The Naked Truth
All men (and women) are not created equally attractive. As unfortunate as it is to admit that, I think we all know it to be true. There are whole industries that surround the concept that some people are just naturally better looking than others. Lucky for those of us unable to attain super model status, clothing is there to help.
Being an artist, I’ve had to get used to the idea (both theoretical and practical) of the nude human figure. At first, seeing a naked old man sitting in front of a class of 18 year olds was a bit disturbing, but I’ve since grown accustomed to it, probably in the same way a doctor or a budding necromancer grows used to human corpses. Shame, it seems pretty obvious, is a cultural concept. There are an awful lot of ideas that we take as being natural law that, when examined, end up being learned concepts. Anyone familiar with anthropology will understand this. There are places where clothing (and therefore shame of this variety) is nearly non existent and the social fabric hasn’t broken down. So what is it that causes us to embrace and relish the idea of shame? It’s hard to find a legitimate practical purpose behind simply feeling bad about yourself, so it’s clear we need to look elsewhere for the culprit.
Say…in a particular book, to a particular deity.
There are people (Ex-christian atheists, mostly) that like to look at the Bible and to God as though they were these overbearing parents with too many rules. “Don’t eat shellfish, don’t eat pork, wear clothes, make babies,” says God. “Why?” responds the atheist, looking for logical reasons behind any of this stuff and finding it lacking. “…” replies God (seeing as he’s been pretty quiet these last few centuries). Many of these people go on to ignore the majority of these rules (most practicing Christians and Jews do, as well) and don’t really question them further but they’re still influenced. The idea of shame, especially, has a hold over people. But why? Why clothe ourselves? Why spend the money, the time, and the brain power on picking out clothing?
I’ll tell you why.
Clothing may be uncomfortable at times or unnecessary in certain places (I’m looking at you, tropical regions) but it always serves at least one crucial function:
Shielding our carapaces from each others’ gazes.
Whether you’re an idealist who thinks we should all give up clothing and be free of their constraints or a super practical person that sees clothing as an extravagant accessory when we have perfectly good skin, you can’t deny the fact that there are some people out there you just don’t want to see in the buff. That, right there is all the reason I need to put on pants in the morning.
After all, I can’t claim super model status for myself. I’m sure my own nigh-translucent membrane would be displeasing to many eyes. Clothing, for me, is a gesture of good will to the world. “Greetings, I know you may not find my nude form appealing. Please enjoy this jacket and these pants instead.”
For me, it’s not about feeling bad about myself, about feeling powerful negative shame about how I look. It is, simply, a realistic recognition of the fact that not everyone is attractive to everyone else.
On the plus side, not only does clothing have the power of shielding our forms from each others’ eyes, it has the added benefit of being a buffer zone between human flesh and places to sit down in public transportation vehicles.
And for that, I thank god every day.