Gird Your Loins! Jockstraps are Still Holding Up after 150 Years

Leanne Italie READ TIME: 5 MIN.

This image released by BIKE Athletic shows jockstraps at a showroom in New York on March 6, 2024.
Source: Andrew Werner Photography for BIKE Athletic via AP


Like so much in fashion, the jockstrap had obvious antecedents (the medieval codpiece among them), said Valerie Steele, director and chief curator of The Museum at the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York.

"Once it came in, it had the potential to become an eroticized piece of male underwear, which was unusual because it was really women's underwear, predominantly, that became eroticized because women were thought of as, you know, THE sex and things were seen from the sort of heterosexual male viewpoint," she said.

"But this period, in the late 19th century when the jockstrap was supposedly invented, was right when women's lingerie was becoming much more elaborate," Steele added.

Working out of Chicago, inventor Bennett set out to solve a problem in Boston for its so-called "bicycle jockeys" when they rode on the city's uneven streets. In that day, "loose britches" were the norm, offering little in the way of support.

From there, the lowly jockstrap found massive success as the men's underwear industry grew.

The slip-in cup came later, as the little piece of fabric and elastic moved into the sports world, around the 1920s. Now, some compression shorts also can accommodate a cup, and help with chafing.

"I guess the biggest change is when I started playing, we had steel cups. In fact, I still have a couple of those around the house and my grandkids didn't know what they were. Now they have made things a lot more comfortable for the players," said baseball's Bruce Bochy, the Texas Rangers manager who guided his team to a World Series championship last year.

Nostalgia is in play, Angelchik said.

"When I first bought the brand, I talked to a lot of my cousins and friends, guys that were in their 50s, 60s, some of them in their 70s. I was shocked how many of these guys kept their jockstraps from high school and college, and still had them in a drawer or somewhere in a box," he said.

The variations of jockstraps today are endless, said Timoteo Ocampo, a Los Angeles-based designer who sells them online and in boutiques around the globe. His company, Timoteo, puts out men's underwear, swimwear and other clothing.

"There's detachable fronts, zipper fronts, colors," he said. "Some companies are doing diamond chains on their jockstraps. ... People get very creative. It's more personal and showing who they are and being proud of that."

This image released by BIKE Athletic shows a jockstrap displayed at a showroom in New York on March 6, 2024.
Source: Andrew Werner Photography for BIKE Athletic via AP


Mark Mackillop, an actor-singer-dancer in New York, is a jockstrap enthusiast. In 10 years, he has raised nearly $400,000 for Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS, a nonprofit serving those in need in the theater industry around the U.S.

He's done that primarily through the auctioning of underwear, jockstraps included, for the organization's annual Broadway Bares. Broadway Bares is a burlesque-esque show that features, you guessed it, jockstraps, along with other gear and lots of peekaboo nudity. Mackillop, who is gay and the show's top fundraiser, also performs in it, wearing a jockstrap.

"Things like Kristen Stewart wearing a jockstrap are making them more mainstream," he said. "But I know gay men are the reason that there is a jockstrap industry in the underwear world today."

Bike Athletic is the largest sponsor of the Atlanta Bucks, a rugby team that plays under the International Gay Rugby umbrella. Another sponsor is the Eagle bar in Atlanta, where there are frequent jock events.

"There's definitely an integral history between Bike and the gay community," said the team's president, Jonathan Standish, who's also a player. Do he and his teammates prefer jockstraps?

"A lot of people, me included, will do both. We wear jockstraps as a way to have support without having too much fabric, and put compression shorts over to take care of chafing. I have thick thighs," he laughed.


Freelancer Jack Thompson in Surprise, Arizona, contributed to this story.

by Leanne Italie

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