How Much Clothing is Enough? A Personal Experiment

One of the core ideas in my book The World After Capital is that we have sufficient physical capital in the world to meet everyone’s needs. To help establish this I provide a fairly detailed analysis of what our needs are. 

Now today’s post is about clothing. Some people would say that clothing is a need, but that’s a conceptual mistake. Clothing is not a need, rather it is a solution for two actual needs: temperature regulation and bodily integrity. When it gets too cold we use clothing to warm ourselves. And when we work in dangerous environments we use clothing to protect our bodies.

Again, clothing is a solution, not a need. I realize this is likely somewhat counterintuitive for a lot of people who have thought of clothing as a need. But we kind of know that it’s not a need because in the right climate (and without dangerous activities) people are perfectly happy wearing very little or nothing at all. Some people might want to add another need here somehow related to being ashamed or not wanting others to see our body but those are clearly social constructs (or internalized reactions to those) that are highly dependent on time and place rather than universals.

Once you see clothing as a solution to needs it becomes easier to think clearly about what makes for a good clothing and how much you really need. For example, clothing should be durable so you don’t need to replace it all the (Read more...)