot Canada’s most popular, and Tomboy Trades was appearing on shelves in Canadian retailer Zellers. Other retailers are now showing an interest in the products.
Tomboy Trades brands its boots with personality. “Betsy,” the original pink work boot, has now been joined by “Lola” (pale blue), “Stella” (dark red), “Lizzie” (forest green), “Sandy” (tan), and “Frankie” (black). Despite the female names and stylish colors, each pair of boots is designed for demanding work and meets both Canadian and US safety standards. The company sells tool belts, t-shirts, and hard hats in matching colors, along with complementary safety glasses. It’s a complete color-coordinated ensemble for the hard-working woman.
McTansey sees no reason why the rest of the world’s women wouldn’t embrace pink work boots. Tomboy Trades is ambitiously expanding into the United States market, and product availability began in June 2008. However, to avoid confusion with Tomboy Tools, and position the products appropriately to US women, the product line is being re-named “Moxie Trades.”
The company’s new website, claims “Every woman has moxie!” As part of the US launch, the website offers a worldwide “Tradeswomen Directory,” which will list any tradeswoman’s business and contact information without charge. A community forum where customers can offer feedback is also planned.
While the original intent of Tomboy Trades, and now Moxie Trades, was to serve the needs of tradeswomen, the t-shirts and boots are unique enough that they are catching the eye of young women, says the company.
It is worth remembering a certain individual named Levi Strauss who, in 1873, patented “waist overalls” for working men. Later known as jeans, they gave birth to what today has become one of the largest segments of the apparel industry. Not unlike the popularity of jeans, painters’ paints and other workwear, it is conceivable that Tomboy Trades, a.k.a. Moxie Trades, could become fashionable beyond its intended use.
“Betsy” the pink work boot is symbolic of many things. It represents the success of tailoring apparel to meet the needs of women working in a previously male-dominated trade. It also proves that, with a little creative thought and an understanding of your audience, any brand can be made stylish and become influential. And it speaks to the visionary ability of one woman, Marissa McTansey, to start a business in an area that others might have overlooked. You might say Marissa had a lot of moxie.