The Context

A few years from now, perhaps around ten years or so, after first contact with star-travelling aliens, humans have acquired FTL and other technology making a new diaspora of humanity to the stars not only a feasible possibility, but given conditions on Earth, a highly desirable course of action for a great many.

It stands to reason that the various cultural groups would each set out on their own, to get them away from their cultural enemies and allow them to set up 'ideal' societies. Some would no doubt embrace the new technologies the aliens made available, while others may well choose to eschew high technology.

Let us further suppose that we have a cultural group that currently places a high value on body modesty for religious reasons, where going about displaying any more skin than necessary is socially unacceptable - some extremist sect derived from Islam or Judaism perhaps - which might emigrate from Earth with the intention of practising their particular religion and following its requirements with more rigor than possible on earth. Additionally, these people want to abandon the high technology to which the aliens have exposed humans - since many on earth are in favour of the alien technology, they must move to a planet over which they have sole control.

This means that there has been no major terraforming effort - that would require using the technology that these people would rather avoid. The environment therefore is a naturally-occurring oxygen-nitrogen atmosphere world in its primary's goldilocks zone, with very roughly 1g of gravity. Of course, to get an oxygen atmosphere, there must be pre-existing native life, and to be able to eschew the unwelcome alien nanotechnology, that life must be reasonably compatible with terrestrial life.

The Question

What conditions on the single particular planet that this group colonises, and/or mishap or miscalculation in the colonisation effort could force them to practise universal nudity, at odds with their beliefs, within a short period of time after arriving?


The reason will have to be either environmental or ideological - these colonists (or at least their leaders) eschew high technology prior to or immediately upon arrival.

The more powerful aliens aren't interested in slaves, in fact the whole first-contact was grossly mismanaged, and the aliens are now reluctantly in the same position as Europeans making contact with much more primitive natives, who have got hold of European technology, at the cost of the natives' society disintegrating as they argue about how to use it. The aliens want nothing more than for humans to get over their juvenile societal upheavals and to become mature equal partners in trade.

I am looking for a reason for the colonists to want - or at least have - to practise nudity across the entire habitable surface of their chosen new world. I don't mind if the change is ideological, as long as it is one that would fit with any current Earth religion that currently practises moderate to extreme body modesty, or if it is imposed for other reasons. Any answers suggesting an ideological change must support their answer with justification for a relevant example real-world religion's followers to make such an ideological change. It would need to be pretty convincing, as many religious people will do the most impractical things because their religion demands it, and these colonists are all pretty fanatical, or at least most of them are, and the rest can pretend to be just as fanatical really well, otherwise they wouldn't have been invited to come along.

An ideological change in these circumstances would be pretty unlikely, but if there is very good justification then I'd be interested. Otherwise, that just leaves environmental or accidental reasons, which would be just as good - it would be interesting to explore the deep conflict between religion and necessity or disaster management.

I would prefer if the reason was not that "The local sentient species insists upon it", as I don't want to introduce yet another sentient species in this context.

Finally, if an answerer believes that there is no reason that would make the majority of the radical muslims/jews/whatever abandon their clothing in order to survive or avoid extreme discomfort on their new hell-world, or that they wouldn't find some way to cover their nakedness even in the face of extreme shortages caused by accident or mismanagement (like making clothing from food, rather than eating it), I'd like to know that too - it would be interesting to explore a world where all the fanatics either died out or go about in daily torment because of their beliefs.

  • 3
    $\begingroup$ Planet's biosphere may contain a powerful enzyme which causes all fabrics to disintegrate. Colonists, though, should still be able to utilize fig leaves (or local equivalents). Would that be Ok? $\endgroup$
    – Alexander
    Jun 15, 2018 at 18:15
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    $\begingroup$ The first answer that came to mind right away for me was similar to Cort Ammons - The more powerful aliens wanted slaves. It could really be for whatever reason they want, such as taking offense at covering the body or trying to strip the humans of their dignity. However, it's because I could think of all these alternatives instantly that I reluctantly have to VTC this as POB, since there aren't enough requirements to objectively decide which answer is the best. $\endgroup$
    – Aify
    Jun 15, 2018 at 18:18
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    $\begingroup$ Related: The Puppet Masters by Heinlein, which required the entire Earth to go naked. $\endgroup$
    – user535733
    Jun 15, 2018 at 18:31
  • $\begingroup$ Have you ever read "boy and his tank"? The same idea. $\endgroup$
    – Mołot
    Jun 15, 2018 at 18:35
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    $\begingroup$ Anyone care to explain rationale behind close votes? $\endgroup$
    – Willk
    Jun 15, 2018 at 21:51

