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Guelph man credited with making the jockstrap truly protective

Hard cup added to belt that didn't prevent the pain of low blows
In 1927, Guelph company Elastic Hosiery patented a hard cup for jockstraps.

There is a certain item of protective equipment for which athletes the world over owe Guelph a vote of gratitude; the jockstrap – aka the athletic supporter.

Female athletes are included here because there is a specially designed jillstrap that, like the jockstrap, is based on the fundamental understanding
that certain vulnerable parts of the body require extra protection from external causes of physical trauma.

We can have a greater appreciation of the psychological depth of that requirement if we consider that athletes as tough as boxers and hockey players were wearing jockstraps long before they
ever thought of protecting their heads.

Who invented the jockstrap? One story credits a Finnish athlete named Parvo Nakacheker who allegedly “devoted much time to the study of pure anatomy and the special needs of such an item.” But there doesn’t seem to be much documented support (pun intended) for that claim aside from this unsourced quotation.

What we do know is that Guelph was a milestone in the evolution of the jockstrap.

The origins of the jockstrap actually date back to medieval times, when men wore an item called a codpiece over that delicate area. A knight in armour might wear a steel codpiece because even the most chivalrous of them were liable to fight dirty, but most men wore codpieces of cloth or leather.

Some codpieces were quite large. That could be because the wearer was a show-off, but it could also be due to the fact that a codpiece was a pretty good place for a chap to carry his money – which in those days was coinage. Very difficult for a pickpocket to get at it undetected, unless he was exceptionally

Codpieces eventually went out of fashion and were replaced by pants with pockets and buttoned flies. However, the idea of a supporting garment for boys and men was reborn in the 19th century with the coming of the bicycle. Bicycle jockeys, as cyclists were called back then, usually did not have the smoothly surfaced roads we know today to ride on. If roads were paved at all, it was usually with crushed gravel or cobblestones, which made even a recreational bike ride bouncy, to say the least.

For bike-riding delivery boys and messenger couriers, a few hours on the job could leave a fellow uncertain of his future possibilities of fatherhood.

Then about 1874 a man named C.F. Bennett came to the rescue of males who wanted to keep their bikes but not have their vocal range reach a higher pitch. Bennett was the founder of a Chicago-based sporting goods company called Sharp & Smith, and he was always coming up with ideas for new
products for sportsmen of every description.

He was aware of the discomfort endured by the lads of the cycling fraternity, and being a businessman who was always on the ball, he went to work on the

Bennett developed a thong-like undergarment, a type of miniature hammock for the family jewels, that was designed to give males comfort and support. He called it the Bike Jockey strap.

In 1897 Bennett formed the Bike Web Company and patented his invention. It was mass-produced as the Bike #10 Jockstrap. More and more athletes began wearing them and were soon being called jocks. Thus, it was the men who were nicknamed after the jockstrap, not vice-versa.

Bennett’s invention certainly made it less of an ordeal for a guy to spend a day astride the saddle of a bicycle. But it offered no protection from such horrors as a low blow in a boxing match, or a hockey puck made of frozen, vulcanized rubber rocketing at speeds of more than 100 miles an hour. A frightful blow hockey players called “ringing the berries” could result in the victim being carried off the ice, finished for the rest of the game because of what sports writers discreetly called “a lower body injury.”

Among the many bizarre devices marketed during the “electric craze” that swept the world around the turn of the 20th century was the Alternating Current Heidelberg Electric Belt. The male version of this wonder garment had a low-voltage jockstrap that promised to cure poor circulation, kidney disorders, liver disease, and a long list of other ailments, while, of course, enhancing sexual performance.

The female version of the belt was also marketed as a cure-all for many problems including “female weakness,” and supposedly would help women control sexual urges. But the Electric Belt offered no protection from physical blows.

Then in 1927 a Guelph company called Elastic Hosiery (later Protexion Industries), located on Waterloo Avenue, fortified the jockstrap with a hard cup.

According to one account, Jack Cartledge, son of company owner Joe Cartledge, developed the hard cup and then filed a patent for it.

Perhaps inspired by those steel codpieces still seen on suits of medieval armour in museums, the Guelph addition to Bennett’s invention was just what the doctor ordered. Hockey players, quick to realize the new device offered protection not only from slapshots but also from errant sticks, were among the first athletes to make them a standard part of their equipment.

If there were any misguided macho types who disdained the notion of protecting the package the way an outspoken Hockey Night in Canada commentator would later dismiss the wearing of visors as wimpish, they kept it to themselves.

After all, it wasn’t their manhood in the line of fire.

The protective cup was a game-changer. Guys could now take to the ice, battle in the corners and engage in goalmouth scrambles confident that one very precious part of their anatomy was as safe as a turtle in its shell. Hockey players – especially goalies – might still leave blood and teeth on the ice, but at least they could walk to the arena’s infirmary.

Other athletes quickly added the new athletic supporter to their personal armour.

For Guelph, another claim to fame was in the bag.