BIBS – “Older” Women in Football & Comfort – October 2021


There are many considerations when being involved in encouraging “older” women to become more active, such as a safe, friendly and fun environment, as well as a non-judgemental space in which to play.

However, there is one extremely important thing, in my opinion, that we should all make sure we accommodate and that is a comfortable bib.  That may not be something that many organisers or coaches think about if they’ve been around for years but it’s one thing that I think about, especially when it comes to “larger” women (like myself) and getting them active, for possibly the first time.

When we first started learning to play football, there weren’t really many “older” women doing the same and we were issued with junior bibs to try and fit into or sometimes larger bibs but not quite large enough.  They were also, primarily, looked after by younger coaches, who were probably not as fussed with how they smelt (as they didn’t have to wear them) and, therefore, they probably didn’t get washed as regularly as we do, now we have our own.

Why are bibs so important and why even write a piece specifically about them?  After 6 ½ years of encouraging “older” women to learn and come back into football, I find myself regularly thinking about how we look after women who aren’t the athletic looking women we see on so many adverts and billboards.  We are real women and as we get older, especially with weight gain a symptom of menopause, we have curves where men don’t, and our “middles” expand in an unfriendly way which is not akin to the average male bib size.  We don’t want to look like we’re wearing a “boob tube” and feel self-conscious while trying to enjoy our activity.  Having worn a bib which doesn’t fit, it’s extremely restricting and uncomfortable and sometimes embarrassing that your bib is showing extra rolls of fat you don’t want accentuated.  Some women who get active for the first time can also feel a bit self-conscious to begin with, so tend to wear layers, which also lends itself to needing a larger bib.

If we are to engage with “older” women and try and encourage them to be active, we must look at the small things which could end up being the bigger barriers to getting women involved.  You may think I’m exaggerating but I’m not.  If I knew I would have to wear a small, tight bib each week because there weren’t larger ones available it would not encourage me to join in every week and in some cases it may be the catalyst for not returning, if I had just joined.   I often used to say I’ll be on the non-bibs side because I knew the bibs wouldn’t be big enough but what if everyone felt like that?  You could have a situation where women were particpating, whilst feeling uncomfortable.

We have, for a few years now, purchased the Nike Sports Bib (below) which was absolutely perfect for what we wanted.

68cm length x 64cm width from under arm to under arm – with stretch available and large arm holes. Comfortable mesh bibs with no restrictions.

Large enough for everyone and not restricting with the seams around the arm holes .  Big enough to fit extra tyres, layers and larger chests, they really do make a difference to how a woman can feel, while playing football.  Which brings me to, actually, sitting down and writing this piece.  I have been looking for a while now to purchase some more and after searching the internet, it appears that the above bibs are either no longer available or in the one place I have found them, they’re out of stock but only in XXS or S sizes.  There were other options available but not that were appealing, due to small arm holes (they affect the tight fitting around the chest) and bibs which were shown as fitting lean athletes or sportsmen and who knows that they would have actually fitted properly.

I found another company who make mesh bibs and they looked not far off so I ordered some.  They arrived (today) and I tried one on: their largest size was still too small compared to the Nike brand and I realised that it should be much easier to just order bibs from somewhere that fit properly, hence finally writing this piece after being disappointed at yet another bib that didn’t fit.  This is not an advert for Nike but an appreciation for a product which has made women comfortable while getting active for the first time or getting back into the game.   In a side note to talking about bibs, I have also spoken to women who now play Women’s Recreational Football about how football shirts (mainly men’s), which women purchase who aren’t the average size, also increase in length, the larger the size.  We don’t get taller the wider we get, we stay the same height so if you buy a shirt in a larger size, you also get the extra material on the length which ends up being too long.  Anyway, that’s another conversation; back to the bibs…..

As we see more women coming into the game, especially into Women’s Recreational Football, which includes running, Walking Football, Soccercise and Futsal, maybe it’s time that manufacturers started looking at the female body a bit later in life and catering for everyone and not just those who fit the “athletic” narrative.  And, it’s not just women who can be larger, with the increase in older men taking up Walking Football, there are men who could also benefit from bibs which are more comfortable to their body shape, too.  Post Covid, we are also trying to encourage more women into activitiy, when they may have not been particularly active during the Lockdowns and if we can’t make them comfortable, will they return?

This situation has been nagging at me for a long time and I think it would be great to team up with a manufacturer who understands and is looking to be forward thinking in their approach to catering for a new influx of “older” women over the next few years, with the upcoming UEFA Women’s EURO 2022 Competition too, inspiring many women who may just say “yes” to becoming active because they not only will feel comfortable in a bib, while they are participating, but they may also encourage others that they are valued because they are catered for.

We say “Sport is for all” so let’s make sure everyone is comfortable enough to participate.