Bet you never thought about that, aye?

Clothes are something we take extremely for granted: From the moment we’re born, we’re covered in layers of fabric, and everyone around us is dressed most of the time. We have casual clothes, and formal clothes, and fashion statements – clothes are just a normal part of everyday life. You know, like democracy, cooked food and philosophy, right?

Well… Back in our species’ earliest days, we didn’t wear clothes (or have democracy, or cooked food or philosophy). We were naked. Our bits hung out. Our suitability to be part of a community wasn’t affected by what we wore. Most probably, we’d have been shunned for wearing clothes.

So why did we develop the need to wear clothes?

Evolution: As our ancestors started shedding their body hair some 170,000 years ago, they had to find an alternative way to keep warm. This, scientists assume, is the most likely reason why we started wearing clothes. In fact, outside of Africa, the Neanderthals who lived in colder climates in what would constitute modern-day Europe certainly needed some form of protection from the elements.

Anthropological models, group portrait

Credit: Entressan/SPL


Modesty: Some modern-day hunter-gatherers only wear minimal clothing to cover their genitals, leading scientists to believe that at some point in our evolution we decided that certain parts of our body should not be displayed. Yet, other modern-day hunter-gatherers who wear simple clothing sometimes, also have no problem not wearing any. So that theory, while it would make sense, might not be right, anyway.

Bushman-family by Aino Tuominen

Credit: Aino Tuominen


Colonisation: Even today, wolverine pelts are one of the most effective things against the cold – even better than modern clothing. This has led some researchers to argue that, thousands of years ago, wearing clothes would have allowed humans to move into new habitats and lands. So, in other words, clothes helped us colonise the world.

human migration prehistory


Status & Rituals: Archaeological discoveries in the Dzudzuana Cave in Georgia have revealed that some 30,000 years ago, the modern human was already producing fabrics in various colours. At some point, it seems, clothes became more than just a necessity but part of showing off and religious rituals. This would have added a new layer of importance to garments – something that is still very true today.

Dzudzuana Cave


So there you have it, I guess!


Did you ever wonder why we wear clothes?