Why do we wear clothes?

A video blogger called Michael Stevens put forth an interesting idea as to why we feel embarrassment and why we wear clothes. I found his suggestions quite interesting and how it relates to our biological complexity as a species and felt as though it was something I’d like to share. Although its not directly linked to medicine, it ponders why we have certain adaptions and what the possible benefits of these adaptions could be.

One suggestion for why we wear clothes is that it correlates to losing body hair and as we migrated from Africa to colder climates, we wore clothes to compensate. However research produced by a mamalogist from the University of Florida suggests differently;that there were several thousand years in between these events and there is no real correlation. This opens up the argument and allows for other suggestions to be made and the suggestions Mr Stevens made were very interesting.

Firstly, Humans are emotional beings and organically very complex. As a species, we have relatively small groups of offspring and also exhibit mostly monogamous behavior. Stevens suggested that all these characteristics were linked. The human gestation period lasts for approximately 9 months and human babies are quite underdeveloped. Compared to the offspring of other species, a human baby has significant amounts of growing and developing before its ready to reproduce an contribute to society. Because of this parental care is quite significant and human mothers take complete care of their children up to a certain point. Other animals have adopted a different strategy to survival. Because of the long parental period, human parents are vulnerable; not so much in today’s society, but previously parents would have had to feed their offspring and keep them under constant supervision. This means the parents are very vulnerable to predators and also of neglecting their own well being and security. Because of this other animals seem to develop more in the gestation period relative to an adult of their species. For example, Carcharodon carcharias which are Great White sharks have much longer gestation periods of up to two years and this means offspring are much more developed and can survive independently. Average litter sizes for Great whites is not significantly larger than Humans but Blue Sharks and Whale Sharks are capable of producing a hundred viable offspring. The focus here is on quantity to increase the chance that at least one of the offspring will survive. All of these pups are capable of living independantly aswell.  This means the mother is not at threat from predators whilst providing parental care to her pups. From Birth, pups swim away from their mothers partially because cannibalism isn’t uncommon and partially because they do not require any parental care. This is quite different to Human Offspring and is one reason why its possible we feel embarrassed.

To engage sexually and be able to reproduce, a male and a female usually have to be naked but the feeling of being naked especially in the presence of someone of the opposite sex, makes a lot of people feel slightly uneasy and possibly embarrassed. To remove this feeling of embarrassment we wear clothes, and hide our bodies. A lot of research has proven that humans and especially men are sexually stimulated by visual cues.  Wearing clothes removes a lot of visual stimulation and significantly reduces sexual arousal. This in turn reduces the frequency at which Humans engage sexually and therefore reduces opportunities for conception and for a female to become pregnant. This limits the number of children a women is likely to have significantly and aids in her individual survival.  If she is less likely to become pregnant then she won’t have to go through a long parental period where her and her offspring are very vulnerable. This results in her having a greater chance of survival and individuals having a better chance of survival leads to the species surviving.  Therefore we wear clothes, to limit our rate of reproduction and to sub consciously stunt population growth.

It is likely that why we wear clothes and feel embarrassed has absolutely no relation to our Gestation period, biological complexity or need to provide parental care to our offspring but its still a very interesting suggestion.



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