Written By: Sierra
Sure, clothing has its place. In the case of a thong, that place it right between the cheeks. But here, we strive to leave our troubles and clothing behind, and it got me thinking about the history of nudity and nudism among humans. So, I dove down the research rabbit hole and found a briefless history of time.
Nudity was the standard for hunter-gatherer cultures in temperate climates. Clothing was created to defend from the dust, sun, heat, or the cold.
During the height of Ancient Greece’s power, the mild weather of the Mediterranean inspired only a little clothing. There was a broad acceptance of male nudity in general as well as in the early Olympic Games, and sometimes even Spartan women would be naked in public processions and festivals. During the Hellenistic period of Ancient Greece, historian Polybius claimed that the European also fought naked to strike fear into the hearts of their enemies.
In Ancient Rome, complete nudity was a public disgrace, despite their public baths and erotic art. Under the rule of Augustus Caesar, the adoption of Hellenistic and Neo-Attic style led to more representation of the nude male body.
The spread of Christianity led to nudity being seen as sinful and shameful, though religion was quite a deterrent in both Eastern and Western cultures
The Renaissance restored nudity to art. Nudity became seen as innocence and purity, which was the state of man “before the fall.”
But not much later, Puritans believed nudity was so immoral that many didn’t bathe because they believed it promoted nudity.
Slavery and colonialism also created a connection between nudity and savagery because of the indigenous peoples of other continents, and the nude condition in which slaves were sold. Among the Chumash of Southern California for example, men were usually naked and women were often topless. Nudity became associated with lower status, and slaves and servants were often nude when they were sold and sometimes even while working.
The Victorian Era maintained the negative status of nudity, viewing it as downright obscene.
In Japan, public nudity was still commonplace until the Meiji Restoration in the mid 19th century.
Many indigenous peoples in Africa and South America trained and performed sport competitions naked. The Nuba in South Sudan and the Xingu tribe in the Amazon still wrestle naked. Complete or partial nudity for both men and women is still common for many tribes in Africa and South America.
In the United States, the evolution progressed a little more reluctantly. In 1929, Kurt Barthel began American Social Nudism. The American League for Physical Culture (ALPC) was founded just a couple of months later and not long after had over 50 members and a landed club in Spring Valley. In 1931, Reverend Ilsley Boone was elected Vice President of the ALPC and had plans to build an American Camp like the Kleinberg camp that already existed in Bavaria. But the ALPC faced some ups and downs, including raids and charges of public indecency. Thankfully, the courts dismissed the charges as neither public nor indecent. The publicity with this case was a big step forward for the nudist movement.
However, the movement began to diminish in the late 30’s and early 40’s due to the overwhelmingly Puritanical belief system of America, equating nudity to sin and sexuality. The reenforcing of the “Comstock Law,” a law originally passed in 1873, prohibited the mailing of obscene material, which immediately put the nudist publishers on hold for fear of punishment.
Reverend Boone fought this law throughout the 40’s and 50’s, and in 1958, the Supreme Court ruled in that nudist photos were permitted to travel through the USPS mail system and did not qualify as obscene. After this, there were fewer police raids, and the last one happened in 1956 in Michigan.
The counterculture of the 1960’s was all about nudity as part of the daily routine, and as a rejection of anything artificial or unnatural. Communes also sometimes practiced naturism.
Nowadays, there are resorts and beaches all over the world, where we can free in the sun.