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!

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

From the Net: Another school bans shirtless practice

Every once in a while, we hear of schools banning their track/ cross-country/ some other sport team from practising shirtless. I have already reproduced a critical report of a school banning shirts-vs-skins practice  (click here for the report). Below is an excerpt from chronicling - and protesting - another 'let no one be shirtless' order. Writer Meghan Morris' arguments seem to me concise, pithy and hard to refute. There's something truly antediluvian about such edicts, and it's a good job some students aren't just knuckling under without a fight.

No shirt, no shoes? No running

By Meghan Morris
Assistant Managing Editor

It happens every day. Warmup. Stretch. Suns out, guns out. No matter who says it, every runner promptly peels off their shirt on command, readying themselves for an intense workout. It’s practically Pavlovian.
Due to a recent ruling from Athletic Director David Grace, however, boys are no longer permitted to run shirtless, and girls can no longer practice in only a sports bra. According to Grace, a concerned community member complained about the shirtless female runners, prompting a new decision to enforce a rule  prohibiting the team from running shirtless, even during hot August preseason practices.

I am a writer, but I am also a runner, which is why I take issue with changing my team’s favorite running traditions. Yes, we run shirtless, but not to promote any sexual image of ourselves. When the thermometer climbs to 95 degrees in August, running six plus miles during the typical practice becomes unbearable when even Under Armour tech shirts can’t keep you from sticking to your shirt.

I challenge our concerned community to practice with us at Wilson Park and Valley Forge Park, and to look around. At these parks, there are elite runners from all over the country, as well as neighborhood runners, most of whom do not wear shirts on hot days. In competition, too, many female runners’ uniforms consist of a high-tech sports bra and shorts resembling bikini bottoms.

Kara Goucher, a leading professional runner, wears such a uniform when she races in global competitions. She embodies strength and poise, not indecency, as she crosses the finish line in her sports bra. Her photo on the March cover of Runner’s World magazine, in which she confidently smiles in a sports bra, portrays her as a role model for runners of all ages and genders. Runners like these do not project a sexual image, nor does the Conestoga track team.

While I do not argue that sports are an extension of class policy, the reasoning behind this particular rule is illogical. The policy is not P.I.A.A.-enforced, nor is it standard across schools. To continue this running tradition, our community and athletic director need to prioritize. Questionable indecency is not enough to end a practice that produces Division I runners and state champions.

Meghan Morris can be reached at The original online version of this article can be reached by clicking here.

Printed originally on p. 22 of The Spoke’s May 6, 2010 edition.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

My take on the Shirtless P.E. debate

One topic that pops up with some regularity online is the 'shirtless for physical education' issue. The starting point is typically that, at least in the U.K. and the U.S., it has become less common for boys to strip to the waist for P.E., whereas in the past it was common for the entire class to do gym, calisthenics or the like sans shirt. One camp in the debate will argue that requiring everyone to go shirtless can be harsh on plump or shy students, who may develop 'body issues'. An opposed faction responds that there are valid health benefits to going shirtless (not to mention safety concerns when it comes to getting entangled in gym equipment) and  that students are more attuned to staying fit if they have to be bare-chested among peers. It is also commonly claimed that, once boys are required to go shirtless a time or two, they find this so much more comfortable than exercising fully-clothed that many end up stripping down of their own volition.

My sympathies, with some qualification, are with the second camp. I think the 'body issue' matter could be overblown. Students are required to sit school tests that could be deflating to the ego of less-prepared or less-keen students, but that is no reason to say that tests should be banned. Why should 'body issues' be more serious? Indeed, they are surely less serious; by banning shirtless P.E. on their account, we are sending precisely the wrong message: That these matters are very important indeed. And why should we do that?

Now, I rather think there is some truth to the proposition that students would make more of an effort to burn carbs and stay fit  if they knew they'd be shirtless regularly in front of peers. But I'm not sure this is something to be encouraged: After all, isn't this the flip side of the 'body issues' point? There's nothing wrong about wanting to be presentable - children ought to be turned-out decently for church, or class, for instance - but there is rather a whiff of objectification about saying they should become obsessed with their own bare-chested appearance.

On the other hand, the 'it's more comfortable' argument holds water, if you ask me, and I personally know of people who at the very least lost their uneasiness about being shirtless after having to go bare for shirts-vs-skins basketball or soccer. But for myself, at least, I am partly guided by my on-balance preference for school uniforms: There's something equalising about ruling out attire envy or whose-sneaker-is-the-coolest differentiation. Enforced shirtlessness is simply an extension of this democratisation, a further paring-back of inessential ornamentation.

Is this, ultimately, a major issue that might alter a child's schoolgoing life spectacularly? I wouldn't have thought so. But enforced shirtlessness, even if it's only for a term or a year, would broadens students' experience and allows them more of a choice, hopefully breaking down some unnecessary inhibitions. So why not?