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Why Do We Wear Underwear? — ‘The Why’

Welcome to the newest edition of The Why.  “Why do we wear underwear?” you ask?  Good question. (Besides, it beats answering the question: “Why do they sell used panties from vending machines in Japan?” Other than for the obvious purpose which we cannot disclose here, we have no clue. Tell you one thing though, if you think that is the weirdest thing they offer in Japan then you need to lock your door and do some Googling, dude.)

wear underwear

Underwear/Image: JTIntimates

Man did not always wear underwear. In fact, there are still people who go without underwear to this day. So let’s review.

According to the paper “A Brief History of Underwear” by Tim Lambert, underwear has a spotty history. Lambert reports that the “ancient Egyptians sometimes wore loincloths.”

He adds: “The Romans also wore (some kind of) underwear. Both Roman men and women wore a loincloth or shorts called subligaculum. During the Middle Ages men wore linen shorts called braies but women did not wear knickers until the 19th century.”

So people have been regularly wearing undies since the 1800s. The question, of course, remains: why? Let’s consult our friends at Yahoo Answers first, shall we?

A poster named “Gretta” believes that we wear underwear because it “keeps your clothes cleaner and fresher, so you don’t have to wash them as much. You wouldn’t want to go commando in a pair of jeans for two days in a row. Ewwww.”

Poster “Miss T” agrees. She states: “Obviously, if you are a girl, you have to take into account your time of the month or things will get messy. “

wear underwear

Underwear/Image: TOO

Sources such as Wikipedia confirm that we wear underwear because they “keep outer garments from being soiled or damaged by bodily substances.” (“Bodily substances”? Yeah, way to keep the conversation G-rated. Wouldn’t a long, specific list have been much more fun to read?)

“Miss T” also notes that wearing underwear is “a good idea” because “they reduce chafing too.” Again, this is confirmed by multiple sources including Wikipedia which points out that underwear “lessen abrasion or friction against the skin.”

Why else would we wear underwear? “Gretta” also says that the practice of wearing underwear “gives you an excuse to buy pretty, frilly, overpriced lingerie that makes you feel pretty and a little bit naughty (no one can see what you’re wearing!  It’s a rush and it’s something that hubbies appreciate. “

Sometimes it is practical. “Miss T” admits: “I only wear them if I feel like it (but) obviously if I am working out or wearing a skirt . . . (underwear is) a good idea.”

Other online sources indicate that wearing some underwear can help “shape the body’ as well as “provide concealment or support for parts of it.” Some special “undergarments have religious significance.” Finally, in the words of “Miss T”, “people mostly (wear under wear) because they have been trained since birth to wear them.”

Why do we wear underwear? Now you know.

 You ask the questions.  We provide the answers.

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About Will Phoenix

W. Scott Phoenix, B.A., B.S. was born in Hawaii, raised in Pennsylvania and resides in California. He has been a published writer since 1978. His work has appeared (under various names) in numerous places in print and online including Examiner.com. He is a single parent of three children and has also worked as an actor, singer and teacher. He has been employed by such publications as the Daily Collegian and the Los Angeles Times.