( Originally Published 1904 )
On few subjects do more fallacious ideas exist than on that of clothing. The tendency during the past fifty years was toward the wearing of wool garments next to the skin. As the heat of summer came on many sensible people discarded woollen underwear, but a great many more who thought themselves very wise indeed, merely shed the heavy flannels of winter for lighter woollen wear and prided themselves on their so doing.
But with the first touch of frost in the fall air, every man and woman resumed the heavy flannels, nor were these put off again until the following summer.
Nowadays, nearly all of us have heard that wool should never be worn next to the skin, and a good many of us are fortunate enough to believe it. But even to-day there is a tendency to dress too warmly.
The truth is that a minimum of clothing is desirable at all times. In the coldest weather one should wear but just enough clothing to insure the possession of a reasonable degree of animal heat. This does not mean that we should be quite warm; far from it. Write the following down as a golden rule of health.
Cold is beneficial, provided that its use is never carried to extremes. Do not freeze the body, but keep it cool. Let the air get at the surface of the skin. In winter wear no more than enough clothing to maintain the ordinary degree of animal heat; in summer wear no more clothing than convention requires.
In summer and winter alike, make it a point to wear pure linen next to the skin. If you cannot afford this fabric, you will find that cotton is the most satisfactory substitute. Never, wear wool let the wise-acres warn you as they will of the foolhardiness of daring to go without heavy flannels. I often won-der how much of that spring "tired feeling" is due to the wearing of heavy flannels for month after month.
Have all your clothing so made that as much air as possible can reach the skin of all parts of the body. Don't be afraid of air even of winter air. It is a life-saver, and a cleanser.
Wear thin cotton or lisle foot-gear never wool or silk. Your hat should have some provision for ventilation, for the air should reach your scalp freely if your hair is to be healthy. Go bare-footed in summer when you can. When you must use foot-covering in summer, acquire the sandal habit.
Be cautious about the wearing of an overcoat. A top-coat is preferable to a heavy ulster. There are many bright and comparatively warm days in winter when neither top-coat nor overcoat are needed. And when such a garment is not wanted, it is always better to do without it.
Make sure that there is always plenty of looseness and freedom at the neck. Men who wear high, tight collars; and women who permit themselves to fasten stocks about the throat, are denying themselves a certain amount of health that might easily be theirs if they would permit more air to get in at the tops of their upper garments. And the habit of covering the neck heavily and closely, is the cause of most of the scrawny necks that are such frequent and uncomely spectacles. The well-rounded, graceful neck belongs to the man or woman who does not exclude the air from it.
By way of experiment I have worn summer underclothing and outer clothing all through a winter, and without an overcoat of any kind — and was comfortable. I am aware that many people say : "Oh, he is an athlete, and can do as he pleases with his health."
To such carpers my invariable answer is: I transformed myself from a sickly boy into an athlete by a strict observance of all of the easily ascertained laws that govern true health. Just because I am strong and. healthy, I do not knowingly violate any law that makes for health.