Tuesday, November 30, 2004

Thoughts On Clothing

Humans often wear articles of clothing (also known as dress, garments or attire) on the body (for the alternative, see nudity). In its broadest sense, clothing includes coverings for the trunk and limbs as well as coverings for hands (gloves), feet (shoes, sandals, boots), and head (hats, caps). Articles carried rather than worn (like purses and umbrellas) normally count as accessories rather than as clothing. Humans also decorate their bodies with makeup or cosmetics, perfume, jewelry and other ornament; cut, dye, and arrange their head, face and body hair (hairstyle), and sometimes their skin (tattoo, scarifications, piercing). All these decorations contribute to the overall effect and message of clothing, but do not constitute clothing per se.
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People wear clothing for functional and/or social reasons. Clothing protects the body; it also delivers social messages to other humans. Function includes protection of the body against strong sunlight, extreme heat or cold, and precipitation; protection against insects, noxious chemicals, weapons, contact with abrasive substances -- in sum, against anything that might injure an unprotected human body. Humans have shown extreme inventiveness in devising clothing solutions to practical problems. Social messages sent by clothing, accessories, and decorations can involve social status, occupation, ethnic and religious affiliation, marital status and sexual availability, etc. Humans must know the code in order to recognise the message transmitted. If different groups read the same item of clothing or decoration with different meanings, the wearer may provoke unanticipated responses.