Question

Hi,

I've been wondering lately but what is the main reason why people wear underwear? I asked my dad, and he said so we don't have accidents we wear it and so we don't get our other clothes dirty. Is this the main reason? Why else? Just wondering.


Answer

Clothing fashions are generally dictated by culture. God has placed limits on what we might choose to wear, but within those limits there is quite a bit of latitude. So before we discuss underwear, let's first make sure we understand the purpose of clothing.

The foremost reason for clothing is cover up those parts of our body which are involved in sex. In the Bible it talks about a person's "nakedness." The reason young children don't understand the need for clothing is that they have not yet reached the age of having sexual desire. So parents enforce rules until a child is old enough to understand the need for the rules. For details and verses on this, see "Proper Attire."

Another reason for clothing is to control our body's temperature. In cool climates clothing traps heat so that we stay warmer. In hot climates clothing can keep heat away from the body, which is why people in the desert wear clothing that covers most of their body.

Yet another reason for clothing is for protection. Fair skinned people especially understand that exposed skin can burn, which can lead to skin cancer later in life. But we also wear clothing to protect sensitive areas of our bodies. We wear shoes so that we can walk on rough surfaces without pain. The genitals and breasts are very sensitive and clothing keeps things from directly touching them.

So why did someone come up with underwear?

  1. Some outer garment material can be seen through when the lighting is just right or if the material gets wet. Underwear is a backup system to prevent others from seeing private areas.
  2. Some outer garment material is heavy and rough. Underwear made of softer material protects the sensitive areas from rubbing against the harsher materials.
  3. If the outer garment is thin or stretchy, underwear prevents bodies from being outlined.
  4. But mostly underwear has been used through the years to save on washing. Your body puts off sweat and oils constantly, especially under the arms and between your legs. The sweat and oils are absorbed by the clothing next to your skin. It stains the clothe and makes it smell, which requires frequently washing. In today's standards, that would mean washing at least daily. Underwear serves as a buffer to the outer clothing so they aren't stained and can be washed less frequently (because washing wears out clothing).
  5. Women also must be concerned about fluid leaks. The monthly menstrual flows are an obvious concern. Though underwear can't absorb a blood flow, pads attached to panties can. Also the vagina keeps itself cleansed by vaginal fluid dripping out. These fluids can show up as spots on the outer clothing if the underwear didn't catch them. In addition, when a woman gets sexually aroused these flows can increase. Finally even the beasts can, at times, drip milk even though you have not had a baby yet. Bras can keep milk stains from getting on clothing.

These days, with automatic washers, special detergents, and low cost clothing, we don't think much of wearing an outfit for a day and then wearing something else tomorrow while yesterday's clothing is washed or replaced. But it is easier to wash bras, panties, and socks in harsher soaps to get them clean than to clean some more delicate fabrics.

That is why you are told to wash and change your underclothes daily. Sure, you can wear your shoes without socks, but soon your shoes smell like a toxic waste dump. Wearing socks absorbs sweat and oils, and socks can be easily and frequently washed; shoes can't.

Yes, you could get by without underwear with some outer clothing. But it also means the outer clothing must be changed at least daily.

You also need to consider visibility. Some skits are wide and loose. They're comfortable, but it also means that when you jump or sit down, your skirts can ride up and you don't want to give anyone a view. Underwear gives an extra measure of protection from exposure.