It’s becoming sexier, the Sports Bra. But its history is not so elegant, as innovative:
By 1977, Lisa Lindahl had taken up jogging and was fed up with running in her regular underwire bra. The University of Vermont employee was frustrated that her male jogging partner could take off his shirt to cool down, while she was stuck in a bra that slipped off her shoulders and dug into her back as she ran.
Lindahl vented to friend and costume designer Polly Smith that why there something that women could wear to support their breasts without chafing or overheating?
The two along with another costume designer, Hinda Miller, set out to create a solution, but didn’t make much progress until Lindahl’s then-husband grabbed his jockstrap and held it over his chest. He joked that he’d found the solution.
Turns out, he was onto something.
“I put it over my chest and it went right over my breast,” Lindahl, now in her late 60s and living in Charleston, SC, told The New York Post. “I looked at Polly and said, ‘Oh my word!’”
The women sewed two jockstraps together, creating what they called the Jockbra, which was rebranded as the Jogbra. The $16 bra was a revelation: It held breasts in place without metal fixtures or stuffy padding, and the cross-back straps never fell off shoulders.
Lindahl and her partners sold the company to what would become Champion in 1990.
The summer of 2017 marked the 40th anniversary of the invention — and while the sports bra has undoubtedly made technical leaps in the intervening years, its history is a fraught one.
Before the jockbra came into existence, female athletes had been forced to exercise in their regular bras, going so far as to tape the shoulder straps back so they didn’t slip as they ran. Others ran without a bra, leading to uncomfortable catcalls.
Not surprisingly, women embraced the Jogbra, which was sold in sporting goods stores and later advertised in women’s magazines. At the time, the nation had been in the midst of a jogging obsession, and the passing of Title IX in 1972 had given more female students access to participating in sports.
(Lisa Lindahl was smiling with Brandy Chastain’s Soccer celebration antics.)
“It’s amazing how fast sales grew, because there was a pent-up desire for it,” says sports bra science and marketing consultant to Champion LaJean Lawson, Ph.D., who has spent more than 30 years studying and developing sports bras.
‘There is no piece of apparel more difficult to design well than a sports bra.”
Every Woman’s ribcage size is different, breast shapes are different, the breast placement is different, size of shoulders is different, etc. The sports bra originally focused on vertical bounce, but it turns out that breasts bounce horizontally and actually in a figure eight pattern while jogging. Breasts, on the average, weigh 3 pounds and gravity takes its toll, especially while exercising.
Hurrah for the Jogbra! But the newer sports bras need to be doing more.
Thank you to Smithsonian.com, The NY Post and The Daily Mail