Clothing

Clothing

I spend as much time as possible nude, and consider it good practice to allow the both the sun and the rain to touch my skin whenever possible.

Spending enough time without clothes, one soon recognises the psychological influence of clothing. Swaddling of the skin has a civilising effect; the soul’s attention moves from the physical domain to the ideal realm of social and intellectual concerns. This isn’t a bad thing, but just as the ultimate extension of corporeality is animalistic barbarism, that of civilisation is devitalisation and castration.

To live among others in polite society we must manifest by mutual recognition a reciprocal social obligation that debars physical exploitation of one another. But this peace will always be at bottom a contract, binding only insofar as it is mutually upheld. The survival of this contract requires us to set aside the fact of physiological inequality— immersion in the social arena flattens a physical hierarchy by transposing power relations to the symbolic realm, where it is possible to negotiate the organisation of materiality in low-stakes symbolic combat using psychic representations of the real. The ‘social arena’ is aptly named, for argumentation and physical combat are both at essence forms of negotiation, but with outcomes at different levels of immediacy. (War: “the continuation of politics by different means”.) The contingent nature of this contract renders the social world a hypothetical phenomenon (logical form of hypothetical proposition = “if p, then q” (“if we agree to stay our arms, then we may manifest an arena in which we can negotiate non-physically”.)).

Awareness of the body’s boundaries fades away when clothed, as when submerged in a bath at perfect homeostatic temperature. With deadened proprioception comes diminished appreciation for immediate physical reality, and a corresponding gracelessness that spills into everyday interaction. I would take great interest in data showing the differences in derived sensory homunculi between nudists and regular people.

Clothing is a physical euphemism that suggests the shape of the body while sparing the details, inherently obscurant of a certain facet of the biological hierarchy (and only a facet, since it should be remembered that the brain too is a physical organ). As human community develops and adopts the trappings of civilisation, labour division and technics necessitate increased immersion in the psychic realm. The source of individual power, social regard, and civil utility shifts upward, above the shoulders. The body, diminished in significance as a mark of status, is free to be adorned with decorations suggesting a person’s station, and so is made a metaphor of a person’s mental characteristics.

Consider that as time goes on and the physical world shrinks in perceived importance, as civilisation encroaches into every aspect of life, the ubiquity of head-coverings lessens. Half a century ago any modern Western city block appeared to be a sea of hats. Colloquially understood as the residence of the mind, the head is fittingly left exposed by most clothing. Apart from the obvious practicality of seeing a person’s facial expressions, maybe this helps to bolster the notion that one is communicating not with another person’s body, but with their mind— an embodied recognition of the mutual agreement to operate chiefly in the non-physical realm. Maybe this is why the first thing that men do when verbal communication is abandoned in favour of physical combat is take off their shirts.

If this seems unfeasible, consider that while sex is an act nominally concerning the body, it is more intuitively bizarre to have sex with a person whose face is covered than with someone whose body is covered.