Proverbs about Clothing and Nudity

We’ve all heard the expression “Clothes make the man.” It’s a phrase to which Mark Twain added, rather gruffly, “Naked people have little or no influence on society.” We naturists disagree with both of those sentences – and it turns out there’s a wide world of proverbs, sayings and witticisms out there that express all kinds of ideas and opinions about clothing and nudity. Consider this example from Sudan: “A naked man will often laugh at someone with torn clothes.” To me, that one seems to point a little fun at our expectations around clothing. This one from Tunisia focuses on clothing ownership and economy: “He who is covered with other people’s clothes is naked.” Like all proverbs, these examples have metaphorical meanings as well. The Tunisian one might be good, for example, for describing someone who uses other people’s ideas with none of her own to contribute. The gist of that one reminds me of a post I wrote about turning around a well-known aphorism from a famous capitalist: “Only when the tide goes out do you discover who’s been swimming naked.”

The source for the Sudanese and Tunisian proverbs above, and a great many more, proved invaluable to me when I was writing my naturist Don Quixote serial: The Nude Adventures of Doff de Chonez pa su Mecha. True to form, the story features not only a Don Quixote character but also a Sancho Panza character, and just like in Cervantes’ original, Sancho is a “sack filled with proverbs and mischief,” mixing his sayings at inopportune moments much to the vexation of Don Quixote. Sancho represents folk wisdom and common sense, in contrast to Don Quixote’s lofty ideals and elevated discourse. I set up a similar dynamic for my characters Doff de Chonez and Sammy Panzov. Here’s a sample of their dialogue from Chapter 9. Our unclothed heroes have been asked to wait in the back of a friend’s car, parked just across the street from San Francisco’s Palace of Fine Arts…

“Lookest thou there, friend Sammy,” stated Doff de Chonez, pointing out the car window. “Behold the travesty of a joyous occasion impeded by an abundance of textiles.”

“It’s a wedding, Your Nudity,” observed Sammy, “and they’re wearing what people normally wear when getting married.”

“’Tis a sham wedding,” asserted Doff de Chonez, “when bride and groom cannot even appear before each other and their loved ones in their natural state.”

“Well, as I’ve often heard it said,” replied Sammy, “the bride who wears four petticoats has a lot to hide, and to that I’d add that a good cummerbund hides a good panzón [big belly]…  ¡Señor! ¡Cuidado! Look out for traffic!”

Sammy’s proverb about the petticoats is an Iranian saying, another gem I found at, along with this intriguing quote from Thomas Alva Edison: “The reason a lot of people do not recognize opportunity is because it usually goes around wearing overalls looking like hard work.” In a scene from Chapter 10, our naturists-errant have arrived at a recreated Miwok indigenous village north of San Francisco, and are most appreciative of traditional Miwok dress. Sammy feels compelled to deploy another proverb, which the website I’ve been referring to lists as Irish: “The wearer knows best where the shoe pinches”…

“Inform thyself, Sammy,” intoned Doff de Chonez, “of the remarkable history of naturism. As thou canst see here, this sign reads: ‘During the warm weather the Bay Miwok men wore no clothes at all.’ Thou and I, Sammy – we are as bare as our forebears.”

At this, Doff de Chonez lowered himself to one knee and bowed his head.

“That is indeed remarkable,” agreed Sammy. “And the sign tells us, as well, that the women of this tribe went topless, with only a grass skirt made of front and back hangings.”

“Thou meanst to say ‘top-free,’ friend,” corrected Doff de Chonez, “for to say ‘topless’ implies that something is missing, when no such covering would have been missing at all.”

“It’s the wearer of the shoe,” replied Sammy, “who best knows where it pinches, as they say, to which I would add that a bra is very like a shoe.”

“What knowest thou of bras?” asked Doff de Chonez.

“Not that I’ve ever worn one, Your Nakedity,” Sammy hastened to make clear, “but what I mean to say is that a bra must pinch rather like a shoe does, or like a pair of pants can.”

“Thou hast a most prodigious memory for proverbs,” answered Doff de Chonez, “matched by your fanciful imagination. Yes, all clothing can pinch, and yet here, for the Miwok, there was practically none to speak of. What word be there for a brassiere, when no such contraption exists?”

Imagine a world… where no such contraption exists…

As 2021 comes to a close, with 2022 stomping at the gate, we creators and consumers of naturist content could do worse than to find solace and support in this timeless classic from William Blake, illustrated by Linnea Lenkus with one of her own photos:


8 thoughts on “Proverbs about Clothing and Nudity”

    1. Thanks, Paul! Always a pleasure.
      Here is another example from that site, and it’s one I find inscrutable. Maybe something was lost in translation from the original Chinese:
      “He who does not regularly put on clean socks will never get used to circus life.”

  1. Great quotations from Doff de Chonez and Sammy Panzov, Will. But I really appreciate the citation from Blake — who was notorious, as I’m sure you’re aware, for sitting with his wife, naked in the front garden. Naked writers do come from an esteemed lineage, do we not!


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