As Recently as 1976, the Sports Bra Didn't Exist

Happy 40th birthday to the sports bra
By Michael Harthorne,  Newser Staff
Posted Sep 30, 2017 2:18 PM CDT
As Recently as 1976, the Sports Bra Didn't Exist
The sports bra turns 40 this year.   (Getty Images/James Whitaker)

"Everyone has their stories of what they did," Hinda Miller tells NPR. "I used to use two bras." The sports bra—invented by University of Vermont staffers Miller, Lisa Lindahl, and Polly Smith in 1977—celebrates its 40th anniversary this year. Miller had started jogging but didn't know how to handle the painful bouncing of her breasts. Lindahl was having a similar problem and went to Smith, who made costumes for the university's theater department. The three women put their heads together on building a better bra, eventually finding inspiration when Lindahl's joking husband put two jock straps around his chest.

The women bought two unused jock straps, and the "Jogbra" was born. "The waist band became our rib band," Miller says. "We crossed the straps in the back because we didn't want them to fall, and it went over our head. And that was it." Now sports bras are a $7 billion industry and integral to the rise of female athletes. "These things may seem small, but they lower the barrier for women’s participation in sports," the Mary Sue says of the sports bra and other athletic gear for women. "I couldn't play without my cleats, and I wouldn't and couldn't play without my sports bra," Brandi Chastain tells NPR. And the former professional soccer player knows a thing or two about sports bras. (More sports bra stories.)

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