I love bras. I literally never leave the house without wearing one. Even if I am just popping to the shop to get milk – a task which takes a maximum of three minutes – I will still put on a bra before I go, and I will be a million times happier for it. I know lots of people hate them, so I just wanted to raise my voice in a joyous shout in defence of bras: I LOVE THEM.
Bras make me feel more comfortable. That is point one. I know lots of people find the underwire pokey or irritating, or find bras restrictive, but for me bras represent freedom and movement and being able to run for a bus. Without a bra, I would have to stand with my arms permanently crossed, like I’m in a constant huff. In fact, without a bra I would be in a permanent huff.
Point two: bras enhance my own sexiness. Note, here: my own sexiness. I’m not saying that everyone with tits should wear a bra. On the contrary, bras are a bit like high heels – some people adore them and feel their baddest-ass self when they’re swaggering around in them, others see them as devices of hideous self-torture. I fall into the latter camp when it comes to heels, but bras make me feel sexier than I could ever feel naked.
Falling in love with bras
When my school friends and I first started wearing bras, there was one girl who classmates used to bitch about. At the school discos, or on non-uniform days, she’d wear a push-up bra and occasionally glance down at her own cleavage. Surreptitiously, like. She’d squish her arms together a little and look down like she was checking something, then – cleavage noted – she’d get back to doing whatever it was she was doing. The cool girls would whisper and laugh about her, and although I was too scared to say anything to them – being the opposite of a ‘cool girl’ and quite likely to get kicked – I did take solid note of what they meant: you’re not allowed to do this. Looking at your cleavage is a bad, bad thing.
Unfortunately, it was also a deliciously compelling thing. I had never been particularly excited about the onset of puberty – menstruation sounded like an actual horrorshow, and thick, dark leg hair was already causing untold misery. But when I got tits, and started wearing a bra? Suddenly the clouds opened and a glorious ray of sunshine shone down into my cleavage and suddenly – finally – I had something I could be pleased about.
I looked at my cleavage when I went to the toilets. I snuck peeks of it in accessories shops – the ones with the slanted mirrors on the ceiling, which I’m told boys of my age had noticed too. I stood in front of the mirror when I had the bedroom to myself, and tightened every possible bra strap to maximise the effect. I wore tight bras, ill-fitting bras, push-up bras, with the sole aim of sending a haphazard and impulsive message: ‘I have tits. Here they are. What do you think?’
I love bras as a foreplay accessory
As soon as I started snogging boys, bras took on a new meaning. Previously, kisses of any kind could essentially be done in front of parents. At school discos or parties at the community centre, parental chaperones would smile politely as two young people would gamely attempt to lick their way through each other’s facial epidermis. It was just a kiss, and it was cute. During those kisses, I’d see boys try to sneak a hand up to try and touch a boob – presumably still a thrill even if it was touched through layers of padded bra and cheap nylon disco dress.
After hours, though, bras were more easily circumvented. Behind bushes, in parks, in bathrooms and sheds and garages at friends’ houses when parents were out of the way, bras were shoved up or down or to the side to allow tentative brushes of skin or – the holy grail – a nipple.
Later on, I started to fetishise the idea of men taking my bra off for me: that trick where someone undoes your bra one-handed? That. Is. Hot. Sure, if you can’t perfect it, it’s usually better to ask someone ‘take off your bra’ than it is to fumble with trembling fingers for five minutes, thus killing the mood. But if you can do it? You are a God to me. I will worship at the altar of your cock forever if you can slip my bra off while we’re snogging. Bonus points if you can make me feel like I’m back in the bushes somewhere in the late 90s, revelling in the joy of my own cleavage for the very first time.
Bras mean different things to different people
Now’s as good a time as any to point out that I am not the definitive authority on bras. In fact, this post is born mostly of a realisation that bras have so many different connotations for different people. The simple, physical ones are obvious: some of us find bras comfy, others the opposite. But more than that, your relationship with it is going to depend a lot on what your bra represents.
When I tweeted about them yesterday I got a lot of replies from people who hate bras: Zak Jane Keir summed up one of the problems with bras really neatly, so I’ll hand over to her:
— Zak Jane Keir (@decadentmadamez) April 15, 2017
— Zak Jane Keir (@decadentmadamez) April 15, 2017
Zak’s got a point: the idea that tits are ‘indecent’ is bizarre and uncomfortable – it means that certain bodies are marked as ‘decent’ or ‘indecent’ based mostly on whether they have the capacity to turn straight men on. It means that me wearing just a t-shirt, during a chilly breeze, is somehow more shocking – more ‘unacceptable’ – than my male partner doing exactly the same thing. It screws over women who breastfeed, as uncomfortable bystanders decide that this hungry baby needs food less than they need to assert their prudery.
Alongside political implications, underwear also has a lot of emotional impact. There’s a fantastic exhibition on at the London Fashion Space Gallery at the moment – the Museum of Transology (on until 22nd April so get your skates on if you want to see it – it’s free, nearest tube Oxford Circus). It showcases a number of personal objects chosen by trans people that represent their gender identity, and it’s incredibly moving. Lots of people chose to donate things like packets of hormones, stickers, or diaries, but many chose to donate clothes and underwear. You walk around the gallery and each item has a luggage tag attached with a short explanation from the person who’s donated. You see bras with tags attached that say ‘I’m so glad I’m rid of this now!’, and others with joyous messages like ‘the first day I wore this I was so happy I cried!’
The exact same bra could represent misery to one person, but freedom to another. To me they feel like a comfy hug for my knockers, to others they’re a royal pain in the tits. Bras will have other emotional connotations for people who have had chest surgery – mastectomies, cosmetic or medical breast augmentation, breast reduction after back pain, that kind of thing. Some might associate bras with youthful longing to have tits big enough to wear them, others will have painful memories of discomfort or harassment when they started wearing bras. Underwear – of any kind – is such a personal thing, associated with so many memories, bodily changes, societal pressures and fears, it’s unsurprising bras have such strong ‘love it or hate it’ connotations. From the first one you try on, through myriad bra fittings in Marks and Spencer, to the last time you remember someone peeling one off: bras are so much more than just scraps of fabric and wire.