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  • Jonathan Walford

Be an Athletic Supporter...


As men took up team sports in the 19th century, they adopted knitted cotton and wool jersey garments to allow freer movement. However, when these costumes were worn for swimming, little was left to the imagination as the bathers emerged from the sea. Women’s bathing costumes were voluminous and made of woven rather than knitted material so they did not cling like men’s bathing costumes. Men sometimes took to wearing bathing girdles underneath their jersey bathing suits. These resembled artist's model posing pouches and were worn to minimize bulging.


Left: Weight lifter in jockstrap, c. 1950s


Men began wearing these modesty support girdles beneath all their jersey sports uniforms. An American version from 1874 was designed specifically for cyclists to avoid chafing. These were sold as ‘bicycle jockey-straps’ but by the turn of the century were known as ‘jock-straps’ or athletic supporters.


While an athletic supporter is great for keeping things confined, it doesn't offer protection. The Guelph, Ontario company Guelph Elastic Hosiery made an improvement to the jockstrap in 1927 when they added a hard cup for protection. The jock strap was sold for years under the appropriately homophonic name ‘Protex.’ The inventor of the cup and owner of Guelph Elastic Hosiery, Jack Cartlege, died in 1957 and the company was sold the following year. Eventually the company focussed on making just jockstraps and in 1987 the company was renamed Protexion Products. All manufacturing of Protex has since ceased at the Guelph Ontario manufacturing plant and like most Canadian manufacturing, moved off-shore.

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