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Front, side and back view of a jockstrap

A jockstrap (also known as a jock, jock strap, strap, supporter, or athletic supporter) is an undergarment designed for supporting the male genitalia during sports or other vigorous physical activity. A jockstrap consists of a waistband (usually elastic) with a support pouch for the genitalia and two elastic straps affixed to the base of the pouch and to the left and right sides of the waistband at the hip. The pouch, in some varieties, may be fitted with a pocket to hold an impact resistant cup to protect the testicles and/or the penis from injury.



The word jockstrap has purportedly been in use since 1897, a likely contraction of 'jockey strap', as the garment was first designed for bicycle riders, or 'bike jockeys'. The Bike Jockey Strap was the first jockstrap manufactured in America in 1874.[1][2] Jockey itself is the diminutive form of the Scots nickname Jock (for John) as Jackie is for the English nickname Jack. The nicknames Jack and Jackie, Jock and Jockey have been used generically for 'man, fellow, boy, common man'. From the period c.1650-c.1850, 'jock' was used as slang for penis.[3]

The more recent slang term 'jock', meaning an athlete, is traced to 1959 and is itself derived from 'jockstrap'.[3]

See also: Jockey.


Bike jockstrap and packaging, circa 1950

The origin of the modern jockstrap can be traced all the way back to the loincloths worn by ancient Egyptians and the codpieces of the Renaissance, eventually leading to the "modesty girdles" of the 1800s.[4]

The precursor of the jockstrap was a rubberized cotton canvas girdle worn for the sake of modesty by men and boys beneath their worsted wool bathing suits on public beaches during the 1860s. As public sporting events grew in popularity, athletes began to wear the rubberized canvas girdle under their tights and uniforms, in order to avoid charges of corrupting public morals with displays of their covered but uncontained genitalia. In 1867, a Chicago sports team refused to take the field wearing "modesty" girdles and forfeited the competition. A riot ensued; in a newspaper story about the event, a Dr. Lamb was quoted as "having recognized a medical benefit to males by the wearing of a protective girdle."[citation needed]

In the 1870s, the Boston Athletic Club sought an undergarment that would provide comfort and support for cyclists (or, bicycle jockeys as they were then known) riding the cobblestone streets of Boston. Traditional undergarments were uncomfortable and the rubberized canvas "modesty" girdle caused chafing and blistering on bicycle seats. What the Boston Athletic Club wanted was a comfortable garment that would accommodate the movements of the bicyclist yet would contain and control the male genitalia in the manner of the rubberized canvas girdle.

In 1874,[1][5] Charles Bennett of the Chicago sporting goods company, Sharp & Smith, invented the jockstrap. The original name of Bennett's invention was the Bike Jockey Strap and its logo, a large bicycle wheel. The jockey strap was intended, first, for "bicycle jockeys", and secondly, for horseback riders. The "bike jockey strap" became known as a "jock strap" and, eventually, simply a "jock".

Bennett's newly-formed Bike Web Company patented and began mass-producing the Bike Jockey Strap. The Bike Web Company later became known as the Bike Company. The first consumer mass marketing of the jockstrap occurred in the 1902 edition of the Sears and Roebuck Catalog which claimed the garment, now termed an "athletic supporter", was "medically indicated" for all males that engaged in sports or strenuous activity.[6]

In the early 1900s, the jockstrap influenced the invention of the Heidelberg Electric Belt, a low-voltage electric powered supporter that claimed to cure kidney disorders, insomnia, erectile disfunction, and other ailments.[7] Jockstraps are medically used today to facilitate recovery from injuries and surgeries such as hematocele, hydrocele or spermatocele.

Collectable celebrity jockstrap: Wade Boggs' Florida spring training jockstrap, date unknown.

