• Emily Win

Bra or Nah?

After observing street fashion, blog fashion, media fashion, and public spaces of no fashion at all, it seems that the consensus is mixed: to where a bra or not to wear a bra? Sure, after a long work or school day we all come rushing home to throw off our underwires and throw on sweats, but I'm talking about an every-day sporting of the nips. Depending on where you live and the culture you grew up in, this discussion is either taboo or non-existent/non-relevant. Let's dive into the tension within the middle ground, shall we?

I invite you to join me in reflecting on some casual semi-rhetorical questions that popped into my head the other day as I was bralessly searching for Red Vines in a Kroger:

Question one: where did this cultural norm come from? (Honestly, folks, I'm all about questioning cultural norms)

Question two: It seems like every queer womxn tv show endorses the "nah", so I guess I'm just wondering if this is a thing "we" actually do all of the time? Or was this just a 90s thing? And also a 70s thing? And possibly a Sex and the City thing?

Question three: Does wearing, or not wearing a bra yield better muscles or healthier chests? Because if my boobs can get stronger via laziness, I can get behind that.

In attempt to get some answers, I searched the web to find that the first modern bra did not come about until the late 19th Century, but folks have been wearing constricting contraptions since before the 14th Century. We have migrated from the Roman Empire bandeau to the early modern corset to the French brasserie until we get what we could consider a "bra" in the early 1900s .The cultural norm of figure shaping has been around for ages. Despite the bra's evolution in practicality, we didn't get the first sports bra until the 70s!

To address question two: I really don't have an answer. However, it should be noted that in the 70s, an official "nipple bra" created the effect (and even allure?) of being in cold weather. The manufacturing of this type of bra indicates two things: First, a male influence infiltrating the commercial bra industry. Second, it could possibly reflect a popular style from current media and culture of the time. So, my question remains unanswered and I will forever remain wondering if the chicken or the egg came first.

As for health benefits, studies have shown mixed results in the long term effects of not wearing a bra. Recent research claims benefits like breast strength, better circulation, and perkiness. A study done by a professor at the University of Franche-Comté, "found that women who did not use bras benefited in the long term, developing more muscle tissue to provide natural support". It seems to me that the breast size is extremely important when looking at research results. Going braless for a lifetime as a size A will probably be a whole different ball game from freeing size D nips. While all of this varies from person to person, it is safe to say that living braless definitely allows more breathing room.

Some people have told me that their pecs feel stronger from being strap-free. Other people tell me they feel naked without proper support. As someone with a large chest, I completely understand the need to get adequate support (and the need for back massages). However, medical and cultural practices aside, I think your choice in lingerie can be a delicate and enticing expression of personality and spunk. For example, a Victoria's Secret pink padded bra can be flirty and fun, expressing quite femme attributes. Different variations of sports bras can indicate athleticism, style, or even butchness. Bare chests can equally signal natural hippie empowerment or perpetual states of carelessness. Just like a hairstyle, you can experiment with under-garments to express more intimate sides your aesthetic.

At the end of the day, you should feel comfortable and fine! And, as a standard notice, I do not judge anyone in any way for wearing or not wearing a bra. The choice is totally up to you. This post is rather, a tending to my own curiosities, as someone who has gone through heavy padded phases, sporty phases, and long natural phases.

As always, don't be afraid to experiment, especially is something feels comfortable and right on your body. Chests are great and so are you. Express yourself (and your nips) freely.

Cover photo by Pablo Heimplatz on Unsplash