Australian rugby fans watching the New South Wales vs. Queensland match yesterday were treated to a mid-match surprise when halfback Trent Hodkinson whipped off his shirt to reveal a tight, cropped black tank top—or, as many fans later described it, a sports bra.
The garment was not, in fact, designed to keep his pecs in place. Instead, it is meant to keep his high-tech athlete-monitoring device in place.
“The vest holds a small player tracking unit that’s worn really tight under the jersey to quantify the demands of the game, and that data is used as a benchmark for training and to dictate recovery protocols,” Damien Hawes, international sales manager for GPSports, which makes the device, told news.com.au, an Australian news site. The tracking device used to be worn as a harness, “but the straps irritated athletes under the armpit and caused chaffing, so the new design of the compression vest is much more comfortable.”
GPSports sells the $2,000 tracking units, with accompanying compression vests, to teams including the NFL’s Seattle Seahawks to the Premier League’s Chelsea football club, he said.
Still, even company executives refer to it as “the bro,” Hawes admitted, a reference to a much-quoted Seinfeld episode that first aired in February 1995 and shows no sign of being forgotten, ever.
Rugby fans on Twitter traded jibes with #bro #croptop and #sportsbra hashtags, and a morning radio DJ from Central Queensland promised during the match to wear one himself the following day if Queensland lost. (They did, so Paul “Browny” Brown, you better be wearing one right now).
Jokes aside, the reaction to GPSports tracking device highlights one of the problems of wearable technology—the ridicule factor. No matter how many edgy models Vogue puts in Google Glass, there’s no getting around the fact that in the real world, you’re pretty much wearing weird-looking glasses with a camera on them (which can inspire hostility in the people around you). Last year’s clunky, dorky smart watches were “all terrible,” as Quartz reported, and the promised “next step in wearable tech” is even worse.
Despite the public ridicule that Hodkinson got after taking off his shirt, he was probably treated much more kindly in the locker room. GPSports said the entire Queensland team, and their opponents, were suited up in man bras—er, “compression vests.”