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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 abdominal guard (impact resistant cup, box) to protect the testicles and the penis from injury. 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.
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.
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.
In Europe, from the time of the Middle Ages, the use of undergarments available were limited to a loose fitting trouser-like piece of clothing called a braies. This article of clothing was stepped into and then laced or tied around the waist and legs at about mid-calf and provided no support to the male genitals. This allowed the scrotum unlimited movement under clothing and resulted in injury from carts, carriages with wooden planks for seats or the saddle as the body took all of the force of the motion. The suspensory, was developed around the early 1820s as a way to lift the scrotum away from the plank seat and saddle thereby preventing injury or while in a cart, carriage or horseback riding. Today the suspensory is used primarily as a medical device after genital surgery to aid in post operative healing. General Custer’s suspensory can be seen in the Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument museum, near Crow Agency Montana.
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 similar piece of protective equipment in the sport of cricket is known as a box. In cricket, a box is usually only worn by a batsman, a wicket-keeper, and sometimes other close up fielders. For fielders further from the batsman, the wearing of a box would impede their movement and running (for batsmen the benefits outweigh the disadvantages).
An abdominal guard (also called "cup", "box", or "L Guard") is a hard usually plastic cup that is inserted in a jockstrap to protect male genitalia. It is usually constructed from high density plastic with a padded edge, shaped like a hollow half-pear, and inserted into the jockstrap style underwear of the batsmen and wicket-keeper. This is used to protect the genitals against impact from the ball.
With the decline in the use of jockstrap, the use of the necessary abdominal guard has also declined, as some see it as a taboo topic. Typically cups are worn in specifically designed pouches in jockstrap, compression shorts or sport-specific briefs.
Cups for some combat sports (e.g. 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. Some sports such as boxing use an oversized cup and jock combined into a single item which has layered foam padding that protects the groin, kidneys and abdomen.
Cups offer protection for contact sports. They are usually made of hard plastic or steel and perforated for ventilation. A more flexible and comfortable soft cup is also offered for low-contact sports such as soccer. A flex cup variation features a hard exterior cup with a soft cup lining.
Jockstraps for females
The pelvic protector is the female equivalent of the male jockstrap. It is designed to protect the female genitals from bruising, tearing, or traumatic penetration. The area protected includes the entire vulva, including the clitoris, the clitoral hood and the delicate labia minora which protrude from the vulva in some women and are therefore especially vulnerable to injury from impact and from stretching or tearing. It is also occasionally nicknamed a "jill" or "jillstrap". Women wear the garment during contact sports or activities. The garment "cups" around the genitals and is usually reinforced with rigid material.
Ronald Paramore invented the pelvic protector.
- Compression shorts
- Dance belt
- Tinea cruris, more commonly known as "jock itch"
- Abdominal guard
- Cricket clothing and equipment
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