Over at Deadspin, Anthony Mason takes a spin through the patent record to tell a brief, vaguely horrifying, history of sports bra technology. The story stretches from a ’70s-era “jockstrap for women,” which gave rise to the first real sports bra, to a piezoelectrically controlled contraption that generates electricity through the power of bouncing boobs (yes, really).
The inventions’ silliness hints at a serious problem: Sports bra design is terrible. Supportive bras for the bustiest of women still don’t exist outside the lab, which means many of them have to layer on two bras when exercising, ABC reported in 2010. Studies show that over time, breast pain and sag can lead to “lower self-esteem, less exercise, and a decreased quality of life.”
“There’s so much more we can do with design,” Jenny White, a breast biomechanic researcher at the University of Portsmouth in the UK, told ABC. “There are good bras out there if you look for them, but the optimal sports bra may not have been made yet.”