Genetic studies of the human body louse, which requires clothes
to survive, suggests that humans started wearing garments 72,000
years ago +/- 42,000 years. This estimate matches that of the
first appearance of physical evidence of clothing-making tools.
The species Homo sapiens itself has existed for 200,000 or more
years, so the 'natural' condition of humans is nude.
Informal nudism has always been practiced. Ancient cultures (the
Greeks and the Romans for example) sometimes had quite different
attitudes toward the unclothed human body than is common today.
In fact, the word "gymnasium" comes from the Greek word
"gymnos," meaning "nude," because athletics
in Greece was routinely practiced naked by its participants.
Nudity taboos are often a holdover from a practical need for body
covering, as with temperate or desert cultures, where people initially
wear clothing in public by habit because of practical reasons,
until it becomes ingrained in the culture itself that this is
Objections against being nude are often religiously motivated,
even when they start out as a cultural taboo as in the previous
paragraph. Some peoples have started wearing clothes only after
missionaries argued that that is more civilized.
are many devout nudists who attend services regularly and argue
that they do not need to shed their morals with their clothes.
Also there is a Christian sect that practiced religious nudism,
The first known organized club for nudists, Freilichtpark (Free-Light
Park), was opened near Hamburg in 1903. The nudist movement gained
prominence in Germany in the 1920s, but was suppressed during
the Nazi Gleichschaltung after Adolf Hitler came to power. Social
nudism in the form of private clubs and campgrounds first appeared
in the United States in the 1930s.
A 1935 advertisement claims Sea Island Sanctuary, South Carolina,
was the "largest and oldest" year round resort where
nudism could be practised. In Canada, it first appeared in British
Columbia and neighboring Washington State about 1939 and in Ontario
nine years later.