Have you been sent to
this web page because you may be thought of as crazy?
Or possibly, you are researching straightjackets for someone
A straitjacket is a
garment shaped like a
jacket with overlong sleeves.
The ends of these can be tied to the back of the wearer,
so their arms are kept close to their chest with possibility
of only little movement.
is the most common form, strait-jacket is also frequently
used, and, in
England, strait-waistcoat (archaic).
The spellings straightjacket and straight-jacket
are now valid alternatives, although the original term came
from strait meaning narrow or confined; thus straitjacket
Straitjackets are used to restrain people who may
otherwise cause harm to themselves and others. Its
effectiveness as a restraint makes it of especial
interest in escapology. The straitjacket is also a
staple prop in stage magic and is sometimes used in
The negative connotations straitjackets have as an
instrument of torture come from the earlier era of
Victorian medicine. Physical restraint was then
extensively used both as treatment for mental illness
and as a means of pacifying patients in understaffed
Institutional straitjackets tend to be made of
canvas or duck cloth for
material strength. Jackets intended as fetish wear or fashion
items often use
The security of a straitjacket depends very much on its
size, which should be as small as practicable to be secure.
A jacket that is tight at the chest and armpits will make
it much more difficult for the wearer to pull the arms out
of the sleeves.
The sleeves of the jacket are typically sewn shut at
a significant restraint in itself because it retards use
of the hands. The arms are then folded across the front,
with the ends of the sleeves wrapping around to fasten or
tie behind the back. On some jackets, the sleeve-ends are
not anchored to the garment to allow the fastening or knot
to rotate away from the wearer's hands as they move their
arms, making it more difficult to undo.
Most jackets feature a crotch-strap to prevent the jacket
from simply being lifted over the head. Roller buckles are
commonly used to fasten institutional jackets with webbing
or cloth straps because they are very difficult to open
without a free pair of hands. For this reason, they are
rarely used on jackets intended for stage magic.
To remove a straitjacket with both back and crotch-straps,
it is almost always necessary to be able to
dislocate one's shoulders in order to gain the slack
necessary to pull an arm out of the sleeves. Without this
ability, only a very oversized one can be escaped from.
Even then, this trick does not work with closed-collar jackets.
It is sometimes possible to get more room by pulling at
the inside of the arms as they're being strapped or by keeping
an elbow held outward to gain slack in the sleeves when
the arm is relaxed. Another way to gain slack is to take
and hold a deep breath while the jacket is being done up.
It is possible for one person to put a willing volunteer
into a straitjacket, but it generally takes at least two
people to jacket a struggling person, and yet another to
keep an eye out for such tricks.
For a jacket without a front strap, the most common way
to escape is to hoist the arms over the head before undoing
the crotch strap and at least the strap at the back of the
neck. This allows the jacket to simply be peeled off upward
over the head. The straitjacket escape was popularized by
Houdini, who could dislocate both his shoulders. His
magician brother, Hardeen, who also did the escape, could
only dislocate one shoulder. Houdini first did it behind
a curtain, forcing the audience to listen to thumps while
watching a billowing curtain for many minutes. He found
the trick went over better when the audience could see his
struggles. In one of his later and more popular acts, he
would perform the straitjacket escape while hung upside
down from a skyscraper.
Wearing an institutional
straitjacket for long periods of time can
be quite painful. Blood tends to pool in
the elbows, where swelling may then occur.
The hands may become numb from lack of proper
circulation, and due to bone and muscle
stiffness the upper arms and shoulders may
experience excruciating pain. Thrashing
around while in a straitjacket is a common,
but mostly ineffective, method of attempting
to move and stretch the arms.
Some jackets intended for fetish use
include additional restraining features
like wrist straps,
lockable fastenings or opt to cross
the arms behind the back. Again, these should
be used cautiously and never for long periods,
as they can interfere with circulation or
make the jacket difficult to release in
the event of emergency.
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