Underwear ''laws''?

Dear Alice,

Why do people have to wear underwear?

Dear Reader,

They don't. Well, maybe there are some places, cultures, and religions that require wearing some sort of undergarments, but chances are that you're talking about the expectation that we all don briefs, bras, boxers, panties, jocks, thongs, and what have you.

Underwear does provide the breasts, buttocks, and penis with support, chafing protection, and perspiration absorption, and helps keep outerwear free of smells and stains from stray excretions. It's possible that breasts, buttocks, and genitalia free to frolic and feel around inside shirts and pants can cause some excitement for you and those in your vicinity. An additional underwear barrier between our "private parts" and the outside world may satisfy some who'd rather not be reminded of, or get anywhere near, that stuff. Indeed, undies — especially for women — were developed, in part, as a Victorian attempt to control and hide genitalia and physique. All the baby talk nicknames that are still substituted for underwear — scanties, snuggles, skivvies, and smalls, to name a few more — are another indication of our ongoing discomfort with the contents of our underclothes.

So, will you do time if nothing comes between you and your Calvins? Ironically, Mr. Klein may not want you to know this, but going without his or anyone else's when out and about is healthy (barring some of the "side effects" mentioned before), liberating, and some would even say, sexy. Because there's this widely held belief that underwear should be worn at all times — even when sleeping — not conforming can feel daring, "dangerous," empowering, and for some that can mean, a turn-on. Now, if you start rubbing up against people in the post office, or proudly pitching tents at the train station, your newfound freedom has derailed and may land your bare ass in jail. It's your choice to wear or not to wear; and not everyone wants, or has, to know about it.

If you're contemplating keeping that underwear drawer closed tomorrow morning, or trying to convince someone else to take a walk on the wild side, this is another one of those life experiments that need not lead to permanent change. If you get caught in your zipper, or you just get second thoughts about your choice, your underwear ain't goin' anywhere. You can even carry a pair around with you in case you suddenly want to slip into something more comfortable.

Last updated May 14, 2015
Originally published Mar 23, 2001

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