Lifting the cup: why sports bras are the stars of the summer

Since they were first created in 1977, they have been the unsung champions of the gym kit. Not any more. This season, the sports bra is the most valued player

The first trainers, rubber-soled shoes that made it possible to play tennis or croquet without damaging a lawn, were created in the 1860s. The sports bra, an item that for many women is just as essential to playing sport, did not exist until 1977. And – as if that gap didn’t say enough about the disparate narratives of male and female sport – that first sports bra was constructed out of two jockstraps stitched together.

In 1977, jogging was a new urban fad – the following year, photographs of President Jimmy Carter snapped out for a run would be a media sensation – and Lisa Lindahl, an employee of the University of Vermont, had started running daily. “I loved it, except for the discomfort that my bouncing breasts created,” she recalled. So she and her friend Polly Palmer-Smith, a costume designer, came up with a bra with straps that were thick enough to be tight without digging, and that crossed over at the back so that they wouldn’t fall off the shoulder. The first advert for their “Jogbra” featured a photo of Lindahl and Palmer-Smith in their design, with Lindahl’s home address and phone number given for placing orders.

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