“So here’s what we’re doing,” we would say at parties. “We’re researching cooling devices and the male…anatomy…in order to create comfortable underwear that will chill your balls.” This was a conversation starter, to put it mildly.
Several months later, when an unsuspecting lunch guest caught us in the kitchen holding bags of frozen peas to the fronts of our pants, we were already convinced that we were onto something big. The lunch guest had her doubts. Male infertility accounts for roughly 40% of all infertility, but it’s still tough to sound cool when talking about it. That’s why we loved the name we’d dreamed up for this still-imaginary product: Snowballs! Some thought it was insensitive, or inappropriate, but for us it was just a punch line for a story we were dying to tell. You see, my friend and I had both been through the “fertility factory” with our wives, losing our money and our minds until we began to look more closely at the actual causes of infertility…and became obsessed by heat.
It was my friend and his wife who really provided the breakthrough. It had been a painful year. There had been a silent miscarriage after two years of trying, and they had seen one doctor after another, hoping for some good news. Finally one took the time to sit down with them and listen carefully. Almost immediately, he had a new plan. First, my friend should begin icing his balls. Huh? And then he should have himself tested for a varicocele. Again, huh? We were still new to cooling.
But they went home that day thinking: Why not? They had tried just about everything else. And so they began to do some research into heat and varicoceles…and this cooling thing started to make a lot of sense. That’s why they’re kept outside the body, after all: to stay cool. That’s why one common 19th century method of birth control was to dip them in a bowl of hot water before moving onto seductions. That’s why doctors advise men to avoid hot tubs and putting laptops on laps, and why boxers are preferable to briefs. So my friend began to ice…
And a beautiful daughter was born about a year later…
And we committed ourselves to sharing what we had learned with anyone who would listen. We researched cooling devices, chemical compounds, organic cottons, and ergonomic underwear. We perused dozens of scientific studies and solicited factories all over the world to help produce a cooling underwear that would be comfortable, convenient and hopefully effective.
Along the way, we kept discovering additional benefits of manly cooling beyond infertility: vasectomies, varicoceles, hydroceles, spermatoceles, epididymitis, hernia recovery, athletic injuries, etc.
We’re still learning every day. Men in 27 countries are already wearing Snowballs and writing us to share their own stories – sometimes funny, sometimes sad, but always hopeful for the future. And although we could have never guessed that when we grew up we’d be running an underwear company and advising men to ice their balls, we wouldn’t want to be doing anything else. And that’s pretty cool.
Josh Shoemake is the former headmaster of The American School of Marrakesh, Morocco, the author of two books, and the inventor of Snowballs. He lives in Paris, France.