This is frequently said with a view to emphasizing the importance of being presentably appareled, but it has a meaning beyond this. To a certain extent we are really made, or we may more properly say marred, by the clothes we wear. Civilized costumes have become what they are through the dictation of the creators of style, the clothing manufacturers.
Every year the styles change through the commands of those whose profits are increased by this continual variation in the fashions. It is said that a woman would rather be out of the world than out of style. Therefore, each year she discards her old-style costumes and buys the latest modes.
We have to recognize, however, that clothing is a necessary evil at this period of human progress, so-called. There was a time when clothing was worn entirely as a matter of protection or as a means of adding warmth to the body. There was no thought given to the necessity for covering the body, for every part of the human anatomy was as commonplace as nose, fingers and toes. But now clothing is commanded as a means of hiding our bodily contour. Prudery has come in and branded the human anatomy as indecent and consequently it must be covered.
Now in considering what we should wear we are compelled to adhere, at least to a reasonable extent, to what we call style, but beyond this our first thought must be for bodily comfort. And in speaking of comfort we mean not only the warmth essential to this but also the ability to use every part of our bodily structure with as little restraint as possible.
If we could wear a costume which would permit us to feel just as free and untrammeled in our movements as we do when without clothing, such a form of dress would be ideal. Our movements should not be restricted by our clothing any more than is absolutely unavoidable. The ordinary skirt, supposed to be a necessary part of feminine apparel, Is in its nature an evil of first importance. Every step taken by a woman wearing such a garment is hampered; she is continuously handicapped by her skirt.
If a man were compelled to walk through tall, heavy grass all his life he would get some idea of the extent to which the feminine skirt interferes with the freedom of woman.
Numerous other defects of our costumes interfere with bodily freedom. Take our tight and ungainly shoes. Here is an abominable instance of our slavery to style. In most instances the foot is made to fit the shoe, and the suffering that is endured by many so-called stylish people for the purpose of making the foot fit the shoe would be difficult to describe.
A shoe should fit the foot.
The more nearly you approximate the same freedom when walking in a shoe as you do when barefooted the more perfect the shoe. The toes should not be squeezed out of shape. The great toe should follow the straight line of the inside of the foot instead of being bent over to the position normally occupied by the middle toe. All the toes should be allowed to spread out in the shoe, at least to a reasonable extent. Furthermore, a shoe that really fits should feel comfortable the first time it is put on. There should be no necessity for "breaking in" a shoe.
The artificial heel added to the ordinary shoe is another curious freak of fashion. If the Almighty in perfecting
the human foot had found a high heel necessary it would have been provided. The artificial heel, especially the
very high heel commonly used on shoes worn by women, is an insult to Nature, to the Creator. Some day, when we are
really civilized, high heels will be unknown. I am convinced that the Omnipotent Creator knew his business thoroughly
when he created the human foot, that the sole of the human foot, heel included, was made for locomotion, and that
it is impossible for human ingenuity to improve upon the foot.
Passing to the other extreme of the body, our tight hats should be condemned. Hats should be as light as possible and should not be so tight as to interfere with the circulation of the scalp. Many bald headed men owe their loss of hair to tight hats. The stiff collars worn everywhere at the present time mar the natural contour of the neck, make an erect position more difficult, and are one cause of the round shoulders that are so common everywhere to-day. The suspenders worn by men have also an influence of this sort. They are inclined to pull the shoulders forward and make it more difficult to maintain an erect position. The flat-chested man will not feel his suspenders, but the man with a full round chest, properly carried, is under continuous pressure from his suspenders.
If I were to select an ideal costume for men I am inclined to think that I would go back to the Roman toga, to the flowing drapery of the Greeks, or to the Scottish kilt. The kilt is undoubtedly better suited than the robe to the colder weather of Northern Europe and America. These costumes not only allow a reasonable amount of freedom for all bodily movements, encouraging rather than discouraging the correct position of the body, but they also allow free circulation of air to the central portions of the body. As a hygienic feature this is of tremendous value. The air coming in contact with the skin is of value at all times, but it is especially required in these important parts of the bodily organism. Many weaknesses are brought about through the unhealthful covering and restriction of these parts. Trousers are not by any means an ideal garment. To be sure, they are a vast improvement over the long skirt, but they are not by any means equal in healthfulness to the costume of the Scottish Highlanders.
In feminine apparel corsets are perhaps productive of more injury than any other part of the costume. The injury wrought by tight lacing is now everywhere understood, and in recent years large waists have become stylish. This tendency of the times will ultimately mean the elimination of the corset.
When fully clothed we should have the same freedom of movement as when unclothed. The most perfect costume is our "birthday clothing," the clothing with which we came into the world, the human skin. To be sure, in cold climates bodily covering is necessary for warmth a part of the year, though in warm climates, or warm seasons, the more nearly we avoid restrictive apparel, the more happy and more healthy we are. The ideal costume in warm weather, therefore, would be no costume, but conventions demand that we cover our nakedness, and this command should be followed in a manner that will restrain our movements as little as possible.
