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It is widely accepted that nudity is not functional at all. Clothes not only protect us from inclement weather and prevent us from getting hurt, but it also provides a status.

So, I've been thinking, there would be any plausible reason for a society to be nudist? This is: why don't they get cold or hurt?

Some notes: I'm building a world other than ours so, although this society is more or less human, your answers don't have to stick to any strict "real life conditions" (i.e. in a warmer world humans could have never needed clothes, or they could have evolved a tougher skin).

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closed as too broad by Aify, DaaaahWhoosh, Azuaron, sphennings, James May 3 '17 at 19:05

Please edit the question to limit it to a specific problem with enough detail to identify an adequate answer. Avoid asking multiple distinct questions at once. See the How to Ask page for help clarifying this question. If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

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    $\begingroup$ What kind of tech level are we using? $\endgroup$ – Werrf May 3 '17 at 16:04
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    $\begingroup$ How big of a society are you intending? Nudist colonies are already a thing. $\endgroup$ – Frostfyre May 3 '17 at 16:05
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    $\begingroup$ If "tougher skin" is acceptable, then would "these 'humans' have a covering such as fur" also be acceptable? $\endgroup$ – Inflationary_Bubble May 3 '17 at 16:09
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    $\begingroup$ 1) Tech level would be between Conan-like Hyperborian and Middle Ages, but definitely something Sword-and-Sorcery-ish. 2) I don't have any particular society in mind, this nudism would be a common trait (but "clothists" colonies could be a thing haha). 3) I suppose anything is okay as long as they look like humans - so no, no fur please. $\endgroup$ – MoholyNagy May 3 '17 at 16:19
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    $\begingroup$ The Apprentice Adept series by Piers Anthony (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Apprentice_Adept) has a take on this. It's sci fi (at least the bits with nudism) but it makes a kind of sense. Basically clothing is a status symbol that only the wealthy get to wear. Obviously it's easier in a sci fi setting because they live in a safe and climate controlled area where clothes aren't necessary. $\endgroup$ – adaliabooks May 3 '17 at 16:46

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A similar answer about "paranoia" is above; but instead of a government, consider it more of a cultural bias: Honesty is paramount, nakedness proves you have nothing to hide. And it isn't a matter of not inventing clothing; there are still such things as protective clothing for firefighters, soldiers, explorers in the ice and snow or other extreme environments: but that comes off the minute it is no longer necessary; kind of like a gas mask in our own world. You don't mind seeing workers cleaning out asbestos covered head to toe in a bunny suit and wearing goggles and a full breather gas mask, but you don't expect them to walk into a restaurant that way.

You can even add religious overtones: God made you naked and considered that perfect, and your mother wrapped you in a blanket to warm and protect you --- not to hide your nakedness. Trying to cover your nakedness is challenging the wisdom of God in making you that way; a form of blasphemy that would get you shunned.

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Paranoia is a great motivator for nudity. If an oppressive government rightly fears its people, then leaving them without pockets in which weapons can hide, is one way to limit how dangerous those people can become.
It wouldn't matter that their nudity leaves them vulnerable to environmental dangers, since such a government isn't very interested in their safety in the first place.

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    $\begingroup$ This requires an extraordinary effort on the part of the government. If it doesn't happen in a culture that is indifferent to clothes in the first place, the people are going to cause big problems fast. A tyrannical ruler can get away with pissing off 10% of the population, but not 90%. $\endgroup$ – BobTheAverage May 3 '17 at 16:58
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    $\begingroup$ So instead everyone hides their weapons beneth the ground, in bushed, in treetops or inside their a**? $\endgroup$ – BlueWizard May 3 '17 at 21:41
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I don't understand what's the difficulty here, provided the author allows the fictitious society to be primitive or barbarian enough and to live in a warm enough climate. There were plenty of human cultures / societies in which people went about with very little in the manner of clothes -- basically, just the bare minimum needed from a purely functional point of view to protect the overly sensitive bits. Even today, some primitive tribes go naked and they are not ashamed -- search for "first contact tribe".

Examples, if possible with purely scientific pictures:

  • Pygmies -- see the picture of a pygmy family.

  • The Khoikhoi people of sothern Africa, formerly known as Hottentots.

  • Ticuna people -- the most numerous Amazonian tribe in Brazil, says the fount of all knowledge.

  • Aboriginal Australians -- famous for being the only large human group who managed to regress below the stone age.

  • The Kaurareng people of the Torres Strait; no pictures, but Wikipedia says that "Kaurareg men were long-haired and went naked, save for as belt".

  • The indigenous people of the Futuna island; again no pics, but their morals...

  • The Guaycura people indigenous to the Peninsula of California.

And so on.

Closer to our culture, Greek soldiers in classical times used to go naked into battle, save for their military equipment (shield, shin protectors, helmet), and Greek athletes competed naked at the Olympic Games. (For the athletes that's certain. For the soldiers, it may be that the cultural expectation was to represent them naked, while in reality they weared some sort of minimal clothing; the vast majority of images of soldiers we have from before the 4th century BCE show them mostly naked. Going about naked all the time is impractical in Greece except maybe in summer at low altitudes.)

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This website reviews historical and primitive cultures with traditions or social acceptance of nudity. The author appears to be a nudist. While I suspect that hers is a somewhat selective reading of history, I am willing to accept the basic facts she presents.

All of the cultures are tropical or semi-tropical. Some of them are primitive, such as the Yanomamis, modern-day natives of the Brazilian rain forest. Some of the nudist accepting cultures are just cultural different from us, such as the Ancient Greeks, Egyptians, or Indians. These cultures seem to condone occasional nudity, not an all day every day lack of clothes. Most of the examples given are of philosophers and nobles who would not be out in the fields every day getting abrasions and sunburn.

