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 a requirement.

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.

However, there 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 Adamites.

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.





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