In middle school, every girl I knew wore two bras at once during P.E. None of us really knew how bras worked, let alone what sports bras were or how to wear them. For us, sports bras were readily available, regardless of our ignorance of their usefulness. They are a crucial part of many wardrobes. Whether they are used for comfort, sport or both, sports bras have enabled countless athletes to pursue their sports while being literally and physically supported. And we all have three wonderful women to thank for such a revolutionary garment.
Hinda Miller took up jogging as a first-year in college in 1977. She, like many others before and after her, decided to utilize the flimsy two-bra system to help her pursuit of fitness. Other women on campus also had noticed this problem. Lisa Lindahl and Polly Smith teamed up with Miller to create the first sports bra, the Jogbra. Lindahl and Smith used their sewing background to guide the design of the bra. Miller took notes as each prototype was tested. However, each new design failed. It wasn’t until Lindahl saw her then-husband with two jockstraps slung over his shoulder that the team created their first successful sports bra, made from two jockstraps crossed in the back. The following years and decades of sports bras have been based on this initial design.
For those who do not know, breasts pretty much move in every single direction and are deceivingly heavy. It’s hard to even conceive that at one point there was not any specialized garment for those, especially women, who wished to participate in sports. Wearing a bra that is not specifically a sports bra when attempting to do anything remotely sports-related is a trial. I can’t really describe the sensation other than true and utter discomfort, especially if you have a larger chest. Having the ability to walk into virtually any store and find so many styles and sizes of sports bras brings with it a special type of freedom.
In those same middle school years, I distinctly remember seeing the iconic picture of Brandi Chastain, the U.S. Women’s Soccer player, yelling in triumph of the team’s 1999 World Cup win, her shirt taken off in joy revealing a simple black sports bra. Chastain later said that in the same way she couldn’t play without cleats, she could not play without a sports bra. So, this year, the 40th anniversary of the sports bra, be like Brandi Chastain: take your shirt off, show off that wonderful sports bra, go kick some ass and thank your chosen divine power that you do not have to wear two jockstraps instead.
Photo courtesy of USA Today.