In honor of this past weekend’s International Women’s Day, we are sharing a lesser-known story of innovation that revolutionized female athletics.
If you wander into the women’s clothing aisle of an athletic store today, you will likely find dozens of varieties of sports bras, in different styles and colors, but when Lisa Lindahl took up running in the 1970s, there was no such option for women in sports. Together with her sister Victoria, costume designer Polly Smith, and Smith’s assistant, Hinda Miller, Lindahl invented the Jogbra, the first sports bra.
The initial prototype came from an experiment with a jockstrap. After humorously placing one on her chest, Lindahl realized the male accessory could be the basis for a female adaptation. She bought two, crossed them across her chest, and the first sports bra was created.
In 1978, they filed a patent for their creation, made 60 dozen bras, and began approaching retailers. They specifically targeted sporting goods, not retail stores. They were the only women-owned sports equipment company in the market, and they convinced stores to stock their product by placing it in black boxes and creating it in conventional S, M, and L sizes. By the end of their first year, the women had made $500,000 in sales.
By 1990, the market was saturated with competitors creating products for women on the move. Jogbra sold to Playtex, but Miller stayed on as the division’s CEO until 1997.
Today, the sports bra is a commonplace item in most women’s closets, but when it was created, it unknowingly represented access to a higher level of athletics for women and, together with Title Ⅸ, it propelled women towards equality and empowerment in sports.