Seriously. Why do gay men love jockstraps so much?…
If you can believe it, the jockstrap was not invented to make your ass and genitals look fantastic at circuit parties. No, the advent of the jockstrap is far less sexy.
The first ever jockstrap was invented by C.F. Bennett of Sharp & Smith, a sporting goods company in Chicago, back in 1874. Bennett saw a need for a supportive pair of underwear specifically for bicycle messengers and delivery men (also known as “bike jockeys”) who, at the time, had to endure regular ball torture by bouncing over the city’s cobblestone streets. Over time, jockstraps became a massively popular (and functional) garment for physically active men. In fact, during World War I, the US Army issued a jock to every man who served.
By 1897, Bennett had patented and begun mass-producing the “Bike Jockey Strap.” Later that year, his company sold its trademarks to Russell Athletic, who sold an impressive 350 million units worldwide. Sadly, only a few years ago, the classic Bike brand jock was discontinued.
The brand’s termination didn’t come as a surprise. In the past few decades, athletes began bailing on jockstraps for protective purposes. “It just wasn’t designed for comfort,” Bob Beeten, manager of the US Olympic Training Center, told Health magazine. “It rubs, chafes, and the straps go up your butt.” Naturally, as jockstraps began to falter among athletes, fewer people were encouraged to wear them – an attitude that became more prevalent with each passing year. Eventually, as more supportive forms of athletic underwear became available starting in the ’90s, jockstraps were mostly phased out among athletes. Among gay men, however, they remain incredibly popular as a form of lingerie.
The jockstrap first entered the homosexual zeitgeist during the 1950s and ’60s, when gay fashion took an overtly masculine turn. Author Shaun Cole writes in his book, Don We Now Our Gay Apparel, “[Gay men] adopted a manly demeanor and attire as a means of expressing their new sense of self, and in adopting this look, they aimed to enhance their physical attractiveness and express their improved self-esteem.” These outfits often included bomber jackets, leather jackets, chaps, military uniforms and, of course, jockstraps.
As such, jockstraps became a matter of fashion over function – and jock underwear brands, as any smart business would do, began advertising to this burgeoning market. Truthfully, whatever design element you could possibly imagine in a jockstrap has likely been done over and over again. “Jockstraps are definitely one of our most popular garments; we have them in every colour and style you can think of,” says Monty Tayara, manager of The Men’s Room Toronto (the company also has locations in Montreal and Chicago). “Many people come to our stores specifically for jockstraps. Sometimes they need to replace them because they left theirs at someone’s place the night before!”
In his opinion, Tayara asserts the gay community has embraced jockstraps because they elicit a powerful sense of confidence. “It’s a peek-a-boo fantasy that stems from sports and porn,” he tells IN. “Jockstraps make you feel sexy, and when you’re wearing them, there’s a sense of power that comes with that.” It makes sense, as the garment’s purpose evolved, that the garment’s design changed to better enhance the ass and package, courtesy of its supportive straps and pouch.
In the same way jocks were slowly phased out among athletes, the opposite energy surged through the gay community in the late ’70s. Eventually, jockstraps were being worn regularly at gay bars, and brands started sending go-go boys in their jockstraps as a promotional tool. Porn then got in on the action. This continued exposure eventually secured the jockstrap as a mainstay in gay male garb. Around this time, jockstrap nights became a regular occurrence at gay bars across the world up until the AIDS crisis.
In the early aughts, jockstrap nights reappeared. The rebirth is largely credited to gay nightlife promoter Daniel Nardicio, who was searching for a way to get people into Slide nightclub in San Francisco during slow season at the bar. Since then, he’s made a career throwing underwear-themed events. In fact, he’s thrown well over 1,000 events, which speaks to the garment’s lasting influence.
The owner of Men’s Room also spearheads a popular gay event company known as Pitbull, where many attendees don jockstraps, according to Tayara. “Sexual freedom is something to celebrate, and we’re more than fortunate to be considered as an event where patrons feel they can – without worry – put their best jock on and have a gay ol’ time!”
Evidently, the jockstrap’s purpose has evolved from a functional athletic garment that protectsone’s assets, to a garment that showcasesone’s assets. In many ways, the jockstrap can thank the gays for its lasting relevance. And, in return, we have jockstraps to thank for helping our asses look wonderful. So thank you, jockstraps. And you’re welcome.
BOBBY BOX is a prolific freelance journalist in Hamilton, Ont. He currently works as contributing editor at Playboy.com and has had the privilege of speaking with the world’s most recognized drag queens, including, most recently, Trixie Mattel and Alaska Thunderfuck. While proud of his work, Bobby is not above begging. He asks that you follow him on Twitter at @bobbyboxington.