Sources: 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