Goodbye, 'Jogbra'...

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 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!

Friday, March 12, 2010

From the Net: In defence of 'shirts vs skins'

One of the first times I came to realise that going shirtless while exercising was socially acceptable was via that great American tradition of 'shirts vs skins' team play. It's especially common in basketball. But it is, in some places, under siege - so highlighting the topic might be forgiven though this is a 'running-centric' site. Appended below is an editorial from the Orchard Farm Eagle Vision (click here for the original), a school publication.

Shirts vs Skins
by Preson Steinhoff

Is it wrong for a man to have his shirt off? Recently, the boy’s basketball team has been instructed to not take their shirts or jerseys off at any time or for any reason during basketball practice. This rule was made to decrease the spread of staph infection. Boys bumping and running into each other while being sweaty and shirtless may transfer a staph infection from one person to another. However, there is a very low percentage of kids, and even a lower percentage (exactly zero percent) of boys basketball players who even have staph. This makes the possibility of spreading staph infection at Orchard Farm High School practically non existent. Not allowing the basketball team to take their shirts off during practice is not only ludicrous, but also absurdly preposterous.

Why should our basketball team not be allowed to take their shirts off during practice like every other school allows their boys to do? I have played on various basketball teams throughout my short career and every basketball team I have played for has always allowed “Shirts and Skins” to be played. They often allowed this when players were hot, which happens frequently with exercise. Our school might be trying to be a leader on this issue, by starting this “no shirtless policy”. I have only one problem with our school being a leader, and that problem is; our school is leading in the wrong direction.

Playing “Shirts and Skins” has been a long lasting tradition in the history of basketball. Why should our school try to diminish this? Would you hate it if our school canceled Winter Break (a long lasting tradition)? The two situations are basically the same and should never be done. Our school believes that we should be able to wear our green and black reversible jerseys instead of going “Shirts and Skins”. This is okay, only until we split up into three teams, and there are only two colors. Being able to take off our shirts would allow us to play with three teams and eliminate this problem we are faced with.

Men don’t have to wear shirts in a swimming pool, (which could spread staph easily through the water), so why can’t they go shirtless in a basketball gym? It is not considered indecent exposure if a man has his shirt off. We are not practicing with women. Some may think that we are putting pressure on kids to take their shirts off, but there isn’t any pressure. Now I know that our school is not a swimming pool, but it is a public place and no one has complained or seemed offended by us practicing with our shirts off.

The boy’s basketball team being restricted from taking off their shirts in practice is extremely pointless. The team wants to be able to distinguish teams during practice. The team wants to keep the tradition of “Shirts and Skins”. The team wants their shirtless freedom! And finally, the team wants your help; the help of standing up to our school and letting them know how crazy it is to deny the boy’s basketball team the right to take their shirts off in practice.


deepthinker said...

This sounds crazy and I don't really understand the logic of it either. Surely in a game of shirts vs skins, boys 'bumping and running into each other while sweaty and shirtless' are more likely to make contact with boys who have their shirts on than running into a team-mate's bare chest or back? And presumably all boys, shirts and skins, have their arms exposed, so will the school make them wear long sleeves next?
Many boys feel more comfortable doing sports with their shirts off and it's ridiculous to suggest that they shouldn't be given that option.

barethomas said...

All I can say is: At least the school authorities came up with a more imaginative reason to ban skins-play than by citing 'modesty' considerations, as has happened here and there.

Shirtless Robbie said...

This is definitely ridiculous. Ok, the pool is a bad analogy because the chlorine in pool water kills things like staph. But exposed arms, hands, and legs are as likely to spread staph as exposed skin on the torso. The risk can be reduced by showering after the game, and carefully monitoring players for signs of infection. Requiring shirts would have only minimal benefit, and doesn't seem to make sense with no confirmed cases at the school. Also, if staph where the reason, it should be harmless to take your shirt off when you aren't actually in play, making contact with other people. I agree that it sounds like an excuse to enforce someone's poor idea of a dress-code, but I dislike irrational excuses as much as I dislike the 'modesty' argument(I don't think shirtlessness is indecent, immodest, or inappropriate, but I certainly don't think it is unhealthy, either).

Abobo said...

This happened to me actually. I'm an adult (31) male who enjoys pickup basketball at a local gym. The gym recently stopped shirts and skins without stating why. I had to ask a few people before they explained that it was because nipples are considered immodest. I thought that was insane. For me? Since when? I tried coming back the next week in a half tee (more common for football, which I also do) and was told that was no good either. Apparently the bellybutton is immodest too. I'm just trying to stay cool! They don't prevent women from wearing their crop tops though. Our country is moving toward a frightening degree of prudish morals.

Hairy Jim said...

I was at a Y recently (not my home Y) and I forgot to pack a shirt for basketball. I asked the kid at the front desk whether it was OK to be a "skin" in the basketball gym. (I have learned to ask before stripping the shirt off because I have worked out at gyms where the rule is explicitly no shirts and skins). Anyway, he said guys do it all the time, but pretty soon we're going to have a rule against it. I asked why and he said "Some mothers are complaining that their young daughters shouldn't have to look at that." I was like, at what? He shrugged and made a face and i realized he thought it was ridiculous, too. I've been playing shirts and skins for decades -- and hope to play for decades more. It's the ideal way to go when you are playing with guys you don't know. As for this school's rationale at banning shirts and skins for the boys basketball team... pretty ridiculous. Skins guard shirts, for one thing. And second, do the guys not shower after practice? Oh, wait... according to a New York Times article high schools are actually ripping showers out of the locker room because in many places they are no longer a required conclusion to PE class or practice. You want to cut transmission of staph? Enforce a showering rule and make sure you provide antibacterial soap dispensers. And also teach the kids not to share towels, clothing or shaving equipment -- and to air out or even disinfect protective clothing, such as knee pads, chest pads, jockstraps. One thing i want to know, as far as YMCAs are concerned, how come it's not OK at some locations to play shirts and skins but a guy can march to the pool wearing a Speedo and nobody says anything. Not that I'm against Speedos. I've worn them myself. But I think if there's ever an opportunity for true "offense," that would be it. (Oh, and P.S. My personal rule now at YMCAs -- and I work out at a lot of them, because I travel frequently -- is, play basketball shirtless until somebody tells you not to. So far, I haven't heard any complaints.)

M. Turbot said...

Much of this stems from modern media:

1. Over and over we are told to cover up, we'll get skin cancer. You are about as likely to get murdered, even if you take no precaution.

2. In pop culture, a guy without a shirt is often in an intimate situation with a good looking gal. I think that an association is being made between shirtless and sex is being made.

3. Modern housing is large and spacious compared to the Bad Old Days. I grew up in a single bathroom house. If someone was in the shower, we knocked, came in, did our business and left. If the person in the shower was not the same gender, he/she was hidden by the curtain and steam.

Similarly bedrooms were often shared between siblings. I shared a basement room with my older brother until he went to college. I often saw him in his skin going to or from the shower. No big deal.