Clothing (also called clothes and attire) is fiber and textile material worn on the body. The wearing of clothing is mostly restricted to human beings and is a feature of nearly all human societies.
The amount and type of clothing worn depends on body type, social, and geographic considerations. Some clothing types can be gender-specific.
Physically, clothing serves many purposes: it can serve as protection from the elements, and can enhance safety during hazardous activities such as hiking and cooking. It protects the wearer from rough surfaces, rash-causing plants, insect bites, splinters, thorns and prickles by providing a barrier between the skin and the environment. Clothes can insulate against cold or hot conditions. Further, they can provide a hygienic barrier, keeping infectious and toxic materials away from the body.
Clothing also provides protection from ultraviolet radiation.
Wearing clothes is also a social norm, as being deprived of clothing in front of others may be embarrassing, or not wearing clothes in public to the extent that genitals, breasts or buttocks are visible could be seen as indecent exposure.
The most obvious function of clothing is to improve the comfort of the wearer, by protecting the wearer from the elements. In hot climates, clothing provides protection from sunburn or wind damage, while in cold climates its thermal insulation properties are generally more important. Shelter usually reduces the functional need for clothing. For example, coats, hats, gloves, and other superficial layers are normally removed when entering a warm home, particularly if one is residing or sleeping there. Similarly, clothing has seasonal and regional aspects, so that thinner materials and fewer layers of clothing are generally worn in warmer seasons and regions than in colder ones.
Clothing performs a range of social and cultural functions, such as individual, occupational and gender differentiation, and social status. In many societies, norms about clothing reflect standards of modesty, religion, gender, and social status. Clothing may also function as a form of adornment and an expression of personal taste or style.
Clothing can and has in history been made from a very wide variety of materials.
Materials have ranged from leather and furs, to woven materials, to elaborate and exotic natural and synthetic fabrics. Not all body coverings are regarded as clothing. Articles carried rather than worn (such as purses), worn on a single part of the body and easily removed (scarves), worn purely for adornment (jewelry), or those that serve a function other than protection (eyeglasses), are normally considered accessories rather than clothing, as are footwear and hats.
Clothing protects against many things that might injure the uncovered human body. Clothes protect people from the elements, including rain, snow, wind, and other weather, as well as from the sun. However, clothing that is too sheer, thin, small, tight, etc., offers less protection. Clothes also reduce risk during activities such as work or sport. Some clothing protects from specific environmental hazards, such as insects, noxious chemicals, weather, weapons, and contact with abrasive substances. Conversely, clothing may protect the environment from the clothing wearer, as with doctors wearing medical scrubs.
Humans have shown extreme invention in devising clothing solutions to environmental hazards. Examples include: space suits, air conditioned clothing, armor, diving suits, swimsuits, bee-keeper gear, motorcycle leathers, high-visibility clothing, and other pieces of protective clothing. Meanwhile, the distinction between clothing and protective equipment is not always clear-cut—since clothes designed to be fashionable often have protective value and clothes designed for function often consider fashion in their design. Wearing clothes also has social implications. They cover parts of the body that social norms require to be covered, act as a form of adornment, and serve other social purposes.