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A jockstrap (also known as a jock, jock strap, strap, supporter, or athletic supporter) is an undergarment originally designed for supporting the male genitalia during sports or other vigorous physical activity. More recently, 'fashion jockstraps' have become popular as regular underwear worn by men as an alternative to other styles. Jockstraps for athletic purposes are most commonly worn in North America.
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, such as penile fracture. Fashion jockstraps follow the design of sports models but appear in a variety of colours and fabrics.
The word jockstrap has purportedly been in use at least since 1888, a likely contraction of 'jockey strap', as the garment was first designed for bicycle-riding messengers and deliverymen, or 'bike jockeys'. The Bike Jockey Strap was the first jockstrap manufactured in America in 1874.
Jockey meaning 'rider', primarily a race horse rider, has been in use since 1670. 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.
The jockstrap was invented in 1874 by C. F. Bennett of a Chicago sporting goods company, Sharp & Smith, to provide comfort and support for bicycle jockeys working the cobblestone streets of Boston. In 1897 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. Today, Bike is still the market leader in jockstrap sales.
The jockstrap was also influential in early 20th-century medicine with the invention of the Heidelberg Electric Belt, a low-voltage electric powered jockstrap that claimed to cure kidney disorders, insomnia, erectile dysfunction, and other ailments. Today, jockstraps are still worn for medical purposes and for recovery from injury or surgery for such conditions as hematocele, hydrocele, or spermatocele.
During the 1980s and 1990s, jockstraps slowly faded away to compression shorts and generally were not required by high schools and colleges. However, in recent years[when?] more and more athletes are turning back to the jockstrap for use in sports and athletic activities. This is reflected in the fact that new brands and companies are introducing their own line of jockstraps, such as Calvin Klein, Shock Doctor, and Under Armour.
There has also been an increase in the number of fashion jockstraps as an alternative to regular underwear. Jockstraps provide support to keep the wearer comfortable and the genitals supported and covered, but they can be cooler to wear since they allow sweat to evaporate more freely from the uncovered buttock area. 'Jock briefs' are another recent fashion development and are a derivative of the jock strap, having a full brief-like front with an uncovered rear buttock area.
Jockstraps were required for wrestling, and weigh-ins would be done in only a jock, or in the nude, for the player to make weight.
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 sometimes 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, many with colorful fabrics. Others are made from exotic materials such as leather or chain mail for consumers of adult fantasy apparel. Aside from the aforementioned "fashion jocks", the 2000s have seen a resurgence in jockstrap designs and brands. Leading the way, Bike introduced their redesigned jockstraps in both black and white, utilizing a 2-1/2 inch waistband (instead of 3"), which reduces the tendency to roll; the waistband is grey with the Bike logo on it.
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 or sometimes a slingshot, 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.
Optional cups offer additional protection for contact sports and are made of hard plastic or steel, perforated for ventilation. 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.
This Mizpah supporter ad, from a 1922 magazine, appeared in the A&E documentary Unmentionables
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