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A primary function of clothing is to improve the comfort of the wearer by offering protection against the elements. Clothing offers protection from sunburn in warm weather, and protection from frostbite in cold weather. Shelter decreases the requirement for protective clothing. For example, coats, hats, gloves, and other superficial layers are typically eliminated when getting in a warm home. Clothes also decrease risk during activities such as work or sport. Some clothing safeguards from specific environmental risks, such as insects, harmful chemicals, weather, weapons, and contact with abrasive elements. On the other hand, clothing may safeguard the environment from the clothing wearer, as with doctors wearing medical scrubs.
Humans have shown extreme inventiveness in developing clothing solutions to environmental risks. 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.
Clothing also carries out a variety of social and cultural functions. Clothing can be used to indicate social status and convey individual, occupational, and sexual differentiation. In numerous societies, norms about clothing reflect requirements of modesty, religion, gender, and social status. They cover parts of the body that social norms require to be covered, serve as a form of adornment, and offer an expression of personal taste and style.


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Clothing has been made from an extremely 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 quickly eliminated (scarves), worn simply for adornment (jewelry), or those that serve a function besides protection (eyeglasses), are typically considered accessories rather than clothing, as are footwear and hats. The distinction between clothing and protective equipment is not always precise-- because clothes developed to be stylish frequently have protective value and clothes developed for function frequently consider fashion in their design.

 

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