Link #105: The Sports Bra Was First Invented by the Greek

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Link #105: The Sports Bra Was First Invented by the Greek

sports_bra
Modern sports bra.

In our last post, we mentioned how Spartan boys in ancient Greece were given extensive military training from the age of seven.

However, the Greek are actually known more for their social and scientific inventions than their militaristic innovations. Take for example, the sports bra. Did you know that it was the ancient Greek that invented the sports bra?

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What Was the First Sports Bra Like?

bikini_model
Modern day bikinis

Even before the sports bra, the ancient Greek had invented a type of clothing for women that can be seen to be similar to today’s bikini. There is proof of this in the form of wall paintings from the Minoan civilisation which existed about 3,000 years ago (between 2700 and 1450 BC) on the island of Crete.

These bikinis were slightly different from the modern day sports bra because some of them actually exposed the breasts while supporting them. The reason for this was that breasts had religious and cultural relevance to that civilisation.


How Did the Sports Bra Look in Classical Greece?

After a few years, in Classical Greece (8th to 6th centuries), the sports bra concept changed to cover the breasts while supporting them. This particular type of clothing was called apodesmos.

The word apodesmos literally means breast band which is a good description too. Apodesmos is actually a band of linen or wool that is tied on the chest to support the breasts.

These bands are tied cross wise from front to back over and under the breasts. These bands could also be worn horizontally under or over the breasts for different types of support.

 

Casale_Bikini
Famous “bikini girls” mosaic (found by archeological excavation of the ancient Roman villa near Piazza Armerina in Sicily), showing women exercising, running, or receiving the palm of victory and crown (for winning an athletic competition). Image credit: M. Disdero, (CC BY-SA 2.5)

What Were the First Sport Bras Used for?

Women had a decent amount of freedom in ancient Greece especially when compared to other ancient cultures. They could move around freely and even participate in physical competitions. As a result, it would be common for women to participate in track and field events or athletics.

For instance, in Sparta and Athens alike, women were known for participating in athletic events. These female participants wore the apodesmos to support their breasts while they went about their physical exertions.


How Did the Modern Sports Bra Come to Be?

jock_bra
Women wearing jockbras. Image credit: “Mike” Michael L. Baird, (CC BY 2.0)

The ancient Greek version of the sports bra was extremely basic and simplistic in nature. This is probably why most sources online say that the sports bra was invented in 1977 by Lisa Lindahl.

The first so-called commercially produced sports bra actually came out in 1975. However, it wasn’t really that helpful because the manufacturers themselves said that their product was only suitable for leisurely physical activities like sailing and golfing.

Lindahl got the idea for the design of the sports bra when she realised that women needed a female version of the jockstrap. She realised it because her husband wore his jockstrap on his chest as a joke. Before she invented the sports bra, women used to wear one size small normal bras to get the support that they needed during sports.




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Sources:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ancient_Greece
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Minoan_civilization
http://greatist.com/discover/sports-bra-history
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_brassieres#Egypt
http://regressing.deadspin.com/a-brief-history-of-the-sports-bra-1444194875

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