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Source: A Handbook Of Health

Clothes should be Loose and Comfortable. Man is the only animal that
has no natural suit of clothing. Birds have feathers, and animals have
fur, or hair, which they shed in summer and thicken up in winter without
even thinking about it, so that they do not have to bother with either
overcoats or flannels. The wise men say that man originally had a full
suit of hair like other animals, and that he gradually got rid of it, as
he became human. Whether this be true or not, the fact remains that he
has none now; and consequently he must invent and manufacture something
to take its place.

Originally, in the time of our savage ancestors, clothing was worn
chiefly as protection from cold at night, so that all the earlier forms
of clothing were of a more or less blanket-or cloak-like form, and
wrapped, or swathed, the whole body without fitting closely to the
limbs. It is interesting to remember this fact, because even our most
highly civilized forms of clothing still show this same tendency. The
skirt, for instance, is simply a survival of the lower end of the
blanket, which has never been cut down to fit the limbs.

The principles upon which garments should be built are two: First, they
should fit closely enough to the body and limbs to protect them from
either injury or cold, even while free activity of every sort is
allowed--you could not wrestle in a blanket or run very far in a sack.
Second, they should be thick enough to protect us from cold, and yet at
the same time porous enough not to interfere with the natural breathing
and ventilating of the skin. A garment should be as loose as possible
without interfering with our movements, and as free and as light as can
be worn with reasonable warmth and protection. The less clothing you can
wear and be comfortable, the better.

We should particularly avoid binding or cramping the chest and the hips
and waist. If clothing is too tight about the chest, it interferes both
with free movement of the arms and, what is even more important, with
the breathing movements of the chest. If too tight about the waist and
hips, it badly cripples the lower limbs and interferes with the proper
movements of the diaphragm in breathing, and with the passage of the
food and the blood through the bowels.

Your instincts are perfectly right that make you dislike to be squeezed
or pinched or cramped in any way, or at any point, by your clothing; and
if you will only follow these instincts all through your lives, you will
be far healthier and happier.

The Texture of Clothing. Just as for ages we have experimented with
different kinds of food, so we have with different kinds of material for
clothing. We have used the skins of animals; mats woven out of leaves
and grasses; the feathers of birds; the skins of fishes; cloths made of
wool and of cotton; and even the cocoon spun by certain caterpillars,
which we call silk. But of all these materials, practically only two
have stood the test of the ages and proved themselves the most suitable
and best all-round clothing materials--wool and cotton.

Woolen cloth, woven from the fleece of sheep or goats or camels or
llamas or alpacas, has three great advantages, which make it the
outside clothing of the human species. First, it is sufficiently tough
and lasting to withstand rips and tugs and ordinary wear and tear;
second, it is warm--that is, it retains well the body heat; and third,
it is porous, so that it will allow gases and perspiration from the
surface of the body to pass through it in one direction, and air for the
skin to breathe, in the other.

No clothing, of course,--not even fur,--has any warmth in itself; it
simply has the power of retaining, or keeping in, the warmth of the body
that it covers. The best and most effective way of retaining the body
warmth is to surround the body with a layer of dead, or still, air,
which is the best non-conductor of heat known. Hence, porous garments,
like loosely-woven flannels, blankets, and other woolen cloths, are warm
because they contain or hold large amounts of air in their spongy mesh.

The reason why furs are so warm is that their soft, furry under-hairs,
or pelt as the furriers call it, entangle and hold an enormous amount
of air. The fur of ordinary sealskin, for instance, is about half an
inch deep; and ninety per cent of this half-inch is air. If you wet
it, its fur slicks down to almost nothing, although the most drenching
wetting will not wash all the air out of it, but still leaves a dry
layer next to the skin. The fur of mink skin, coon skin, or wolf skin,
is an inch thick; and nearly eighty per cent of this thickness is air.

The great advantage for clothing purposes of wool over fur is that the
wool is porous through and through, while the fur is borne upon, and
backed by, a layer of leather--the skin of the animal upon which it
grew--which layer, after tanning and curing, becomes almost absolutely

As a matter of fact, furs are worn mostly for display and are most
unwholesome and undesirable garments. The only real excuse for their
use, save for ornament in small pieces or narrow strips, is on long,
cold rides in the winter, and among lumbermen, frontiersmen, and
explorers. They hold in every particle of perspiration and poisonous gas
thrown off by the skin, and if worn constantly, make it pale, weak, and
flabby; and the moment we take them off, we take cold.

For outer garments and general wear, nothing yet has been discovered
equal to wool, particularly at the cooler times of the year. But for
under wear, in the hotter seasons and climates, wool has certain
disadvantages. It is likely to be rough and tickling to most skins,
which makes it uncomfortable, especially in warm weather. It is also
difficult and troublesome to wash woolens without shrinking them; and,
as soon as they do shrink, not only do they become uncomfortably tight,
but the natural pores in them which make them so valuable close up, and
they become almost air-tight. Finally, when loaded with perspiration,
woolens easily become offensive, so that they must be frequently changed
and washed; and as they are also high in price, it is easily seen that
there are practical drawbacks to their use.

Cotton is much softer and pleasanter to the skin than wool, is cooler in
hot weather, is much cheaper, and is very easily washed without losing
either its shape or its porousness. It can be so woven as to be almost
as porous as wool, and to retain that porousness even when saturated
with perspiration. It does not soak up and retain the oils and odors of
perspiration in the way that wool does; and on the whole, for under
wear, and for general wear at the warm seasons of the year, it is not
only more comfortable, but far more healthful, than wool. Persons of
fair health and reasonably vigorous outdoor habits, whose skins are well
bathed and ventilated, can wear properly woven cotton or linen
undergarments the whole year round with perfect safety.

Linen and silk both make admirable and healthful under wear, if woven
with a properly porous mesh. Linen has the advantage of remaining more
porous than cotton, when moist with perspiration. But for healthy people
they have no advantages over cotton that are not offset by their higher

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