Even members of primitive societies are clad in some way, but there are still questions as to why people started wearing clothes. The time when it began is still unknown. However, some ideas have become popular.
The most logical explanation is that early man needed it for shelter. Those living in freezing areas would have realized that animal skin can reduce the cold. Apart from the weather, early clothing provided some protection from wildlife. Some leather skins can protect the body from animal and insect bites.
Aside from dressing the body, protection for the feet would follow. The location where this awareness began is uncertain. But it’s possible that it could have occurred in several areas at the same time.
Given these facts, safety is the reason often cited as to why people started wearing clothes.
To Signify Social Status and Power
As civilization progressed, dresses and costumes acquired more important functions. As religions became widespread, special attires were needed to distinguish the priest / guru from the layman.
When chieftains and kings started to rule, special costumes were required. By the time of the Sumerians and Egyptians, the rulers had become very distinct. The pharaoh was clad in a unique manner. The rule has been followed by the other great civilizations. From ancient Rome to the kingdoms in Europe, costumes became symbols of power.
Even today, clothes denote authority. Justices, clergy and military officers wear distinct costumes. It thus becomes clear that one reason why people started wearing clothes was to designate status.
To Look Attractive
Using dresses to make oneself more attractive is not new. There is plenty of archaeological evidence showing ancient cultures engaged in the same practice. Even among primitive and tribal societies, men and women wear special dresses and costumes.
No one knows exactly when individuals realized that garments can make them look attractive. However, the use of dresses and costumes to appear more desirable spread throughout the world.
To Perform Work
Another obvious reason was to help man perform certain duties. People who toiled in snow covered lands had no choice but to cover themselves. When societies started going to war, the need for protective material became necessary. So another explanation as to why people started wearing clothes is the need to work. As tasks became more specialized and specific, dressing right became a prerequisite.
To Perform Other Activities
As civilizations developed, men and women started using them for other reasons. Opera and stage dramas became very popular, and became showcase events for beautiful costumes. Festivals and parades also became occasions for individuals to dress up. As cultures developed, national costumes were also developed.
The introduction of various sports competition led to more uses for outfits. Today events like football, hockey etc require special apparel. The fashion industry has also become huge, with new designs always coming out.
We may never know the exact time or reason why people started wearing clothes. But regardless of when it began, it has become an indispensable part of most societies.