Pole is a Lifestyle !
Part 1 of a 3 part series
I am constantly asked questions about our business and what Bad Kitty is, what we do, how we are different etc. I found that it was next to impossible to explain our company without first explaining what Pole is. My common answer these days is that Bad Kitty is a next generation lifestyle brand built around Pole with Apparel at our core. Sounds good right ;-) However, about a month ago when posing this answer to an inquisitive mind, I was told that “pole is not a lifestyle, skateboarding or surfing are lifestyles”, I carefully explained how similar Pole is to these 2 sports, gained a new pole fan, and then decided to write down and share my thoughts on the topic.
Lifestyle: (n) A way of life or style of living that reflects the attitudes and values of a person or group (www.thefreedictionary.com).
First it is important to note that an individual can be a part of multiple lifestyles. For example, being married and living in the suburbs is a broad cultural lifestyle as is being single and living in the city. Hip Hop, Skateboarding, Surfing, Snowboarding are subcultural lifestyles as examples.
Pole is similar in some fashion to each of the above, and Pole enthusiasts can learn alot from each of these sub-cultural lifestyles and how they grew. Lets start with Rap Music and the Hip Hop lifestyle. I was in High School between 1983-1987, what I like to call the dawn of Hip Hop, it had been around a while, but was just starting to move from underground to mainstream. I lived in the City of Boston and we had access to all the New York Rap music via our proximity, local shows, college radio and friends/family. We were very much into Hip Hop and we started emulating and dressing like hip hop artists with adidas shell toe sneakers (which I still wear to this day), running suits, kangol hats etc. We stood out in a crowd, used to break dance in the street and loved everything about it. But we were the “early adopters”, we “got it” it was different than anything we had ever seen or heard and it was ours. However, that wasn’t the case with record companies, radio stations, labels, businesses, night clubs, record stores and especially parents. In fact, when reading about the pioneers of Hip Hop you read stories about how everyone told them to tone it down, lose the gold chains, lighten up the language etc. But people like Russell Simmons (founder of Def Jam & Phat Farm) knew that would kill it, that the “powers that be” were telling them to be R&B artists not Rap artists, pioneers like Simmons let the artists define what Hip Hop was and refused to change, instead they did it themselves by creating fans and staying true to who they were.
It is important to understand that at time, the concept of a DJ and 2 guys “talking” into a microphone was first laughed at and ridiculed by about anyone with an opinion. But from this, new brands were built around Hip Hop, other brands discovered the lifestyle and created products for it, Rap got better, went mainstream and today it influences almost everything we see or do in some way or another. Before Rap fought its acceptance battle Rock & Roll had its days of denial and before them was Jazz.
Watch the documentary “Dog Town & Z boys” and you can see what skateboarding was and how it got to where it is today. Skateboarders, after all, where just a bunch of “stoners destroying public property” their events had 100‘s of attendees, the thought of being a “Professional Skateboarder” was comical at best...It was a 2x4 with wheels screwed on it...Today...not so funny anymore...Skateboarders have pushed the envelope and advanced the sport to a level of jaw dropping entertainment and competition with celebrities from the “Skater World” now everywhere. The tricks, the skill and performances are amazing and are now regularly factored into concerts, live events, music videos, etc etc. Tony Hawk is a household name and became a gajillionaire in the process while every kid was out buying a skateboard.
When the press didn’t cover skateboarding, skateboarding created its own magazines and newsletters, promoted its own talent to others who “got it”. Next came bigger events supported by the companies that made products for them like Vans and the different board and wheel companies and the rest is history. Skateboarding is now a lifestyle, a multi billion dollar industry with major influence in fashion, music and technology. Lifestyles come from people doing what they LOVE and finding each other over and over.
Snowboarding was once NOT allowed on ski mountains. Ski resorts HATED snow boarders as did many traditional Skiers. But after a ton of determined boarders, passionate fans and innovative companies kept at it, we have Gold Medalist and American Superstar/Hero Shaun White! Shaun has long red hair, wears baggy pants, and defies gravity but he is also as good, if not better on a Skateboard than he is on a snow board; thus making him a Dual (sub-genre) Sport Athlete and one of the most famous people on the planet. Shaun White is the result of a lifestyle, he was introduced to both sports at a young age by others who were either pioneers or early adopters, he emulated those that came before him, understood the essence of the sports and advanced it to never before seen levels.
You have to be a certain type of person to skate, surf or snow board, you need to have guts, determination and a huge desire to learn with alot of bumps and bruises along the way.
I see the all same things in Pole ! I see Passionate participants, determined competitors, Innovation in the sport, Mind Blowing Tricks, amazing entertainment, growth in studios, Innovative products, bigger events...the list goes on and on. Bad Kitty now has 20,000 fans on our facebook page, I am too busy to count, but would estimate that 80% of them have a pole or something pole related in their profile picture. That says something about their love of Pole. I have met 1000’s of new people through Pole, hundreds of Business owners and hundreds of athletes. We all come from different backgrounds, we are old and young, male and female, single and married, with children and without, we come together from all over the globe and gather around a pole and we have a blast ! We entertain each other, we gasp in awe and in suspense, we emulate and admire, we learn and share. If that’s not a lifestyle I don’t know what is.
So the next time you think of Pole think of it as a lifestyle and not a workout, Think about how you got involved and how it has changed you, perhaps you are in better shape, maybe more confident, less bored, more entertained or maybe it’s that you have met a bunch of people that seem to “get you” better than others and that anomaly seems to be becoming more normal. You discovered something that you enjoy and in doing so have met a bunch of people with a similar passion and in most cases the similarities don't end there.
Pole is still in its infancy and is still being defined, let it define itself, it is not ONE thing to one group but rather many things to many people.
Consider for a moment what a bicycle is ? A bike can be a means of transportation, it can be exercise, you can race bikes like Lance Armstrong or do incredible tricks like Mike Miller (watch here) it can be a hobby, a business, a passion or all of the above. In many ways Pole is similar, You can use it as exercise, it can be a hobby, a release, a performance, a competition, a career or a toy.
Don't worry that Pole is new and misunderstood, has negative associations with it or is not mainstream. Just ignore the critics and do what makes you happy... embrace the lifestyle...WE GET YOU as do many others around the globe.
Watch the below video of Flying Laura...Pole is a Lifestyle
Quick preview of DogTown and Z boys