The evolution of outdoor clothing

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    The evolution of outdoor clothing

    Clothing technology developed rapidly in the 19th and especially in the 20th century. At the same time, we further developed the knowledge of heat transfer and our knowledge of human physiology.

    In this article we discuss the basics of clothing and its evolution throughout human history.

    The body

    To function, the human body must be kept within tight temperature limits. This balancing is called homeostasis.

    When the body too hot he reacts with sweating. Body fluid, ie sweat, is deposited on the skin surface. When this water evaporates, evaporative cold develops. This dissipates heat from the body to the environment. The blood vessels of the skin widen, thereby increasing the blood flow, and more heat can be dissipated. This process is called Vasodilation.

    When the body cools, we start to shake. The tremors are small muscle contractions that produce heat. By vasoconstriction, contracting the blood vessels, we continue to save heat. The hair on the body stand up. This keeps a thin, warm layer of air tight around the body. This is also the effect we imitate with clothes.

    The origins of the clothes

    The loss of the coat gave mankind at the Hunt an advantage because they can protect the body from overheating by sweating and thus increased the stamina in assassination. In this time, the development of man falls as a perennial long-distance runner. The disadvantage caused by the loss of the coat was compensated for by the invention of clothing. The possibility of wearing different insulating clothing also allowed for the flexibility to expand into different climates and contributed to the spread of humans.

    Reconstruction of the clothes of Ötzi. Wolfgang Sauber [CC BY-SA 3.0 (]

    When exactly humanity started wearing clothes is uncertain. Since clothing rots and does not endure with the bone as a fossil, researchers must use indirect evidence of clothing. Anthropologists estimate that humanity started wearing clothing around 100,000 to 650,000 years ago.

    The oldest indirect evidence for clothing dates back to about 75,000 years ago. Indirect evidence of clothing from this period provides a louse. The body louse Pediculus humanus humanes / corporis lives in human clothes. It originated from the head lice, and genetic analysis has been used to determine the period of their occurrence. The oldest squirrel skin cape comes from an Italian cave and is estimated to be about 23,000 years old. The development of specialized stone tools was a prerequisite for processing the surface of the animal skins so that it could be worn as clothing and leather.

    Sheep were domesticated about 9000 to 7500 BC. The first evidence of wool as a clothing component dates to about the 4th and 3rd millennium BC in Mesopotamia. Silk was detected in 8500 year old tombs in China. As a result, the novel fabric spread rapidly along Silk Road. Cotton as a clothing fiber was probably created about 5000 BC. The industrial revolution then used novel steam engines to process wool and cotton fibers, but it was not until the 19th century that the invention of the sewing machine replaced manual labor in the clothing industry.

    A leap forward

    The age of the great Arctic expeditions brought issues and solutions to effective clothing. Polar researchers wore natural fiber clothing. These were soaked with moisture and then quickly frozen. Jackets still had big buttons, no hoods and no venting possibilities.

    1921 Mount Everest expedition members - photographer Alexander Frederick Richmond "Sandy" Wollaston (1875 - 3 June 1930) [public domain]

    Through trial and error, this arose onion systemas we still use it today. Instead of just putting on a lot, it was discovered that every single layer had to do a very specific job.

    The Base layerWhen worn directly on the skin, it must effectively capture body heat while effectively dissipating perspiration. This was previously achieved through a cotton mesh shirt.

    The midlayer is responsible for the insulation and used to be wool. The body heat was held between the fibers.

    The outer location does not let wind and water through and protects against the elements. Previously, this was achieved with waxed jackets.

    The Synthetic Revolution

    Wart Dark and Solipsist [CC BY-SA 3.0 (]
    Schematic of Gore-Tex, Wait Dark and Solipsist [CC BY-SA 3.0 (]

    The first fully synthetic fiber was polyamide, also known as nylon, and was developed by Du Pont in 1935. First, it was used for toothbrushes, tights and military equipment, but was not widely used in clothing. The first heat-resistant polyester fiber, developed by Whinfield and Dickson, was more stable and durable, and soon the first synthetic fiber clothing was born.

    Gore-Tex was invented in 1969 and has since become the epitome of waterproof and breathable outdoor clothing. Although the material does not let water through from outside, sweat can escape in the form of water vapor. In addition, this technology is extremely lightweight.


    Due to the resistance of the synthetic fibers to sunlight, moisture and dirt and their water-repellent properties and the fast drying time, they are almost indispensable for modern clothing. Inventions such as the zipper and climbing fastener allow easy use of clothing. Even the simple extension of the jacket with a hood was a big step.

    The safety and comfort of modern equipment is due to technological development and our ancestors, who have laboriously driven this development through trial and error.



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