How sports bras became a lockdown staple for big-boobed women

Sports bras are our version of going braless. Fact.

The bra is dead. Google it, if you don’t believe me – you’ll be met with a flurry of breathless headlines, all claiming that lockdown’s great lingerie liberation seems set to last forever. And, over on social media, hashtags have gone from #bralesssunday to just #braless.

“I just don’t see bras making a comeback after this,” tweeted Tomi Obaro back in May.

While her tweet has been ‘liked’ by more than half a million people, I was not among them. “Good for you, not for me,” I thought to myself when I saw it. Because, as an uncomfortable 32G – and therefore a permanent bra-wearer – I find it difficult to relate to all of this #braless buzz.

I can sense your eyes rolling through my computer screen, dear reader. I know big boobs sound like the ultimate champagne problem. And I know many will have been enjoying this bra furlough period, no matter what size bra they take. But my boobs are heavy and full of cysts and ache like mother-fuckers at the best of times. If I don’t wear a bralet to bed, I can’t sleep. If I attempt to walk down the stairs without strapping my boobs down first, I have to knot my arms across my chest to stop them bouncing around all over the place. And I have never once rushed home and whipped my bra off, à la the many, many memes and comics. Quite honestly, I can’t think of a quicker way to ruin my evening than speed-stirring a risotto without the right support!

Despite all of this, though, I honestly loathe wearing bras with a passion. I hate the way the straps cut into my shoulders, the feel of the underwire digging into me. I hate the bulk of the clasp straining against my clothes. And I’m not alone in my contrariness, either.

“A ‘love/hate relationship’ has never been truer than when it comes to how I feel about bras,” says Stylist’s Hanna Ibraheem. “I love that they give me support and save me from crippling back pain, but I hate the way that the underwiring and straps dig in and leave marks. I actually have two dents on my shoulder from where they’ve cut in so much.”

Thankfully, Hanna and I have found our own take on the #braless trend, and it’s this: we’ve swapped all of our pre-lockdown balconettes with comfy, thick-strapped, non-wired sports bras.

It has, quite frankly, been something of a revelation. My back doesn’t ache. My boobs feel supported. If I ever have to run unexpectedly (which happens surprisingly often, now that I’ve adopted a dog), I don’t have to sprint with my arms crossed. 

And sometimes, just sometimes, I even forget I’m wearing a bra. 

“Sports bras are amazing,” agrees Hanna. “I always used to wear one under my lengha tops whenever I went to an Asian wedding, because they give me the support I need dancing to Bhangra music. Now, I’m wearing one every day in lockdown. And sure, I’m only sitting down at my desk and working, but it’s honestly changed everything. 

“I get support, don’t have backaches and don’t have to deal with the sharp digging pains of underwire.”

So, maybe the bra isn’t dead. Not really, anyway. Maybe… maybe it’s more that we don’t have time for unnecessarily uncomfortable lingerie? Indeed, Clare Turner, the head of product and supply planning for the lingerie brand Bravissimo, recently told The Irish Times that the company has seen “huge growth” in non-wired bras and more comfortable styles.

“People are wanting to take good care of themselves and put things on their body that make them feel nice, and that’s become more important for lots of people versus how they look, or of equal importance,” she said.

Amen to that.

Images: Getty/Daria Sheveleva/Unsplash

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