8 Answers 8



In (the book) World War Z people were stripped naked to look for evidence of bite wounds - which meant zombie infection. In your world there is some contagion or parasite. Infection with this parasite can be concealed under clothes. Clothes come to be viewed with suspicion. Nakedness means your healthy skin is on display - you are uninfected and not to be feared.

  • 3
    $\begingroup$ The book of "The Puppet Masters" by Robert Heinlein had this situation - everyone had to go nude to prove that they were not being controlled by a parasite. (The movie was quite different.) $\endgroup$ Jun 23, 2018 at 0:17
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    $\begingroup$ Or have some kind of parasite nest in ANYTHING fabric-like. Aka Humans would completely shave EVERYTHING and never wear even a hat $\endgroup$
    – Hobbamok
    Aug 20, 2019 at 11:50


One of the primary benefits of clothing is safety. So make nudity safer.

Perhaps there are some kind of large, violent, native life form that is attracted to the textiles available to the colonists and are happy to eat them (and anyone wearing them). Or more believably, some microbial lifeform that rapidly consumes the textiles like highly aggressive moths with the munchies trapped in a closet.

Perhaps there is some kind of aggressive mold spore or bacterial life form that colonizes and grows rapidly in the textiles and they trigger some kind of allergic or venomous response when in contact with human skin.


If the climate is extremely hot and humid but the risk of sunburn is relatively low compared to earth, then nudity becomes a more practical response to the climate. Wearing a full garment is no fun when you're hot and sweaty all the time.

Local Civilization

Maybe they discover a local civilization that eschews clothing for any number of reasons. If that civilization threatens violence over the human's use of cloth (again for any number of reasons), then they might have to drop clothing to maintain relations or even survival.


Maybe there was a fire on the colony ship or a crash landing, and so the colonists were reduced to the clothes they were wearing; the rest were burned or destroyed. Those clothes, for whatever reason, aren't made to last for a long time. So the colonists are throwing them away as they wear out. There just aren't enough resources yet to start generating new textiles. Food, shelter, and other long-term needs are more important. For now.


Long shot and would probably cause some serious rifts in your colony. But... What if they landed and stumbled across some evidence to show that their religion was somehow linked to this new world? Some religious iconography obviously shared by their belief system is found, etc.? So there are direct and obvious ties to the basis of their body modesty. And yet... mixed in with that are cues or directives that practically demand that they change those beliefs. Nudity being one of those "new laws," but probably not the only one. From a story perspective, that could be interesting if explored well. Would the colonists split into sects based on whether they accept or reject the findings? Would they begin to question their beliefs?

  • $\begingroup$ The problem I see with textile-eating animals (or bugs or microbes) is the sheer variety of things humans will wear as clothing, up to and including plastics that aren't normally considered edible. Particularly if the colonists consider this a religious issue, they'd have a lot of options to improvise with. $\endgroup$
    – Cadence
    Jun 15, 2018 at 18:30
  • $\begingroup$ Oh, yes. Humans use many things to make textiles and some are blends of synthetic and natural... But would the colonists take a full load of ALL textiles, or go with the lightest, best, material they could pack for the trip? Again, just offering ideas that could be used to explain the scenario. $\endgroup$
    – CaM
    Jun 15, 2018 at 18:37
  • $\begingroup$ Well, in terms of plant-based textiles I'd want to take a good selection of plants/seeds so that I'd be sure to have the one that grew best at my colony site. However, mostly I was thinking of salvage - if the options are "offend god by being naked" or "break up those plastic crates they're keeping the machine parts in", well, hand me the saw... $\endgroup$
    – Cadence
    Jun 15, 2018 at 18:45
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    $\begingroup$ @CaM The issue with bringing all textiles actually adds an interesting temporal element. Upon landing, they may only have a handful of specific textiles. They could learn to produce more, but until then, it's nekkid time. Then it's a race between their ability to identify a textile that works against their society's ability to enforce a tough social norm. Which gives way first? $\endgroup$
    – Cort Ammon
    Jun 15, 2018 at 19:40
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    $\begingroup$ Any bug, animal or microbe attracted to textiles and capable of eating them will have a high likelihood of also being attracted to and eating the humans as well. $\endgroup$
    – Thucydides
    Jul 1, 2018 at 13:35

