Bras useless, says science

"A little-known French sports doctor who spent 16 years studying the busts of about 300 women sent a scare through a country known for its love of lingerie this week when he suggested bras were useless." [Reuters]


  1. The
    limited study is still in it’s early stages of research and is not conclusive.
     The suggestion by the Dr. Rouillon that bras may weaken supporting
    musculature was not a call for all women to abandon the bra.  He
    said he added that “But a middle-aged women, overweight, with 2.4
    children? I’m not at all sure she’d benefit from abandoning bras” 

    1. My Nana wore a bra every day of her life and even in the bath. If she didn’t she’s get tears on the side from the weight of her breasts. Pretty sure we already knew small breasted women didn’t need bras. 

    2.  Was this actually published anywhere?  I have seen zero articles actually linking to any kind of journal article or anything of the sort.  Is this entire media hubbub about this story based on “hey, we talked to this guy who said this”?


        Rouillon told Reuters that his unpublished work
        is still in the early stages and he is hesitant about giving
        one-size-fits-all advice to women, despite the media circus.

        The article notes that the study is unpublished and not yet final.

  2. Hey, all us guys, let’s keep telling women what’s best for them and their bodies. That has worked out so well for us in the past.

    Dude, “not your call to make.”

    1. On the positive side you’re trying to be feminist.

      On the negative side we’re spoilt or choice.

    2. While I think that his study is limited he is NOT some random dude off the street hollering “WOHOOO no bras!”.

      1. I tried to look at it from the other side. What if a female “sports” doctor told all guys not to wear supporters. 

        I don’t think either side can understand the full benefits of securing sports garments unless they’ve walked a mile in the other’s anatomy.

        1. So the only valid research is research performed by a member of the studied population? Guess we’d better chuck out all of Jane Goodall’s work and wait for the first batch of gorilla PhDs.

          1. I agree in theory, but you also have to consider the relationship the test population has had with the researcher population in the past. Is there a history between the two? Had Goodall ever discriminated against the gorillas? Had she passed laws that interfered with gorilla rights? Did she have any kind of personal procreative intent toward the gorillas? Did she just like to see them naked? Now of course she didn’t, so that made her an objective researcher. What’s your opinion on this guy? Could his life’s work have been better focused?

        2. Are we really adopting the theory that anything we don’t have personal experience of is an unknowable black box about which we just shake our heads gravely and remain silent?

          Sure, for PHIL101 purposes, I’m perfectly willing to concede that there definitely isn’t an available mechanism(and it may not be possible, even in principle) to have direct knowledge of somebody else’s qualia(or even demonstrate that they exist); but for research purposes we can construct a mixture of questions about the subject’s subjective experience and physiological measures of tissue deformation, injury rates between test groups, etc. 

    3. It arguably depends on exactly what flavor of ‘call’ is being made.

      Oh-so-helpful aestheticly normative advice has a deeply undistinguished history; but there is nothing preventing scientists without any personal experience of a given phenomenon from doing research that provides accurate information, including information about what measures do or don’t achieve various health outcomes.

      Doctors treat disease that they’ve never had all the time. Researchers study biological systems that aren’t even human, much less similar to them, all the time. This particular guy says that his preliminary results suggest that wearing bras is correlated with weakening of certain supporting muscles. Would these results be more credible if the researcher were female?

  3. I’m not sure how this is a new study, really.  I remember reading years back that some doctors were recommending this decades ago . . . and I mean in the ’30s (others dissented, of course.)  But, considering that braless was a thing for most of us throughout the 70s, isn’t this easy enough to do a survey of?  (Worked out fine for me.)  In any case, way back when, in the advice part of “Home Ec”, they told us that we didn’t need to wear them until the “pencil test” dictated (if, when standing up straight, a pencil put (horizontally!) under the bustline would stay there when you took your hand away)  Of course today, stores are selling underwire (!) padded bras from size 28AA.  Craziness.  

  4. Like most of you probably did as kids, I would sneak “National Geographic” for pictures of naked people.  And I recall a lot of cultures that didn’t wear bras, and a lot of very very droopy boobs.  

    1. You beat me to it, just what I was going to say.  So, the real question is, when we’re talking “useless,” in what context does this guy mean?  Does it preserve, er, boob firmness?  Or does it just keep women from having unsightly droop as they get older?

      Wow, this topic is making me genuinely uncomfortable.

      1. Ask any woman over a D cup and she will probably tell you her bra is a necessity. Me, I was a “pirate’s dream” for most of my life so I can’t really say.

        1. I wear a B cup, and I am certainly not comfortable doing anything very active without a bra. What a lot of people don’t know about cup size is that it’s relative to band size, so it’s not an absolute measurement of how much breast there is, just how much difference there is between band size (the under-bust measurement) and bust size (circumference at the fullest part of the bust). So while I technically wear a  B cup,  my band size is 40, which means I would be a 38 C, a 36 D, a 34 E, etc. 

    2. You were probably also looking at a lot of cultures who breast-fed 9.8 children(6.3 not shown, being dead from common childhood illness) for moderately extended periods. That might be a confounding factor…

    3.  As others mention size and breastfeeding are factors a third factor is the act of breast ironing or breast flattening done is some places such as Cameroon where young women have their breasts flattened with heated rocks or tied down with rope/twine/etc until they become flattened.

      In short droopy appearing breasts may be the result of circumstances a Western woman may encounter (size x duration + nursing = droop) or it could be the result of a specific regional cultural approach to breasts, something a Western woman is unlikely to be compelled to do.

        1.  well…it’s not something I’m into as an aesthetic it may come in handy for rolling joints.

  5. A pubmed search for ‘Jean-Denis Rouillon’ reveals no published work specifically about bras or breasts. It *does* reveal more than twenty articles published in peer-reviewed journals over the last decade, all in the fields of sports physiology and exercise research.

    My guess is that this is a longitudinal study that’s still in progress, ie he’s following groups of women who do and don’t wear bras and assessing… (here my imagination fails me) …at regular intervals.

  6. A little-known French sports doctor who spent 16 years studying the busts of about 300 women…

    My guess is that he just needed an excuse for spending 16 years studying breasts.

  7. Mind you, this is exactly the sort of material that so often results in media reports of what a scientist said bearing little resemblance to what the scientist actually said. Somebody needs to find that article.

  8. working for a startup doing 3D weaving of a new kind of bra, this research fascinates me, but it’s pretty useless to speculate until he actually publishes something.  But… bras do more than theoretically reduce sag with aging (which I suspect they don’t really.. if they did, we should try arm bras and belly bras and butt bras…)
    a properly fitted bra can:
    reduce back pain
    breast pain
    reducing both of these can improve sports performance of female athletes

    1. Yes, arm bras, woads, flight suits, etc. make that bit of sense; one just wants to lose the harmful incidents where everyone wants to try Olympic Trampoline, yet samely be ambulatory afterward, not ‘weaken the natural muscles that hold up the’ what have you. The exoskeleton! It does nothing! Maybe the paleo shvitz will replace fiber tech, if whatever that turns out to be is awesome enough.

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