Air may be shut out not only by tight houses but also by tight clothes. It follows that the question of clothing is closely related to the question of ventilation. In fact it is a reasonable inference from modern investigations that air-hygiene concerns the skin quite as much as the lungs. Therefore the hygiene of clothing assumes a new and hitherto unsuspected importance. A truly healthy skin is not the waxy white which is so common, but one which glows with color, just as do healthy cheeks exposed to the open air.
The hygiene of clothing includes ventilation and freedom from pressure, moderate warmth, and cleanliness. Loose, porous underclothes are already coming into vogue. But effective ventilation, namely such as will allow free access of air to the skin, requires that our outer clothes – including women’s gowns and men’s shirts, vests, vest-linings, and coat-linings – should also be loose and porous. Here is one of the most important but almost wholly neglected clothing reforms. Most linings and many fabrics used in outer clothes are so tightly woven as to be impervious to air. Yet porous fabrics are always available, including porous alpacas for lining. To test a fabric it is only necessary to place it over the mouth and observe whether it is possible or easy to blow the breath through it.
At times we can enjoy relief from clothing altogether. An air-bath promotes a healthy skin and aids it in the performance of its normal functions. Not every one can visit air-bath establishments or outdoor gymnasia or take the modern nude cure by which juvenile consumptives are sometimes treated (even in winter, after becoming gradually accustomed to the cold); but any one can spend at least a little time in a state of nature. Both at the time of rising in the morning and upon retiring at night, there are many things which are usually done while one’s clothes are on which could be done just as well while they are off. Brushing the teeth, washing the hands, shaving, etc., necessarily consume some time during which the luxury of an air-bath can be enjoyed. Exercises should also be taken at these times. Exercising in cold air, if not too cold, with clothing removed, is an excellent means of hardening the skin and promoting good digestion.
Tight Clothing, Shoes
The constriction from rigid or tight corsets, belts (the latter in men as well as in women), tight neckwear, garters, etc., interferes with the normal functions of the organs which they cover. All such constriction should be carefully avoided. The tight hats generally worn by men check the circulation in the scalp. Tight shoes with extremely high heels deform the feet and interfere with their health. The barefoot cure is not always practicable, but any one can wear broad-toed shoes with a straight inner edge and do his part to help drive pointed toes out of fashion. Such a reform should not be so difficult as to rid the women of China of their particular form of foot-binding. Several anatomical types of shoes, that is, shoes made to fit the normal foot instead of to force the foot to fit them, are now available. In all except cold weather, low shoes are preferable to high shoes. When possible, sandals, now fortunately coming into fashion, are preferable to shoes, especially in early childhood (but the adult, whose calf-muscles and foot-structure are not often adapted to such foot-gear, must be cautious in their use lest flat-foot result).
Cottons, Linens, Woolens
Only the minimum amount of clothing that will secure warmth should be worn. Woolens protect most, but they require the least exercise of the temperature-regulating apparatus of the body. While wool is also highly absorbent of moisture, it does not give off that moisture quickly enough. Hence, if worn next to the skin, it becomes saturated with perspiration, which it long retains to the disadvantage of the skin. Consequently woolen clothing is best confined to overcoats and outer garments, designed especially for cold weather. The underclothes should be made of some better conducting and more quickly drying material, such as cotton or linen. In winter light linen-mesh and medium wool over that, or “double-deck” linen and wool underclothes, can be worn by those who object to either linen or wool alone.
As to color, the more nearly white the clothes the better. This is especially true in summer, but there is believed to be some advantage in white at all seasons.
Those who have learned to clothe themselves properly find that they have grown far more independent of changing weather conditions. They do not suffer greatly from extreme summer heat nor extreme winter cold. Especially do they note that “raw” or damp cold days no longer tax their strength.