A jockstrap (also known as a jock, jock strap, strap, supporter, or athletic supporter) is an undergarment designed for supporting the male genitalia during the performance of sports or other vigorous physical activity. A typical jockstrap consists of an elastic waistband 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 impact resistant cup to protect the testicles and/or the penis from injury.
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 recent slang term 'jock', meaning an athlete, is traced to 1959 and is itself derived from 'jockstrap'.
See also: Jock (disambiguation).
The precursor of the jockstrap was a rubberized cotton canvas girdle worn for the sake of modesty by men and boys beneath their worsted wool bathing suits on public beaches during the 1860s. As public sporting events grew in popularity, athletes began to wear the rubberized canvas girdle under their tights and uniforms, in order to avoid charges of corrupting public morals with displays of their covered but uncontained genitalia. In 1867, a Chicago sports team refused to take the field wearing "modesty" girdles and forfeited the competition. A riot ensued; in a newspaper story about the event, a Dr. Lamb was quoted as "having recognized a medical benefit to males by the wearing of a protective girdle."
In the 1870s, the Boston Athletic Club sought an undergarment that would provide comfort and support for cyclists (or, bicycle jockeys as they were then known) riding the cobblestone streets of Boston. Traditional undergarments were uncomfortable and the rubberized canvas "modesty" girdle caused chafing and blistering on bicycle seats. What the Boston Athletic Club wanted was a comfortable garment that would accommodate the movements of the bicyclist yet would contain and control the male genitalia in the manner of the rubberized canvas girdle.
In 1874, Charles Bennett of the Chicago sporting goods company, Sharp & Smith, invented the jockstrap. The original name of Bennett's invention was the Bike Jockey Strap and its logo, a large bicycle wheel. The jockey strap was intended, first, for "bicycle jockeys", and secondly, for horseback riders. The "bike jockey strap" became known as a "jock strap" and, eventually, simply a "jock".
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. The first consumer mass marketing of the jockstrap occurred in the 1902 edition of the Sears and Roebuck Catalog which claimed the garment, now termed an "athletic supporter", was "medically indicated" for all males that engaged in sports or strenuous activity.
In the early 1900s, the jockstrap influenced the invention of the Heidelberg Electric Belt, a low-voltage electric powered supporter that claimed to cure kidney disorders, insomnia, erectile disfunction, and other ailments. Jockstraps are medically used today to facilitate recovery from injuries and surgeries such as hematocele, hydrocele or spermatocele.
During the 1980s and 1990s, jockstraps were generally no longer mandatory in high school and college sports and gave way to compression shorts. A Bike company spokesman stated in a 2005 interview with Slate magazine that "kids today are not wearing jockstraps. In the early years of the 21st century, however, Calvin Klein, Under Armour, and other manufacturers introduced their own lines of jockstraps and renewed interest in the original garment. An abundance of fashion jockstraps are currently marketed as an alternative to regular underwear.