The human race universally wears clothing—also known as dress, garments, or attire—on the body to protect it from adverse weather conditions. Clothing is defined broadly as coverings for the torso and limbs, as well as coverings for the hands, feet, and head. Accessories are typically items that are carried rather than worn, such as purses, while glasses or jewelry, while worn, also fall into this category. However, body decoration with tattoos, make-up, and hairstyle, while contributing to the overall message an individual wishes to convey in addition to his or her clothing choices, does not constitute clothing as such.
Clothing was introduced in most cultures as a means of protecting the human body from extreme weather conditions such as strong winds, intense heat, cold, and precipitation. Clothing weaves, in particular, prevent the circulation of air around the skin and thus the exit of the air reheated by the skin, making people feel uncomfortable and cold. Furthermore, the clear weaves of clothing avoid the sun's ultraviolet radiation and skin burns, protecting the skin from the heat. Finally, more impermeable weaves keep the human body from coming into contact with rain or snow water.
People, however, wear clothing for both functional and social reasons. Aside from the practical function of placing a garment above the skin, wearing clothes has specific cultural and social meanings. In many cultures, for example, it is considered impolite to show others parts of the human body anatomy, particularly the genitals. Thus, clothes serve as a means of concealing specific areas of a person's body from the rest of the world. Religion, customs, and, of course, specific historical events have shaped how different people feel about clothing and exposure at different times. Furthermore, clothing has been regarded as one of the best ways to distinguish oneself.
Furthermore, clothing has been regarded as one of the most effective means of distinguishing social classes, sexes, occupation, marital status, and ethnic or religious affiliation. However, in order to correctly interpret the messages that a specific set of clothes may transmit to others, one must be familiar with the translation of the specific code. Wearing white to a western funeral, for example, is highly inappropriate, whereas eastern societies approve of such a color choice for mourners.
Clothes are now made from a variety of materials. A person can purchase clothes made from natural origin materials such as silk, wool, and leather, or they can choose one of the man-made fibers commonly used in clothing manufacturing such as nylon, polyester, Lycra, and Gore-Tex. With recent technological advancements, there is much speculation about the direction future clothing will take; in fact, the clothing electronics industry has only recently begun.
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