Historical Backgrounder
Athletic Supporter & Athletic Cup

The "Jock"
Although legend has it that athletes in ancient times competed nude, today's athletes opt for the comfort and security of supportive clothing. Tracing the origins of the athletic supporter, a.k.a. "jockstrap," according to the Research Librarian at the Fashion Institute the precursor of today's "jock" was a rubberized cotton canvas girdle worn more for modesty purposes than for support by bathers (swimmers) at public beaches in the 1860's. The knitted, worsted wool swimsuits (that covered from neck to knee) worn my men and boys of the era were clingy and revealing when wet and the girdle was designed to constrict, cover and flatten the offending bulge.

As public sporting events grew in popularity, athletes (largely male) now risked charges of "corrupting public morals" and " public lewdness" and began to wear the apparel under their tights and uniforms when competing in publicly sponsored contests. In 1867 a Chicago sports team refused to take the field while 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."

The jock's journey into the world of sports continued in 1874 in response to a request by the Boston Athletic Club to design apparel that would provide comfort and support for bicycle jockeys riding the cobblestone streets of Boston." Traditional undergarments of the day (union suits) were uncomfortable and the rubberized girdle used by some caused chafing and blistering on the bicycle seats. Therefore there was a need for something that accommodated the movements of the sport and yet would contain and control in much the same manner as the girdle. "

In 1897 the need was met as Charles Bennett, wizard of the sporting-goods manufacturer Sharp and Smith in Chicago designed the first jock strap. The original name was the Bike Jockey Strap, its insignia was a large bicycle wheel, and it was intended first for bicycle riders (who, at that time were called jockeys) and second for horseback riders. The athletic supporter became known as a "bike jockey strap" or "jock strap". Eventually it became simply a "jock".

The first consumer mass marketing of the jock strap came 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 engage in sports or strenuous activity.

Without doubt that most of today's competitive sports would never have developed as we know them had it not been for the jock. Serving to provide uplift and comfort, prevent stress, pain, hernia and possibly permanent damage and future sterility, the jock has secured its place in sports history. Up until just recently, the design has remained essentially the same for three-quarters of a century -- a knit pouch held up above by a wide elastic waistband and below from two leg straps going upward from the groin across the buttocks and connecting on the side of the waistband.

In 2004, design technology finally revolutionized the standard jock as Shock Doctor unveiled its innovative X-FIT™ System featuring a wrap-around cup placement design to keep the cup comfortably and firmly in place. And while the jockstrap still has a role in sports underwear, new alternatives are becoming popular. Athletic supportwear provides precise fit, improved comfort and increased athlete mobility while keeping the genitals close to the body. Shock Doctor's innovative line of loose-fit and compression shots combine materials that both support and breathe, in various styles designed to meet the needs of particular sports. To eliminate chafing, Mesh fabric construction provides ventilation while anti-bacterial comfort lining wicks moisture away from the skin to the exterior garment surfaces. Additional design benefits include short panel construction, which concentrates compression around major muscle groups for maximum support and mobility.

About 250,000 American men suffer sports-related groin injuries every year. And ninety-nine per cent of those who engage in active sport wear a jock and some players, like pitcher Tom Seaver of the NY Mets use the security of two straps, plus a pair of jockey shorts, plus a plastic cup fitted inside the second jock. Yet for all its historical significance in the world of sports, he jockstrap alone cannot fully protect the genitals from impact. Rather, it serves as a holder for a plastic cup that specifically serves the purpose. Which brings us to the history of its companion -- the athletic cup….

" The Cup"

The sports world runneth over with cups: Stanley; Ryder; World; Davis; America's; Winston. And, of course, the good old protective cup. Normally unsung (and always unseen), athletic cups are traditionally uncomfortable, typically made of hard plastic, shaped funny and can be cumbersome. Nevertheless, they have been part of the sports scene since at least the early 1900s. The Cultural Encyclopedia of Baseball credits catcher Claude Berry with introducing the cup to major league baseball in 1904.

As amateur and professional sports developed, the cup became the standard of protection for athletes in contact sports, or those facing hard objects hurtling in their direction at high speed. When an athlete gets ``the wind knocked out of him'' and lies crumpled on the field in obvious pain, the reaction from spectators more likely is a collective wince. Then, it's no laughing matter -- and one with potentially serious medical consequences.

Early hockey players were among the first athletes to embrace wearing cups -- providing protection against pucks are traveling upward of 100 mph. Some goalies were even known to strap on double cups. Soccer goalies also discovered a cup would come in handy -- especially when standing in a defensive wall waiting for the opponent to unload a free kick.

A century after they were originally created, the decision whether to cup or not to cup mostly comes down to personal preference.``It's probably experientially related,'' said Don Chu, Stanford's director of athletic training and rehabilitation. ``If you've ever been hit there, then you probably wear one. It's not something you're going to volunteer for again.''

Today, technology has finally reached the world of athletic cups -- offering more comfort along with the age-old advantage of protection. In 2004, Shock Doctor unveiled the most innovative design yet. Featuring Multi-stage Impact Protection technology, this revolutionary cup design combines advanced materials and superior design to provide improved impact protection and comfort, along with increased athlete mobility. This new generation cup dissipates impact in four stages, with an ergonomic design mirroring the shape of the body, and multiple vents offering improved ventilation and moisture transport.


- Former Cincinnati Reds catcher Johnny Bench supposedly broke seven cups during his Hall of Fame career.

- Philadelphia center fielder Doug Glanville was at the plate when a pitch glanced off his bat and ricocheted off the ground into his groin. Glanville, who doesn't wear a cup, later could laugh about the pain, "Tell the kids not to try it at home."

- Every summer in Darryl Sutter's hometown of Viking, Alberta, the local sports teams have a golf tournament called the Athlete's Cup. The trophy is an actual bronzed cup.