Through the early and mid-20th century the jockstrap became standard equipment for professional and student athletes. Its ubiquity of use led to the slang term "jock" to mean any athlete (see above), and the garment entered popular culture as a humorous symbol of athletics. "Knock their jocks off!" is a phrase used by American football coaches and fans to motivate football players.[8][9]

By the 1980s and 1990s, jockstraps were no longer generally mandatory in high school and college sports and gave way to compression shorts. A Bike company spokesman stated in a 2005 interview with Slate magazine that "kids today are not wearing jockstraps."[10]

Aside from use in sports, the jockstrap has been used in the worlds of fashion, art, and entertainment. Images of jockstraps appear particularly frequently in gay visual art.[11]. Jockstraps have been erotically depicted in films and theater. [12] In the early years of the 21st century, various athletic and fashion clothing manufacturers have released their own lines of jockstraps. A wide array of stylish "fashion jockstraps" are currently marketed as an alternative to regular underwear.[13]

In November 2005, Bike (by then owned by Russell Athletic) made its 350,000,000th jockstrap. The jockstrap was taken off the assembly line, framed, and flown to Bike's Atlanta headquarters.[14]


Banana-style Cup
Traditional Cup

Jockstraps are fairly consistent in design with variations appearing in details like width of waistband and fabrics. Some jockstraps are designed for specific sports. Swim jocks, for example, have a narrow waistband and hockey jocks have adjustable elastic straps and garter clips that hold hockey socks in place while the bulky goalie protector has genital and abdominal foam padding. Windproof jockstraps have a special layer of fabric to protect the wearer from wind and cold in winter sports. Fashion jocks are manufactured in stylish designs with colorful fabrics. Others are made from exotic materials such as leather or chain mail for consumers of adult fantasy apparel.[15]

Alternatives to jockstraps include the jock brief, or support briefs, which have the wide waistband of a jockstrap combined with a full seat and are made of an elastic supportive material. A thong style strap, sometimes called a dance belt, has one narrow elastic strap attached to the bottom of the pouch, passing between the legs and attaching to the waistband at the middle of the back. A strapless garment, called a jock sock, has only an elastic waist band with an elastic pouch that holds the genitals from the front. The suspensory is typically used after genital surgery and features a pouch which supports only the testicles to aid in post-operative healing.

Protective cup

Optional Cups, offer additional protection for contact sports and are made of hard plastic or steel, perforated for ventilation.[16] A more flexible and comfortable soft cup is also offered for low contact sports. A flex cup variation features a hard exterior melded with a soft lining.

A cup is usually inserted into the pouch of a jockstrap or Compression shorts designed to hold a cup. Cups for combat sports (i.e. Mixed Martial Arts, Kick Boxing) have a waistband and straps attached directly to the cup designed to be worn over a regular jockstrap or briefs. An oversized cup and jock combined into a single item which has layered foam padding that protects the groin, kidneys and abdomen is used in boxing and Muay Thai.

A similar piece of protective equipment in the sport of cricket is known as a box.


See also


  1. ^ a b "Bike History". Bike Athletic.  (archived from the original on 2007-11-24).
  2. ^ "Jockey". Classic Encyclopedia. 
  3. ^ a b "Jock". Online Etymology. 
  4. ^ "A internet reseller's history of the jockstrap". International Jock. 
  5. ^ Michael Davis (2007), Art of Dress Designing, Global Media, p. 107, ISBN 9788190457576, .
  6. ^ "Historical Backgrounder: Athletic Supporter & Athletic Cup". Shock Doctor.  (archived from the original on 2007-05-22).
  7. ^ "A Brief History of the Jockstrap". Jockstrap Central. 
  8. ^ Alan Dundes (1978). "Into the Endzone for a Touchdown: A Psychoanalytic Consideration of American Football". Western Folklore 37 (2): 75–88. doi:10.2307/1499315. 
  9. ^ "Words from Sports". Awakened Women: A Journal of Women's Spirituality. 
  10. ^ "Where have all the jockstraps gone?". Slate Magazine (2005-07-22). 
  11. ^ Chambers, David L., Gay Men, AIDS, and the Code of the Condom, 29 Harv. C.R.-C.L. L. Rev. 353
  12. ^ Rudnick, Paul, The most fabulous story ever told.
  13. ^ Brown, Douglas (May 2, 2005), "Stylish Guys Have No Problem Thinking Out of the Boxers", The Ledger (from The Denver Post) (Lakeland, Florida): D2,, retrieved September 4, 2009 
  14. ^ "Jock Strap Passes Milestone". AllBusiness. 2006-01-01. 
  15. ^ "A vendor's article about leather jockstraps". International Jock. 
  16. ^ Historical Background of the Athletic Supporter & Athletic Cup

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