Follow Nancy Kress's example from Beggars in Spain and modify the bodies of your body-shy colonists to be photosynthetic. Perhaps the planet they have chosen has no edible plant life, and the indigenous is highly competitive keeping imported crops from surviving. Rather than starve, the colonists have allowed themselves to be altered such that they can create their own food from the abundant sunlight. But in order to function, the skin must be exposed.


A very hot and humid climate will encourage at least partial nudity (and/or air conditioning) to maximize heat lost through sweating. A hot and dry climate, however, encourages lightweight but full-body clothing to avoid moisture loss. There's a reason that native cultures in jungles and on tropical islands stereotypically don't go in for a ton of clothes, because they're not practical in that environment.

That said, unless the colony is fairly desperate, it shouldn't be hard for them to establish some kind of cooling system, so this might be a temporary plot device at best.


A powerful and advanced native species which takes grave offense at covering up the body and is willing and able to kill colonists who don't strip would do the job.

The hard part of answering this question is explaining why the privileged areas of the body (such as the genitalia) must be uncovered, despite having very small surface areas. An angry group of locals fits the bill.

  1. A widespread deadly bug or parasite that hides itself in clothes, but if naked it's easily and safely brushed off or doesn't attack at all because its afraid of open air or sunlight. Wearing any clothes would guarantee getting bitten or infected, the bug able to hide itself very well and is undetectable by the means they have available, while going naked makes you completely safe.

  2. A simple rebellion against the former leader, with being naked having some significance to the rebels (such as one of their own being unjustly punished by being forced to go naked and then killed, or being unjustly punished for being naked and killed) and eventually nudism forming part of the rebels identity, anyone who wears clothes seen as siding with the enemy. The rebels winning the conflict in the end and the practice continues.

  3. Swimming and diving for whatever reason constituting a very significant part of their daily activities. Although this wouldn't mean nudism, just less clothing.

  4. Just thought of another interesting one. The settlers are hiding out on the planet from the aliens or other humans, and whoever they are hiding from is going (or sending drones) from planet to planet and scanning it for intelligent life and their equipment detects intelligent life by scanning for living beings who are wearing clothing. Being naked keeps them safe from the scans.



tl;dr: Americans did drink hot water for political reasons. Just translates this to your world.

Full version:

As this cultural group sets on their own planet, they start to develop an ideal society (in their view) that is much less technology oriented than the neighboring colonies established.

They consistently refuse to buy machines from the aliens. Perhaps they instead promote their own alternative form of technology, which is more respectful of their beliefs.

In a attempt to pressure them, aliens start a trade war by raising taxes on any of the colony's production and convince the colony's commercial partners to either raise prices or cut ties.

Clothes production however has evolved very rapidly when human and alien's societies started to interact. As alien technology was simply incredibly more productive and advanced than ours, clothe industry on Earth has collapsed, and the entire galaxy is now buying from the cheapest provider.

Rapidly, the isolated cultural group faces clothes shortage. It is also against their beliefs to kill animals and the economical hardship that the trade war is putting them through impedes them to divide their ressources wisely between feeding the population and defending the planet.

In sign of protest, some religious leaders start shirtless marchs in the street. The images of these protests are highly publicized precisely because nudity is such a taboo.

The protests organize into a political movement. While the oldest members of the community disapprove their methods, they get widespread support as the feeling of belonging to a nation of its own grows into this community. They symbolize a combination of pride to belong, hate towards the alien and excitement among the youth of the community that lacks a clear cultural reference frame on this new planet.

