The True Importance of Clothing
What It Represents And What To Consider
Clothing! Clothing is a complex topic and a very interesting one as you dive deeper and deeper into it. To write this blog post I went on a hunt for information around why clothing is really important to us as individuals and as a society and I came up with so much more. So I am going to do my best to lay it all out on the line for you so that you don’t have to get sucked down the rabbit hole :)
The question of why is clothing important can’t be answered unless we go way back to the beginning and examine why human beings started wearing clothing in the first place. There is much debate and uncertainty around when humans actually started wearing clothing but estimates range from 40,000-300,000 years ago (that’s a crazy time difference!)
It is believed that as humans started migrating out of Africa hundreds of millions of years ago they started to come across different climates that they were not accustomed to. Climates like extreme cold that you don’t typically experience in Africa. So to protect themselves against the cold and wind these migrants fashioned themselves clothing. These early garments, according to archaeologists and anthropologists, were made up of fur, leather, leaves or grass that people either draped, wrapped or tied around their bodies.
The weather may not have been the only thing that started humans on their path to clothing. As we all know there are so many things in the world that have the potential to do us harm and having clothing acts as a protective barrier against them. These things include, but are not limited, burns from hot objects and the sun, scratches, rough surfaces, insects and other animals, infectious diseases and toxic materials as they provide a hygienic barrier over our skin, and more.
If you’re a religious person you might believe that humans started wearing clothing back in the days of Adam and Eve, when they ate from the Tree of Knowledge. On that day humanity was introduced to a feeling we now know as shame. Shame at having certain body parts exposed, especially the genitals as they are different between man and woman. This shame led to feelings of indecency and so more and more of the body started to be covered over time.
Whatever your beliefs may be the reality is, the origins of where and when clothing originated and why, widely speculative. But now that we have a basic understanding of where and why clothing started becoming a reality thousands of years ago let’s jump forward to what clothing means to us today as individuals, as a society, as a culture and and as a race.
Over the decades clothing has changed and evolved from something that merely protects us, even though it still does, as mentioned above, into a statement. A statement about where you come from and where you are currently living, what role you play in society, who you are as an individual, what your values are and what your culture is. Let’s dive a little deeper into each of these.
Where you Come From Or Are Living
What part of the world you are from will greatly affect your choice in clothing. For example if you live in a climate that is cold for 8 months of the year you will have warm pants and sweaters in your closet as well as insulated boots, mitts, toque and a really warm coat that will often be fur lined but doesn’t need to be. These are necessary in order to survive in a cold climate. This is because when cold rain or snow falls on exposed skin your nerve cells immediately send messages to your brain letting it know that that area is exposed and is becoming colder than the rest of the body. This will likely cause discomfort and if left untreated could result in severe consequences when the temperature is frigid.
On the other hand when you live in a very hot climate, such as in the deserts, your wardrobe will likely consist of long light robes and head wraps. These are designed and used to protect your body from the harmful ultraviolet rays from the sun while keeping the body cooler at the same time.
If you live in a more temperate climate, though, it would not be uncommon to have a wardrobe full of a multitude of different styles that both cover the body fully or allow you to expose more skin comfortably, depending on the temperature of the day.
What Role You Play in Society
Some anthropologists refer to clothes as “the social skin” and this statement reigns true no matter what part of history you explore. In the era when royalty and peasants dressed completely differently the role of clothing was very important. Clothing was used to easily distinguish who was part of the royal court, who was part of the upper class and who the servants were.
In today’s world, clothing is still a major indicator of what role you play in society. It is one of the best ways to distinguish between social classes, occupations, ethnic and religious affiliations and much more. When you see people walking around in business attire and are well groomed it can be assumed that they have some sort of office job that could require a lot of abstract thinking or customer service. When you see people walking around in police uniforms, they are likely police officers and their role is clear and understood throughout society. When you see people who are unkept and wearing dirty clothes it is likely that these individuals have moved down the social ladder and may be starting again.
Who You Are As An Individual
The clothing we choose to wear is a statement of who we are as individuals. And no one will ever be exactly the same. From the clothing we wear to our shoes, accessories, hair style and fragrance, each item is selected based on our preferences, likes and dislikes and how they make us look and feel.
But the clothing we choose to wear does so much more than make us look and feel good it also portrays important messages to the world.For example wearing a sharp cut suit with pointed shoes tells the world that you are an authority figure and are able to make clear decisions. Whereas sweat pants and a baggy sweater will let the world know that today is not a good day for higher level decision making and work.
Our clothing choices not only portray a message about who we are as a person but they also affect our behaviour. It is said that the way you dress is the way you act. So if you are dressed for success in a smart suit or a cute pair of jeans that make you feel confident and sexy, you are much more likely to perform at a higher level in your work and life because dressing the part shows your brain that you are confident in yourself and your ability to get the job done and do it well.
It also works the other way as well. If it is your goal to go to the gym more often start by simply putting on your gym clothes. Having them on will be more of a motivator to actually go and work out than just thinking about it and then not acting upon that thought.The same goes for everything. The simple act of getting dressed into the proper attire for the activity that you need to do will jump start your brain into starting to do that activity.
Research studies performed by a group of psychological scientists at California State University, Northridge and Columbia University have concluded that “the clothes we wear can also influence the way we think.” They have found that when people ‘dress to impress’ it actually enhances their ability to engage in abstract thinking. This higher level thinking allows for the bigger picture problems to be examined and worked through more efficiently and thoroughly. You can read more about their research here.
What Your Values and Culture Are
Every culture in the world has their own sets of beliefs and values when it comes to clothing and how much of the body should be covered. There are some cultures, like those of Sudan and Qatar for example that require women, and in some cases men, to be fully dressed at all times in long dresses so that their shoes and shoulders don’t show.
Festive dress is also a big indicator of one’s culture or religion. From the Indian Sari to the Japanese Kimono, from the Kenyan Shúkà to the Irish Kilt there are unique articles of clothing all over the world. And when worn each one makes a statement to the world about who you are, where you came from, and how proud you are of your heritage.
Clothing is an important part of human history and civilization today. The role it plays in our worldly society is immense. Let's pull it all together. Our clothing
- Protects our bodies both from natural and toxic elements.
- It keeps us safe when we must enter unsafe situations, like surgeons, firefighters, police officers, construction workers and so on.
- It helps us to show off our individuality and personality.
- Clothing helps separate the social classes.
- Through our clothing we express can express our culture and beliefs
- Clothing helps us maintain a level of modesty and decency that all social societies embrace to one degree or another.
- Clothing helps us to show solidarity. Be it through a team uniform or specified work attire.