The question of color is an important factor in clothing. This is especially true in summer when exposure to the sun makes it especially necessary to consider our comfort. All dark-colored clothing absorbs the heat and the sun becomes very oppressive to the wearer. Then, too, black and dark-colored coverings shut out the light, another objectionable feature. In my reference to sun baths in the preceding chapter on Blood Purification I placed special emphasis upon the value of light as a vitalizing and stimulating factor in life and health. Ordinarily we not only smother our skins so far as the air is concerned, but we also shut out the light, hiding our bodies in a cellar, so to speak. Our bodies need light as well as air and for this reason dark colored clothing cannot be recommended. For warmth when in the sunshine during the winter, black is very effective. When out of the sunshine black is cooler in winter than light-colored fabrics because it quickly radiates the body heat. It is well known that a black stove radiates the heat much faster than a nickel-plated or brightly polished stove.
White or light-colored garments are advised in summer, both because they are cooler and because they permit the light to reach the skin. The Arabs, Bedouins and others who live in unforested countries where they are much exposed to the tropical sun use turbans and flowing robes of white as a means of keeping cool. Pure white is often unserviceable, because it quickly becomes soiled, and therefore gray and tan- colored garments are recommended.
It is easily possible to absorb too much sunshine, especially in the lower latitudes. The various races of the earth enjoy a degree of pigmentation of the skin corresponding to the intensity of the sunlight in the latitude to which they have become accustomed through the course of evolution. Equatorial races are black, far-northern races are blonde with very fair skin, and those occupying mean latitudes are either brown or olive-hued. Brunettes or fairly dark-complexioned white men can stand more sunshine than the blue-eyed, fair-skinned types of Scotland, Norway and Sweden. Where the latter are exposed to intensely strong sunshine in latitudes further south than their natural home, and especially when visiting the tropics, where the sun's rays are nearly vertical, some special protection from the excessive light is necessary. Then the upper or outer clothing should be white or light-colored, but an undergarment of some opaque or dark-colored material should be used to shut out the light. In the case of tropical animals Nature provides a light-colored or tawny growth of hair, with an underlying black or heavily pigmented skin. The white man when in the tropics or when subject to the chemical rays of the sun in midsummer would do well to follow Nature's example, wearing light clothing outside with black- or orange-colored or other opaque underwear. The hat should be white or tan or light-colored on top, but with a dark-colored lining extending under the brim. Blonde types spending the summer in a latitude like that of Texas or Mexico would do well to consider these suggestions. Sunlight is essential to life. Sun baths are invaluable and ordinarily our clothing should be such as to permit the light to reach the skin. But when the sun's rays are nearly vertical fair-skinned persons may easily protect themselves and maintain comfort by following this suggestion.
As a general thing, during both winter and summer, one should wear no more clothing than necessary, and that should be of a type to permit easy access of air to the skin. For this reason the character of one's underwear is important. Wool is undoubtedly warmer and more or less suitable for exceptionally cold weather; yet for most purposes linen is to be preferred because of its more porous character. Linen permits of free circulation of the air, and when the underwear is woven with an open mesh it is especially satisfactory. Next to linen cotton is to be preferred, being likewise porous. The question of underwear is one to be determined largely by individual taste and requirements, but always it should be understood that one should wear underwear as light as is consistent with warmth and as porous as possible. This principle should also apply in the matter of shoes. Air-tight foot coverings are highly detrimental as well as uncomfortable. Leather in its natural state is porous and therefore a healthful foot covering. Patent- leather shoes, however, have been made air-tight by a special process, and are very hot, uncomfortable and unsanitary. The sole of the shoe should consist of nothing but plain leather. So-called waterproofing processes, making the shoe air-tight as well as waterproof, should be avoided. Patented, waterproof soles are highly objectionable. If you can have your shoes made to order see to it that the sole consists of nothing but leather-indeed a single layer of good sole leather is most satisfactory. Although such shoes will absorb water they will dry readily, and the disadvantage of wet feet on occasions is more than offset by the benefits gained from a porous foot covering the rest of the time. Anyway, wet feet are unimportant if the feet are warm.
A word about winter clothing. Heavy underclothing is entirely unsuited to the temperatures maintained inside our houses during the winter. We usually have a summer temperature indoors in winter and should wear summer clothing. It is true that we require warmer clothing out-of-doors in winter, but this should be used only when out-of-doors; we should not wear heavy, warm garments both indoors and out. Therefore, while the farmer who spends the day in the open would probably need heavy warm underwear, the city man should dress approximately the same as in summer when indoors, and add the garments necessary for additional warmth when going out. Sweaters, gaiters and overcoats should be depended on when going out-of-doors instead of heavy undergarments.
Clothing, as I have said, is a necessary evil. So far as possible it should not hamper our movements and should not deprive our bodies of light and air.
Since it is necessary to wear clothing, I would strongly emphasize the importance of taking air baths at frequent intervals. When spending the evening in the privacy of your own room, studying or writing letters, you have a good opportunity to enjoy an air bath during the entire evening.
And furthermore, when at home you should lay aside your coat and use no more bodily covering than is necessary. If you cannot take sun baths at a special hour each day, then I would advise that when taking your walk out-of-doors in the sunshine you wear clothing of such a character as to admit the rays of the sun, thus enabling you to enjoy a sun bath during your walk. A special suit of clothes, made of natural-colored linen, with a thin light shirt, light- colored socks and no underwear, would answer all purposes admirably.