Three main reasons are cited for wearing clothes physical, social and psychological. The protection of the body from changing weather conditions and other living things, such as fellow human beings, animals, insects, and imaginary evil spirits is one of the physical reasons behind covering our bodies in one way or the other
The social reasons behind wearing clothes are the rules of modesty accepted by different societies; whereas, the psychological reasons include self adornment for increasing self-esteem, enhancing sexual attractiveness, and depicting social status
On the basis of the above reasons, four theories have been developed to explain the origin of clothing, which are:
X The Protection theory
X The Modesty theory
X The Adornment theory x The Combined Need theory
Each one of these theories except the last one emphasizes on a single
need that led to the development of clothing.
The Protection Theory
According to the Protection theory, humans are defenseless and need protection from the environment and other creatures. Clothes provide them with a portable source of physical protection.
In the early days, clothes were made from animal skins and parts of
trees, including their bark, to protect the body from excessive heat,
cold, and bites and stings of insects and animals.
Even before clothing evolved as a means of protection against the physical dangers and natural calamities, such as earthquakes, floods, and epidemics, its need was felt to use it as a psychological armor against demons, evil spirits, and spiritual powers. This type of clothing was in the form of jewelry, tattooing, cowries, and evil eye beads.
In today’s times, clothes, for example, raincoat, gloves, diapers, thermal suits, and sports gear, are made and worn for the sake of protecting our bodies. To protect the body from cold, it is best to wear multiple layers of clothing or thick and heavy fabrics. Fur linings trap body heat and create a layer of warmth. Gloves and mittens are worn to protect the fingers from frostbite. In warmer climates, people must protect themselves from the heat of the Sun. In regions like the Sahara, woollen head-coverings are worn to protect the head from direct sunrays. Long, loose-fitting robes are worn to keep the body cool and prevent dehydration in this context, James Laver, an English costume historian, has quoted, “It is plain that the dress of any given period is exactly suited to the actual climate of the time
Specialized forms of protective clothing include diving suits, space suits, fire fighter’s attire, bulletproof jackets, facial masks, and gloves worn by medical workers. This type of protective clothing has been devised to protect the wearer from occupational hazards. Protective gears, such as helmets, gloves, diving suits, life-vest, and water goggles, have been designed to enjoy different sports without hurting oneself
The Modesty Theory
Modesty is a universal phenomenon. It can be defined as a proper behavior, acceptable to society, in terms of dressing, speaking, and etiquettes. Failure to follow these norms is considered a shameful behavior. Different people and cultures have different standards of modesty and this is reflected in the way they dress themselves.
However, our society is divided on the question of modesty. Is modesty an inherent trait or an acquired behavior? For a long time, it was believed that inherent shame is the basis for modesty in dressing, but one cannot find enough evidence in support of this. On the other hand, there is much evidence to prove the opposite that modesty is an acquired behavior.
Different cultures lay down different rules for modesty, which keep on changing from time to time. In Amazon tribes, removing ear and lip plugs is considered immodest. In today’s world, it is considered immodest for Muslim women to go out without burgas or for any woman to wear swimwear on streets. Many more examples can be put forward in this respect.
This proves that the sense of shame and modesty is not inborn but a learned behavior, based on beliefs, customs, and traditions of a culture or a society at a particular point of time.
The Adornment Theory
Even before the invention of clothes, human beings used to adorn their bodies by various means, such as body painting, tattooing, scarification, piercing, and hair styling. Therefore, adornment in clothing and other ways were adopted to enhance one’s self-image through beautification, improving sexual attractiveness, and establishing social status.
Self-beautification was carried out according to the norms laid down by the culture of the society at that point of time and this usually was displayed in various practices, such as wearing beads, getting piercing done. applying color, adopting different hairstyles, and wearing acceptable style of clothing. Permanent forms of adornment included tattooing, scarification, foot binding in China, extension of ear lobes and lips in African tribes, cranial deformation. These techniques were helpful in attracting the opposite sex and were utilized to display one’s social status or rank in society.
Other motives behind adornment include frightening the encu, repelling evil spirits, showing economic position, and expressing oneself.
In today’s times too, adornment is one of the main reasons for dressing up.
The Combined Need Theory
However, all these theories, when looked at in isolation, provide an incomplete picture of the reasons behind covering our body. Therefore, the Combined Need Theory was proposed. This theory is multidimensional and states that all the reasons behind the need for clothes hold true, but with varying importance and significance. The Combined Need Theory is based on the theory of Hierarchy of Needs by A.J. Maslow (psychologist), which describes the human being as an ever-wanting animal whose requirements move from one level of priority to the next.
Al Maslow stated five levels of needs. These are as follows
X Self-esteem x Selfalication or actualization
The first level refers to the need of clothing for protection from physical and psychological forces Sales relates to protection Clothing also helps one to gain acceptance in a group and provide a sense of belang to it Clothing helps m boosting me’s self-esteem by enhancing the appearance of the wearer musim potential of the wearer and helps in self-realization
Therefore, according to this theory, the reason behind wearing clothes can be a combination of needs the next becoming important after the previous need has been fulfilled ur sansfied.