Sunday, January 18, 2009

What was the original purpose of clothing?

According to the experts the greatest motive for wearing clothes was sexual. Not in the fig leaf sense (sinful) but to further enhance the attractiveness of the wearer. Human decoration has from the beginning of time celebrated procreation and demonstratively directed attention to the gender of the wearer. The theory of Displacement of Effect would support shoes became symbols of the primary sexual organs. As socialisation took place shoes became part of ritual for ceremonial purposes before eventually becoming costume for all (Harrold & Legg, 1986). Fashionable footwear has always been the prerogative of the ruling classes and up until the Middle Ages, the preserve of men. Only very much later did shoes become associated with protection from the elements and alien terrain. This was principally due to the lack of knowledge on how to construct robust, hard wearing footwear. In many ancient societies rank, gender and occupation were reflected in the styles and colours of footwear. Shoes remain remarkably unchanged since the beginning of time. During the thirteenth century France the concept of the ideal beauty was developed and took precise shape in the visual arts and literature. This was also seen in Italy where greater attention was paid to the perfection of the female body. In all the Italian states men and women translated this search after formal beauty into costume. The growth of towns and enrichment of the mercantile classes led to the emergence of a rich bourgeoisie. The preoccupation of the nouveaux riche was aspiring to the privileges of the nobility. Costumes became a means for one class to demonstrate this rise, and then further to emphasise its jealously guarded permanence. Another common use of decoration was the display of trophies. The strength and courage of animals was admired by the early hunters and gatherers who wore their skins to harness these qualities. This probably accounts for why shoes were made from animal skin. Prehistoric people decorated and scarified their skins to protect themselves from imaginary evil spirits. These patterns were incorporated into clothing designs as talisman with significant social and spiritual meaning. Such designs are clearly visible today in the brogue patterns worn in shoes. Victors also kept mementos of the vanquished, such as their testicles. These curios are seen in tassels on loafers. Lucky tokens were also a feature of primal decoration to which the penny loafer is a good example. Rank, occupation and wealth were also encoded into types of clothing. Unshod feet in Roman times were the mark of slaves, male citizens had the right to wear sandals, and military station was depicted by the height of boot worn by the soldier. From early biblical times elevated sandals were worn by sex workers.

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