Hours after the RompHim's Kickstarter debut, the internet was alive with the sound of hot and lukewarm takes alike.
There were of course the haters (us included), hyperbolizing the feelings of many on Twitter. "The Bro Romper Exists and I Don't Want to Live on This Planet Anymore," wrote Esquire. "We Cannot Stand Idly By and Let the RompHim Happen," declared Elle.
But not everybody was pressed. "Sure, let men experience the hell that is wearing a romper all day," wrote Mashable. There were even unabashed lovers. "Rompers For Dudes Are Here And TBH I Don't Hate Them," BuzzFeed offered.
My own Facebook status turned into a heated discussion both pro and anti, with some saying "it should be illegal for straights to wear these" and others vehemently in favor of the romp. "The day they offer a navy it's mine," offered another.
Regardless of where you fall on the "to romp or not to romp" continuum, it was clear this garment had struck a distinct nerve. More importantly, it was a bonafide hit. As of this writing, the Kickstarter, two days out, has raised 700% of their modest $10k goal.
But of course, with great conversation comes great scrutiny. There was immediate pushback from gay men, many of whom felt that the team behind the RompHim, ACED Design, was co-opting a look worn by gay men for decades. Then there was the sizing issue. Despite claiming they had come up with a "new approach to sizing," the chart seen on the Kickstarter page showed only sizes XS-L.
I decided to reach out to the team behind ACED to discuss these issues as well as the question of whether the romper was an inherently gendered product. Their answers, to my surprise, were remarkably considered, and quickly turned my initial saltiness into newfound affection.
Mic: Were you surprised by the immediate and feverish response?
ACED Design: We had a feeling that the product might be... polarizing. Part of what we want to do with our brand (ACED) is to create statement pieces that allow people to express themselves. ... We knew the product was something we would wear, and we had gotten positive initial feedback from a wide range of people who tested it out, but we really didn't foresee it being so popular on day one.
There's been a lot of pushback from gay men who feel like there is a case of mild appropriation happening. What is your response to this?
AD: We recognize that many hetero male style trends originate in womenswear or in gay fashion and then eventually become "fashionable" for straight men. We've always been fans of rompers, worn by women or men, but struggled to find affordable options that fit a wide range of male body types — though we do respect the vision of everyone who has designed and worn male-oriented rompers that came before ours.
For what it's worth, we have had some very positive feedback from gay men and certainly kept them in mind when designing the product due to their openness to pioneering unconventional menswear trends.
What do you say to those that take issue with the gendering of a garment that can in actuality be worn by anyone regardless of gender?
AD: I think it depends whether you're talking about the garment's design or its name. From a design perspective, I think the gendering was purely practical — we added a zipper fly and expanded sizing, which was done for purely anatomical reasons.
Regarding the name: I think that's fair criticism. Ideally, rompers and other garments would be made for all body types and wouldn't be as gendered as they currently are. However, there is still a stigma around hetero men wearing clothing that is traditionally seen as "female." We thought if we lowered the barrier to trying out an item of (traditional) womenswear by giving it a silly name that indicated it was designed with men in mind, some men might be more willing to jump out of their comfort zones. In the end, we felt like that would be a step in the right direction.
You say you have a "new approach to sizing," but only offer up to a 36" waist (the average American male is a 39"). Is this truly body positive? Any thoughts on expanding the sizes?
AD: At first we offered only XS-L sizing because the people we had talked to when testing out the product (mainly at music festivals and around Chicago) fit primarily between those sizes. However, since the launch, we have gotten a lot of feedback from men outside those sizes that they would love to wear a romper as well. We thought this was great, and given that response, we are updating our Kickstarter later today to offer an XL size as well.
You surpassed your fundraising goal in hours. What will you do with that over 700% excess of funds?
AD: We were pleasantly surprised to see such an overwhelming response from our backers. We're planning to use any excess funds to pay for the development and production of different styles and garments that will continue to allow men to express themselves through clothing.