Pilates was invented by a man called Joseph Pilates. He himself called his fitness regime : "Contrology".
Joseph Pilates, born 1883 in Moenchengladbach, first worked in a local brewery. Joseph Pilates left Germany in 1912 to work as a boxer.
After World War I he returned to Germany and worked for a short while as a boxer.
Men are still the minority in Pilates courses in fitness clubs.

But the picture in studios that are specialised on Pilates has already changed, especially in Pilates studios that offer the so-called Pilates apparatus training. Depending on the studio you will find between 25% - 50% men.

Also the number of male Pilates trainers constantly increases. An analysis of a Facebook Pilates Trainer Community showed that 18% of the participants of the Facebook group were men.
(Numbers March 2013)
The photographer Chuck Rapoport remembers: "The Jantzen bathing brief on Joe Pilates - he had dozens in most sizes for the men clients to wear when the arrived in his studio. As Jay and I can testify, we went into a dressing room behind a curtain where there was a cardboard carton filled with clean suits and picked one out, undressed and slipped it on."

Although Joseph Pilates was a fitness guru, who was advocating doing sports in the bathing suit in the winter snow, showering himself and his students with ice cold water and scrubbing the body with a coarse scrubbing brush, he also knew how to enjoy life. It is well-known that he enjoyed schnaps and whiskey and unfortunately also loved to smoke cigars.

Many of the ballett-studios close by sent Joseph Pilates their injured dancers, who he was able to cure with his Contrology method.

In the 1960's the male:female ratio in his New York studio was 50:50 as some of his former assistants and clients remember.

Fit for military service with Pilates? Yes, the biographer of Joseph Pilates, Stacey Redfield, wrote in an article "With the declaration of WWII, all men were required to register for the draft including Joe at age 59. Joe said, "I never charged a man in a uniform," and trained men considered ineligible for military service by developing their bodies to pass the military physical fitness exam."

Starting his career working in a brewery, his love for beer stayed with him his whole life, as this picture from his 85th birthday shows. He is sitting on a keg of Miller High Life beer, with three bottles of beer on each side of the keg. (Many thanks to Francene Perel for this picture, which Joseph Pilates' niece gave to her as a present).
Approx. between 1920 and 1925 Joseph Pilates lived in Hamburg. During this time he trained the Hamburg police in self-defence.

In the middle of the 1920's Joseph Pilates emigrated to the US. On his second tour to America he met his third wife: Clara. For a while he lived with his brother and constructed with him his Reformers. The picture below shows him with 42 years.
After Joseph Pilates' death mostly women passed on the Pilates method. And that was the reason why it became a "woman" thing.
Want to learn more? Click here for a more detailed Pilates history.
In Joseph Pilates' studio, men needed to train in a bathing suit as the above picture shows. This way he ensured that everybody used their deepest layers of abdominal muscles within each exercise. He could also correct wrong movement patterns more easily.
Joseph Pilates always wore a bathing suit from the brand Jantzen.
Some of the most prominent Pilates teachers are men:
Rael Isacowitz
Julian Littleford
Brett Howard
Kevin Bowen
Brent Anderson
just to mention a few.
Below a picture of Rael Isacowitz which was taken in 2012 at a Pilates conference in South Africa.
powered by pilates-powers
The Pilates Studio for the area Tönisvorst, Krefeld, Kempen, Anrath und Willich
Around 1929 he opened his studio with her in New York. His first customers were men.