- Holly Hunderrich
- BBC News – Washington
The modern sports bra that supports women today, has started with a joke between two sisters about men’s underwear.
It was the summer of 1977 when Lisa Lindahl, a student at the University of Vermont, started running more than 48 miles a week.
The run was straightforward, but her underwear was not.
“The only unpleasant part of this sport was the lack of sufficient support for the chest,” says Lindahl.
Lyndall, then 28, tried to wrap a strap around her chest without a belt, before finally putting on a regular bra, a size slightly smaller than her size.
Suffering from a lack of support for her breasts, her sister jokingly said, “Why isn’t there a Joxstrap for women too?”
The wrist strap is a men’s underwear used to stabilize and support the penis during sports.
But as evidenced by the addition of Asmaa Lindahl and the two women who shared the innovation at the U.S. Inventors National Hall of Fame, the sports bra became a serious innovation and came amid a revolution in women’s sports.
Lyndall took the idea seriously early on, including her best friend Polly Palmer Smith, who was a costume designer for the Shakespeare Festival in Burlington, Vermont, and they were joined by Henda Miller, who was also a costume design assistant. of Smith that summer.
The three women opened a workshop in the living room of Lindahl’s home, to experiment with designing a comfortable sports bra for women.
Miller was working on a prototype and Lindahl wore it and went out to exercise to test how well her breasts danced while running.
“Nothing worked,” Lindahl says, as her husband came down from his room to them wrapping his belt around his chest, which gave them a new idea, and that was the starting point for “sports bras.”
“It was an inspiring moment,” says Smith.
Smith sewed together two pieces of men’s belt, resulting in a prototype sports bra.
After the three women came up with a functional design – cross straps and outside stitching – they patented and founded Jogbra Inc.
Five years before Lindall, Smith, and Miller drafted the first models of sports bras, Congress passed amendments to Section IX in 1972, becoming the federal government act on civil rights, outlawing sex discrimination in education and training. all other programs that receive funding from the federal. government.
According to the Women’s Sports Foundation, in 1970 only one in 27 women engaged in sports, today the number has increased to two to five women.
And if the law allowed women to enter the world of sports, the sports bra made that sport comfortable.
“With Title IX of the law, everything was there – money, infrastructure, expectations – but women still did not feel safe and comfortable enough to go to stadiums and play sports,” Lindahl said.
Today, the sports bra is seen as a revolutionary innovation and is estimated to have brought “comfort and confidence” to female athletes. It is also a $ 9 billion industry and that number is expected to quadruple by 2026.
The broader market of “comfortable sportswear” is worth $ 25 billion and is booming and growing.
But in 1977, when sports bras were developed, the story was different. Just five years ago, the Amateur Athletics Association – then the governing body for marathons in the United States – lifted the ban on women participating in long-distance running. Only.
It took another seven years before women were allowed to run more than 400 meters at the Olympics, due to expert claims that long-distance running harms women’s health and femininity.
Shortly after founding the company, Smith returned to New York City to join Jim Henson’s company as a stylist, leaving control of Jogbra Inc. to Lyndall and Miller.
Using a $ 5,000 loan from Miller’s father, the two women commissioned a factory to produce the first batch of about 70 bras and visited stores selling sportswear.
Miller says the product was part of sports equipment, not underwear.
Lindahl says salespeople and managers – most of them men – “made fun of us … and often told us, ‘We do not sell bras in our store.’
So they tried another method, approached the store managers’ assistants – mostly women – and gave them samples of sports bras to try out for themselves.
They packed their bras in plain black boxes and replaced the complex, multiple sizes of regular bra cups with simple sizes: small, medium and large.
This process was completed successfully. The first sports bra was introduced to the market in 1978, at a price of $ 16 per piece.
Lindell and Miller began posting ads in magazines and working as bra models because they could not afford the models.
The campaign slogan was: “It can not be compared to any man-made sports bra.”
Miller also included a phone number in the ad for “agents requests.”
“I did not know what that meant, but then the phone calls started flooding in,” she said.
“The calls all came to my home phone,” she adds with a laugh.
And soon they sold the first set of bras.
By the end of their first year in business, the bras had sold nearly half a million dollars and Lyndall and Miller had a profitable business.
They grew rapidly over the next decade by about 25 percent a year, but also learned a lot.
Lindahl recalls receiving a letter that confused her from a salesman seeking to work with the company.
She says she did not even know what a mandoub was doing.
While Lindahl handled sales and marketing, Miller was responsible for production and inventory.
They hired 200 employees, relocated production to Puerto Rico and expanded their industry line including plus-size bras and belly hats.
But as Jogbra Inc. flourished and grew, relations between the two company owners deteriorated.
Lyndall said they constantly clashed with each other, shouting and arguing all the time.
Then, by the late 1980s, the success of Jogbra Inc. was slowing down and competition from companies such as Nike and Reebok meant they would have to take on significant debt to keep going.
In 1990, Jogbra Inc. was sold to Playtex for an undisclosed sum.
“We sold it at a time when we felt like we were experiencing a lot of burnout and conflict within the management team,” Miller said.
Today the old wounds and disputes have faded.
“Now we’re all in our 70s and still alive, we can smile,” Miller says. “We wanted as many people as possible to wear comfortable sportswear and it really worked.”
When they were named to the National Inventors list last week in Washington, DC, along with the creators of laser dermatology treatments, ibuprofen, and online voice technology, they could not believe it.
“When we saw the list together with all the other inventors, we said we would just tell them we invented it. [أوراق الملاحظات اللاصقة].
“We just did not feel serious enough,” Smith said.
But organizers told us, “You can not say that because the creators of the sticky notes will also be there.”
But the three founding women say they are still excited when they see women wearing sports bras, most of whom still look like their first model.
Smith says: “I feel proud and happy when I see it and I want to say that I created it [تلك الحملات]”.