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    Is it really true that clothes maketh the man?


    “ . . . Don’t be quick to pick a fight, but once you’re in one, hold your own. Listen to many people, but talk to few. Hear everyone’s opinion, but reserve your judgment. Spend all you can afford on clothes, but make sure they’re quality, not flashy, since clothes make the man. . . . Don’t borrow money and don’t lend it, . . . And, above all, be true to yourself. . . .”

    (Hamlet Act 1, Scene 3, Modern translation)

    Well, who would argue with Shakespeare? I think the choice of clothes affect people’s opinion of the wearer, whether that was their intention or not!

    There has been a fashion industry ever since the day of Adam & Eve’s fig leaves. I suspect, by the following day, Eve had added another type of leaf to her wardrobe followed by another, as she couldn’t possibly wear the same outfit twice! She would have insisted Adam changed his leaves too – and it’s been the same ever since!

    Does a woman dress to impress men or other women? I believe she dresses to impress herself first of all, as looking good makes her feel good too. This will be closely followed by the others around her, depending on her status: it could be to attract a partner, to keep a partner happy, to show off to friends, impress employers or employees or just to look happy and pretty to one and all.

    Does a man dress to impress women or other men? Now, that is harder for me to answer. I think young men dress to impress their mates, as well as to attract the girls but once they are no longer single, the majority of men don’t seem so hung up on fashion and many don’t even shop for their own clothes. They rely on their partner or gifts from their mums!

    I know there are some men out there who may be ready to argue that point with me – you are probably the ones still impressing your friends and partners and you are making my point for me: clothes matter!

    Or do they? I am sure we judge people on first impressions and in the textile world, we take in what they are wearing as much, or more so, than their character and temperament. Clothes must make a difference, otherwise we would all still be wearing animal skins or sackcloth of the same bland style.

    Oh, how much easier it could have been; never having to worry which shoes go with which dress; which ties with which shirt – yes, that happens to us all! Imagine just grabbing a clean garment each morning and not feeling the need to look in the mirror, or ask for compliments and reassurance that we look OK before we leave the house.

    Depending on the occasion, don’t you just feel better when wearing something familiar and comfortable, or something new and refreshing? Do you feel different when you don a uniform for work or to become a team player? Does the formality give you confidence, self-importance and a sense of authority or belonging? It matters to us, doesn’t it? Admit it! You care what people think of your appearance.

    But being naturist must affect all of that, as it seems to instantly make us all equal. It removes this competitive nature so maybe it removes the stress of trying to look good and impressing people and you relax, safe in the knowledge that everyone accepts you as you are; in your own skin.

    I have heard many stories of people on holiday finding a naturist beach and discovering that the friendly people there talked to them; but when on a textile beach, they were ignored – it was part of the reason they became naturists.

    Why is this? I would have thought that if naturism was not “normal,” then clothed people would be more relaxed as they can hide behind their garments and not worry what people think about their “imperfections” and can portray whatever image they feel like projecting to people who don’t really know them.

    OK, so naturists are not naked all the time and we do see each other’s choice of attire between the naturist activities but though we arrive at a club fully clothed, we tend to be casually dressed in garments that are easy to cast off and not get spoilt in a bag, or in a pile on the chair beside us. If we meet on a naturist beach or other venue, we travel in casual gear and then get naked almost immediately. We tend to aim at being comfortable and that keeps our wardrobe quite basic and not necessarily fashion-conscious.

    So does this level of dressing make an impact on our emotions and moods? Do we become less formal, less uptight and more relaxed because we are as comfortable in our clothes as we are in our skins? Do they let our true selves seep through to the surface?

    You could argue that we dress up for socials, but many of them are fancy-dress so, once again, we are equalled by our similarity of clothes and are having fun being in disguise. If we dress smartly for a dinner-dance, we are all making more effort for the occasion than the day-to-day clothes that we have complete choice over and which really do portray our true personality.

    As naturists, we are generally in our own skin rather than displaying our financial status and comparing designer labels with supermarket specials and becoming quite materialistic and competitive with each other. This creates a much nicer atmosphere, with no-one stressing out over what they can or can’t afford and no-one casting sly glances to see what someone else is wearing and hoping they don’t turn up in the same outfit.

    Well, we do turn up in the same outfit, our “Birthday Suit”; but, boy, do they all look different! Maybe this suit of skin gives us the comforting equalising feeling that a uniform gives to those who are all in the same team. Of course, we can still complement our suits with jewellery, shoes, bags, sunglasses and hats; there are still many ways to be individual but the main part of the picture is all natural and personalised to our own bodies!

    When I look at the Blackthorns membership, I can see people of all ages, from all social backgrounds, with varying incomes, possibly of many religions and different countries of origin, yet if you sit on the patio there, you will hear everyone intermingling in conversation and cover such varied subjects from the very serious to the downright daft! They are always there for each other through thick-and-thin and there is a comfortable community feeling abounding.

    I doubt I would ever be part of such an exchange of opinions or make such good friends so easily in other social gatherings, as this immediate compatibility does not occur. But why not? What is it about getting naked that makes people become nicer, more caring and sociable? Or is it just that only nice, caring people choose to be naturists?

    I’m sorry Mr Shakespeare but I would disagree with your character Polonius; clothes do not make the man, they can often ruin one!

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