For over 40 years, Champion has improved and innovated a revolutionary piece of women’s sports apparel, the sports bra. Since its inception in 1977, the sports bra has undergone major improvements with colors and styles for every activity.
But how did one of the most essential sports equipment for women come to be?
Inventing the Sports Bra
Before the 1970s, women were generally barred from participating in sports. Too much physical exertion was considered unhealthy and even dangerous for women. Most were not encouraged to play a sport and physical education in schools was considerably less strenuous in the girls’ class than the boys’.
Then in 1972, Title IX was passed, a federal law that mandated equal opportunity for women and girls in school and education – a measure that extended to equality of opportunity for women in sports.
This newfound sports equality, coupled with the “running boom” of the 1970s, exposed a serious gap in women’s sports apparel. Before the invention of the sports bra, women wore traditional bras while they worked out – bras that would pinch and poke, with bra straps that would slide down shoulders.
Then Lisa Lindahl created her “jockbra” prototype.
Lindahl had been swept up in the “running boom” of the 70s and, like many women at the time, was unsatisfied with her bra options. After a conversation with her sister about the uncomfortable nature of bras, she compiled a personal list of all the things she ideally wanted in a bra.
“The straps wouldn’t fall,” Lindahl said in an interview with WBUR.org. “There wouldn’t be any hardware to dig in. It couldn’t chafe. It would be breathable and lightweight and all these wonderful things.”
Lindahl recruited her friend and costume designer Polly Smith to help her create a bra suitable to be worn during exercise. However, the idea for the “jockbra” didn’t come until Lindahl’s husband jokingly held a jockstrap up to his chest. Smith and Lindahl cut apart two jockstraps and sewed them together, and in 1977, the first sports bra – called the “Jogbra” – was born. Lindahl and her manufacturing partner Hinda Miller took to the streets to sell the Jogbra to sports stores, eventually selling the invention to Champion.
Champion Advancements in Modern Sports Bras
The sports bra has undergone drastic improvements and changes since its inception in 1977. This is largely thanks to the research of Dr. LaJean Lawson, Sports Bra Science and Marketing Consultant for Champion Athleticwear.
For over 30 years, Lawson has been studying sports bras for Champion. Lawson, along with a team of engineers, advises the Champion designers on seam placement, strap design, and more.
“Actually testing bras in a scientific way using state of the art equipment has helped me and Champion to understand how to build bras that really work,” Lawson told People Magazine. “I know on Champion bras it says high impact, medium impact, maximum impact because it’s been through the lab experience, it has met the criteria that is set by Champion so we guarantee that it’s going to perform this way.”
According to Lawson, advancements since the plain white elastic Jogbra have been immense, including moisture-wicking technology, body-friendly velcros and polymer melded seams, as well as the addition of more stylish options.
“In the toolbox we have some very evolved methods, all geared towards the goal of making the garment more comfortable,” said Lawson. “Because there’s less chafing, making the bra handle sweat better… creating more support with a lighter construction.”
A national survey commissioned by Champion shows that a durable, quality sports bra is needed by women in sport now more than ever. According to the survey, there has been a significant improvement in women’s participation in sport – 100 percent of women ages 10 to 24 said they were encouraged to play sports (versus the 75 percent of 25 to 34-year-old women or 45 percent of women 55 and older).
“We conducted this survey to better understand the importance of organized sports and fitness to women,” Claire Powell, general manager of Champion Athleticwear, told BusinessWire. “What we found was overwhelming support for sports as a means for building confidence, self-esteem, respect and leadership – skills that women feel translate well into all aspects of their lives.”
“Since the introduction of that first sports bra, styles have become incredibly comfortable and dramatically more supportive,” Powell said. “High-tech fabrics are lighter, stronger and more flexible to provide exceptional freedom of movement while still delivering the support that women need. Plus, Champion has infused color, style and feminine detailing that ensure women look as good as they feel. Champion understands that for most women, the sports bra is her most important piece of fitness equipment.”