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A jockstrap or athletic supporter is an undergarment many men wear while playing sports or performing other strenuous activities. The main purpose of a traditional jockstrap is to provide stability and support for the wearer's genitals. Without a jockstrap or other form of supportive underwear, a man could experience painful tearing or stretching of the testicles, for example. An athletic supporter suspends the wearer's genitals securely, minimizing shifting under stress. This is why many physical education instructors strongly urge their male students to wear jockstraps in addition to any other protective or compressive gear.
Jockstraps feature elastic waistbands similar to other men's underwear, but the front pouch is designed to provide a very snug fit. The wearer places his legs through two elastic bands, which do not attach to the waistband. The wearer may have the option of fitting a protective plastic cup to a special pouch built into the front of certain types of jockstraps. Others may wear bicycle shorts, wrestling unitards or compression shorts over the athletic supporter. The cushioned jockstrap not only provides protection from chafing, but it also provides some modesty for the wearer.
The term jockstrap can be traced back to the late 19th century, when a number of sportswear designers produced the first supportive undergarments for "bicycle jockeys," cyclists who often suffered torsion injuries while riding on rough city streets. Other athletes soon discovered the advantages of wearing jockey straps, and the name became shortened over time to the modern jockstrap. The concept of wearing protective pieces over one's genitals can be traced back to medieval codpieces and ancient loincloths, but these devices were not necessarily suited for athletic events.
Some men prefer to wear jockstraps under loose-fitting boxer shorts in order to reduce chafing and avoid the hazards of "free ranging." In response to this demand for more supportive undergarments, men's underwear manufacturers have introduced jockey-style underwear. Modern jockey underwear or briefs feature the same type of support and compression as traditional jockstraps. The most traditional form of jockey underwear is perhaps the so-called tighty whitey, a white cotton brief with an elastic band and two openings for the wearer's legs. Tighty whiteys provide complete front and back coverage, as well as the same supportive qualities of traditional jockstraps.
Other styles of jockey underwear include the boxer brief, a brief with extended leg holes, and the bicycle short, a compressive undergarment with a mid-thigh leg cut. With the success of jockey-style underwear, many men have largely abandoned the routine use of a supportive jockstrap, unless it is considered an essential part of an athletic uniform. Some physical education instructors may also require the use of a jockstrap in order to avoid injuries during school-sponsored athletic competitions or classes.