AskDefine | Define loincloth

Dictionary Definition

loincloth n : a garment that provides covering for the loins [syn: breechcloth, breechclout, G-string]

User Contributed Dictionary

English

Noun

  1. A garment that covers the loins (crotch).

Translations

garment
  • Spanish: taparrabos

Extensive Definition

A loincloth is a one-piece male garment, sometimes kept in place by a belt, which covers the genitals and, at least partially, the buttocks.

History and types

Loincloths are and have been worn:
  • in societies where no other clothing is needed nor wanted
  • as an undergarment or swimsuit
  • for symbolical purposes, e.g. in asceticism to express soberness
    • Mohandas Gandhi wore a dhoti, a Hindu loincloth, as a way of identifying with the poorest Indians, even though he knew it could be taken as a sign of primitiveness.
The loincloth is the most basic form of male dress, often worn as only garment and barefoot. It has been nearly universal throughout the globe and all human history. The loincloth is in essence a piece of material, bark-bast, leather or cloth, passed between the legs covering the genitals. Despite this simpleness of function the loincloth takes many forms. A variant form composed of two cloth or leather flaps that hangs free from a belt or waistband is more precisely known as a hip cloth.
In most of (sub-)tropical continental Asia, types of loincloth such as the Indian lungi, often unisex or with a close female counterpart, remain in use as traditional dress, especially among the rural peasant communities, while city dwellers tend to adopt western style costumes. An elaborate, decorated form is also worn as the only garment in certain martial arts, such as Kerala's Kalarippayattu; like the aptly named boxer shorts, it must allow the fighters free, even acrobatic movement.
Japanese men traditionally wear (formerly always) a loincloth known as a fundoshi. The fundoshi is a 35 cm (14 inch) wide piece of fabric (cotton or silk) passed between the thighs and secured to cover the genitals. There are a hundred ways of tying the fundoshi, and in the modern age, men are coming to enjoy using patterned cloth for their fundoshis.
Men of Indo-European culture, Greeks, Romans and Scandinavians, wore the loincloth more or less habitually. (Women wore a fuller version, with ties before and behind, "bikinis" called a "perizoma", as depicted on the mosaics at Piazza Amerina.) An ancient version of the loincloth, the breechcloth, was found in the Alps on a ca. 2000 BCE archaeological find named Ötzi the Iceman.
After the fall of the Roman empire, the loincloth disappeared in Europe. Trousers of one kind or another, which had been considered a Celtic oddity in the Ancient Mediterranean cultures, were prescribed for men.
Loincloth-wearing peoples consider the loincloth an expression of modesty, but when Europeans conquered societies among whom the loincloth was traditional, the Europeans banned this garment as uncivilized and offensive to the Christian morality they usually preached.

Connotations

When Westerners once again came into contact with loincloths elsewhere, they viewed it as an exotic and indecent garment, probably because the wearer's buttocks were partially exposed, therefore ideal for primitive fiction characters like Tarzan.
The connection of loincloth-wearing with "backwardness" became even more pronounced in the 19th century heyday of colonialism and industrialisation.
Often the only garment black male slaves in the tropical colonies (e.g. in Surinam) were permitted to wear was a scanty breechcloth, while even working class in the West wore at least a shirt and trousers.

See also

External links

loincloth in German: Lendenschurz
loincloth in Spanish: Taparrabos
loincloth in Esperanto: Zontuko
loincloth in French: Pagne
loincloth in Tamil: கோவணம்
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