'Back when I was a boy', as they say, there were always some students in my class every year who were ready to strip to their waist when it was time for Physical Education classes or impromptu games, even when this was not required by the coach or teacher-in-charge. Others were more 'shy', but one signal recollection from when I was perhaps 15 is of a fellow called Samuel who -uncharacteristically - stripped down one day for a game of volleyball. Afterwards, he said that "it had felt great to be shirtless".
Until about eight years ago, I'd always felt a definite sympathy for that sentiment, yet there was a countervailing force acting on me: It seemed somehow 'showy' to be removing one's upper-body attire. I was also conscious that mine was not a sculpted physique. This force is surely a 'socialising' effect but it operated on me - as I'm sure it operates on many others - as a kind of mental straitjacket. I well remember a soccer game where, by consensus, one side - the one I was on, coincidentally - had to go bare. I recall feeling both self-consciousness and a sense of gratitude at receiving the imprimatur to go bare-chested.
For no reason that I can readily divine - eight years ago or so, as I've said - I began to embrace my shirtless self. I was jogging semi-regularly and, if the weather was humid and the environs quiet, I found myself removing my shirt - and enjoying a vast improvement in comfort. It was cooler. Perspiration didn't stick to my shirt and I felt an indescribable 'buzz'. My stride picked up and my very senses seemed more acute.
My conversion had begun and there was no going back. I began spending less and less time during my runs shirted, though for quite a while I had a great fear of encountering people I knew while stripped to the waist. But with time, this psychic hurdle began to crumble: After all, I wasn't robbing an old lady, tracking mud into someone's home or doing anything else shameful. I was just shirtless. One day, I was starting out from my home when some final barrier came crashing down. I paused, removed my shirt and threw it onto my porch - and ran on. There are thousands of people around the world who - voluntarily - run, or play sports, or labour at work sans shirt, and I had joined their ranks. I had converted fully.
That, in brief, is my story. I know it is far from unique, but perhaps it is instructive. Having literally 'kept my shirt on' all those years, I now assent to what my friend Samuel said those years ago: "It feels good to be shirtless". It is a happy creed for a runner, and we who hold to it invite others to seek out its truth.
May 2015: First up, though I still try to put up blog content whenever I can, it has been easier to more regularly visit the the Twitterverse. Follow me at @barethomas10 and let's keep the shirtless running flag flying. Of course, the blog still attracts very interesting comments, and good discussion. Keep it up.
Second, in the years since this venture launched, and as shirtless running among women has gone increasingly mainstream, the term "jogbra" has clearly declined in use. I will thus prefer "sportsbra" henceforth - as has already been the case on Twitter, and in recent posts here.
I continue to welcome guest posts (sent to email@example.com) on any related topic, including from those who would discourage stripping to the waist. I am myself of course a fervent convert to the joys of running bare. But let all voices be heard!