History is inherently selective. Illiterate peasants don't write things down for historians to read later. Just because I can't find any examples of everyday working class nudity, doesn't mean there wasn't any. That being said, I still think there probably wasn't much. I think this lack of everyday nudity is because clothes provide protection that human skin does not. Fantasy homonids with leathery skin, scales, fur, or other natural protection would probably have less desire for clothes.

It is worth noting that humans with insulating fur would lose some of the adaptability that allowed us to take over the world. You can strip down to a loincloth, but you can never take off your fur.

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Clothing makes your humans sick and/or unattractive

This a purely biological scenario, something they couldn't change even if they wanted to. Your version of humans have vital biochemical processes going on in their skin which need (sun)light. Think somewhere between real-life vitamin D and Superman's solar powered-ness.

Spending a few hours a day outside in the nude makes them strong, healthy, shiny heroes that are always warm and heal from scratches and wounds very quickly. Covering their skin too much or for too long makes them weak and sickly. A warrior might put on some armor pieces when preparing for battle and a princess might wear expensive translucent veils, but as soon as the covering is not needed, they take it off.

A second way clothing may interfere is that your humans naturally secrete pheromones (like humans) but ones that decay rapidly. Any clothing will start to reek within an hour, making it unpleasant to be around that person. If someone wears the same clothes for a day, they smell like a corpse to their neighbors.

When faced with the choice of washing 12+ changes of clothes per day or going nude, your people made the obvious one, or rather, never adopted clothing.

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    $\begingroup$ The pheromones could also be caustic so most clothing suitable materials are quickly destroyed. $\endgroup$ – JonTheMon May 3 '17 at 18:49
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You just need to make clothes have a high cost too. Perhaps their natural materials available attract diseases, parasites or even just that the humans on your world are allergic to it. As long as there are no treatments available to stop these no one would think it was a good idea (don't see anyone going around wearing stinging nettles as clothes).

There are a lot of ways you can do this but if you provide them with no viable source of clothing then they won't start wearing it and, as a society, accept it as normal.

You would probably see some jobs where clothes were worn but they would be taken off as soon as possible (a black smith with an apron to protect himself or a baker with oven gloves).

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What do I need from clothes?

I don't want to be arrested. --Don't have that law. (in fact my district doesn't seem to have it)

I don't like to be too cold or hot. --Make them be at home in their environment. Or give them easy refuge from it. (in fact my area rarely gets above 100F or below 30F and I spend most of my day inside)

I want strangers to know I'm worth something. --Use something else. (in fact tattoos, hair styles, stance and choice of hangout seems to do a reasonable job of sorting people in my area.)

I like having my hands free while carrying stuff in my pockets.

What have I got in my pocket?

I carry things to convey my status to strangers, and the tools I expect to want in the course of a day. (A phone and a wallet. Probably I'll be able to ditch the wallet one of these years, and I really wish I could ditch the phone sometimes.)

How else can this be handled?

Moving small tools around might not be common. To work on a farm you use big tools and you lock up your shops tools in the shop. If the tools you need to do something are generally kept where you do it you don't need to move them often.

If there aren't objects to convey status you don't need to carry status objects. Say almost everything a person might carry could easily be duplicated so no status object could be trusted. Or Communities are small enough to know everyone and strangers are treated all the same.

Armor

If there are weapons about it would be nice to be protected, and that probably means covering most of your body.

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    $\begingroup$ In a nudist culture, it could still be acceptable to wear something like a purse on a strap; to leave hands free and carry essentials on the hip or back. Or even a backpack to carry books, for students, briefcases for professionals, etc. It might be better to ask what we expect to get out of nudity (like no status symbols or falsehoods about health or sexual attributes): Then nudity itself might be technically compromised by certain items being worn, as long as these 'benefits' of nudity are not impaired. $\endgroup$ – Amadeus-Reinstate-Monica May 3 '17 at 18:00
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Put your humans in a stable environment, without weather effects. This could be an extensive cave system, especially one near geothermal vents to provide a bit of extra warmth, or it could be an artificial environment like a space station or colony. You'll probably also want to make them fairly sedentary, since moving around a lot would require some kind of foot wear.

As a bonus, living in dark caves would also remove a lot of the decorative aspects of clothing as well, since nobody would be able to see your swanky new threads.

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It would be reasonable if the people lived in a blissful paradise, ignorant of those outside of their own community.

If that were the case, not only would there would be no need for clothes, but the people would probably lack weapons, live in harmony with the wildlife, be vegetarians, etc.

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  • $\begingroup$ Er, why vegetarian? A couple other answers mentioned tropical and isolated peoples who went nearly naked, and they aren't vegetarians, what about those last bits of cloth or hide make a difference? If it's an idea that not hunting means a lesser need to protect oneself while getting dinner, well, some plants can be rather vicious in avoiding being eaten, and tend to chemical warfare. $\endgroup$ – Megha Jun 17 '17 at 1:41
  • $\begingroup$ @Megha The idea is that within this blissful paradise, there are no carnivores. Everything and everyone lives in harmony. Thus, without danger, there is no need for clothing. $\endgroup$ – JustSnilloc Jun 17 '17 at 2:39
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Alien Technology

A mostly-benevolent and godlike alien race installed orbital devices that, through some unknown and indistinguishable-from-magic way, vaporize all worn clothes every 2 minutes--excepting only shoes, and packs or bags of a sufficiently small size that are worn on the back, sides, or rear.

The environment of the whole planet is very warm and tropical, but with heavy cloud cover and a thick enough atmosphere to protect from sunburn. There are no parasites, dangerous animals, or much reason to farm or hunt as there is a riot of protein- and fat-rich food copiously growing everywhere.

There are few mountains and landscape features that would encourage people to take risks climbing.

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