Sunday, June 29, 2014

Why Do We Wear Underwears?

Okay folks, it's time for weird and random questions again.

I always have weird questions popping up in my head at the random-est moment, and this happened earlier this morning while I was having my breakfast. Sipping my coffee, I felt a little bit cold and realized I was wearing nothing but a pair of shorts. Well, okay, I thought, so clothes protect us against the climate, and that makes perfect sense. Some tribes in Papua New Guinea walk around naked due to the warm, humid climate in which they live. The Inuits wear thick clothes made from animal skin because they live in the Arctic. Inhabitants of the ancient Angkor civilization that thrived under the hot scorching sun of South East Asia did not wear anything except for a piece of clothing that hanged from their waist (before you ask, yes, both men and women of ancient Angkor were breast-naked).
Inuit women. Image: en.wikipedia.org
If the primary function of clothes is to provide warmth, what is the function of the underwear? Is there a need for an extra layer of fabric wrapping around our groin to provide extra warmth? Why can't we just put on a shirt and a pair of pants and walk straight out the door? Moreover, the male testicles function only at a temperature slightly lower than the rest of our bodies (and that explains why the sac hangs innocuously underneath your phallus, outside of your body), so why would anyone hamper their own fertility by channeling extra heat to their groin?

Some guys argued on my Facebook wall that undergarments acts as an important barrier between your manhood and the frigid steel of reality, and undergarments prevent the vicious teeth of the zipper from skinning the tip of your precious gentleman's sausage. A random user on the internet said he wears underwear to prevent that certain appendage from banging against his legs while walking.
Image: www.answers.com
As a guy, I tend to agree with all the arguments mentioned above. But what about women? Women need not worry about getting skinned by zipper or dangling genitalia banging against their legs. So why do they need to wear underwears too?
Maybe we can create a society where underwears belong exclusively to men, just as brassieres belong exclusively to women?

Well, we can't do that.
Everyone, regardless of gender, needs to wear underwear because it keeps us clean.
In the past, the main role of underwear was to protect the much more valuable outer clothing from sweat and other bodily excretions (just like wearing an apron) and to save the work and expense of laundering, dry cleaning and pressing those outer clothes. Today we have access to lots of fairly cheap clothing, and washing machines have made laundry a whole lot less work than it was 40 years ago. This has somewhat reduced the role played by underwear especially in protecting the supposedly more expensive outer garment.

Nonetheless, underwears are still important in keeping us clean because, let's face it, at some point in our lives, we leak. Urinary and/or fecal incontinence can occur for several reasons--illness, surgery, medication, age, pregnancy, coughing, or the fiery curry chicken you had for lunch. Next thing you know your pee is dripping for no apparent reason, without your knowledge nor consent. As someone once wrote...

you can squeeze it, you can shake it, 
you can bang it on the wall, 
but you have to place it in your pants, 
for the last damn drop to fall....

It's better to leak in and soil your underwear--which can be washed easily or simply thrown away--rather than your expensive Gucci pants. Then there's the leakage that can occur due to sexual arousal, and not forgetting a woman's monthly flow.
This soiled undergarment, ladies and gentlemen, belonged to Elvis Presley. Image: dailymail.co.uk
Apart from keeping us clean, the wisdom of wearing undergarments is rooted in our tradition, and has been around for far longer than I'd imagined. Ancient Mesopotamian wore undergarments. An Assyrian (1380-612 B.C.E) text described a prostitute having to untie her undergarments to prepare herself for clients. The Chinese wore undergarments, too. So did the Egyptians. And the Romans. The Old Testament of the bible mentions about undergarments, too. I remember reading somewhere in the bible about God commanding Aaron to put on undergarment made of linen to cover up his nakedness (that must have been pretty pricey, though) from below.

I find that men certainly have more reasons to wear underwears than women. Of course, the ultimate choice is always yours. It's always good to go free and easy once in a while. But remember, not everyone is carefree enough to hangout with someone who has got semen/urine/poop/period stain on his/her pants.

Why Do We Need to Wear Underwears?
  
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Malcolm

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