Within a few years, the boycott party takes over strategical positions of power. Showing more and more skin becomes an easy way to demonstrate dedication that is in appearance very courageous but risk-free. Naturally, most politicians go for it. Some more-traditional parties refuse it completely.

After some time however, the boycott party finally gets a grip on the ministry of trade and clothes import become formally forbidden. A series of arbitrary arrests are lead on the charge of wearing imported clothes. Most of the time these were imported way before the law came into force, but this is only a pretext as these arrests are really targeted at political oppositions in an attempt to tighten the party's grip on power.

Most of the general population agrees with the boycott party, when the others stop wearing clothes too in fear of standing out as subsersive.

As time goes by, new history books are being edited where the role of the "heroic shirtless march of [insert date]" is emphasized. The idea sinks in the young minds that nudity is a symbol of bravery.

Slowly but surely, the religious discourse reconfigures and reinterprets the sacred texts so as to embed this idea in their teaching


I probably should have modified the question to a reality check, but didn't have the time before the existing answers would have been invalidated by the necessary change.

So, we have a bunch of radical Muslims, tbe type that practise a radical interpretation of the Koran's modesty requirements, with men covered from neck to ankle, and women wearing burkas in any public situation.

The technology that they are trying to escape is general-purpose autonomous nanites that for the past few years have been putting people out of work since there is little call for labourers, only people with the imagination ans skills to be able to instruct the nanites.

So, amid much fanfare as Humanity's diaspora to the stars begins, these Muslims gather like-minded people to their cause, and set out on an alcubierre warpship, devoid of nanites but stocked with everything else they might need, to their promised land - purchased from the aliens who discovered it, but who couldn't be bothered to develop it themselves.

Alcubierre warpdrive is still an emerging technology for humanity, and their journey will take years. However, that technology improves faster than the flighy time of the first ships, and before many can arrive, they are pounced upon by pirates in faster ships.

Our unfortunate Muslims are startled when they arrive in their colony world's solar system only to find that people have arrived before them - pirates. Unprepared for an attack by well-armed pirates who even seem to have the blueprints to their ship, they are helpless to prevent the pirates from taking everything they want.

Left alive - because a dead sheep can only be skinned once while a live one can be shorn many times - but with minimal resources compared to that which they started with, the Muslims land on their promised land.

However, while the world carries non-sentient life that is moderately compatible with human biochemistry, the pirates have stolen all the nutritional supplements that could have made up the deficiencies, along with all the biological samples of any species that may have been thawed, grow & farmed to generate the required Vitamin - Vitamin D.

To make matters worse, their system primary is a K-class main sequence star that produces hardly any UV wavelengths. Only just enough UV is present in the primary's emissions in order to allow humans to synthesize enough Vitamin D to avoid deficiencies as long as they have fair skin and spend every daylight hour exposing as much of their bodies as possible to sunlight. This altered habit of (un)dress is made easier by the planet's vast areas with a very warm and humid climate.

People with dark skin and/or who do not spend enough time completely nude out of doors in the sunlight are doomed to an inevitable Vitamin D deficiency, especially since few if any terrestrial foodstuffs were left by the pirates and the local lifeforms, while edible and nutritious, do not contain Vitamin D. Anyone not exposing themself to enough sunlight will rapidly develop deficiencies, with symptoms including osteoporosis, osteomalacia and rickets in children. For a new colony where a great deal of manual labour will be required for many years, such bone diseases are a major threat to the colony's future.

While many colonists could be expected to refuse to doff their clothing and expose themselves to the new, weaker sun, deficiency-related diseases can be expected to be common, reducing productivity and endangering lives. Religious leaders would be faced with the suddenly conflicting requirements of health and modesty and the real potential for modesty to threaten the survival of the entire colony.

  • $\begingroup$ Not bad. So how do they justify this for themselves in the context of their religion? Back to Eden? $\endgroup$ Dec 9, 2020 at 19:00
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    $\begingroup$ @JoannaMarietti. I asked a variant of this question on Islam.SE, and the answer was that in Islam, health and survival trumps any other religious requirements. If modesty would cause ill-health or death, then it must be sacrificed, until such time as it can be practised safely. $\endgroup$
    – Monty Wild
    Dec 9, 2020 at 23:20

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