A look back through the 40-year history of the sports bra.
You know your workout just wouldn’t be the same (heck, it might not even be possible) without your favorite sports bra. Some women even consider a sports bra their most crucial piece of exercise equipment. Which makes it all the more astounding that the sports bra was invented just 40 years ago.
Of course, that doesn’t mean women weren’t active before then. But breasts, especially large ones, undoubtedly were more in the way, and female athletes a lot less comfortable. The idea for the sports bra wasn’t exactly new: Women in ancient civilizations are thought to have bound their breasts with leather, and sporty types in the 1800s used “health corsets,” which were less rigid than the traditional versions but still sound pretty horrible to us.
In this video, we take you through history to follow the evolution of the modern-day sports bra. We kick things off in 1977, with a trio of women who collaborated on the very first primitive version of the sports bra: made from two jock straps sewn together. They jokingly called their invention the “jockbra,” which eventually became the “Jogbra.”
The sports bra may never have become the essential garment that it is today without the help of Title IX, the federal law requiring equality between the sexes in education and sports. Title IX meant more girls and women had opportunities to get involved in athletics, so demand for the right gear skyrocketed. Jogbra racked up $500,000 in sales by 1979.
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It wasn’t until two decades later, though, that the sports bra got its time in the sun–literally. In 1999, soccer’s Brandi Chastain scored the winning penalty kick in the Women’s World Cup against China and triumphantly ripped off her shirt. The now-iconic photo of Chastain’s joyous, carefree celebration commemorates a defining moment for sports bras–they were to be seen, not hidden, and Chastain’s big reveal led to major design upgrades from sports bra manufacturers.
Sports bras still aren’t perfect–in fact, researchers continue to study the ways breasts move in hopes of creating smarter, more supportive sports bras. But this video shows that there’s been a lot of progress.