Obviously clothing is essential to shield us against the elements and promote physical health, but it actually does so much more than just protect the body.
In Maslow’s hierarchical order of needs, clothing is included in the basic physical category alongside food and shelter because provision of the right clothing can satisfy the higher order needs of belonging and self-esteem.
The condition of a person’s clothing can often be overshadowed by more immediate concerns regarding hunger and health care. Families have to prioritise what little money they have to spend on food and basic living necessities. Unfortunately however, the impact of clothing poverty can be just as detrimental as food poverty and ill health.
Inadequate clothing is a very visible sign of poverty. You can hide the fact that your cupboards at home are bare but it is much more difficult to disguise the holes in your jumper or your ill-fitting trousers.
Many young people are avoiding school; social opportunities with peers; and community activities for fear of being shamed and bullied over their worn-out clothes. In addition, if young people are worried about their clothing, they are more distracted; not listening to their teacher or instructor. This in turn can hinder their learning and deprive them of future opportunities.
On the other hand, when used positively, the right clothing can contribute to feelings of self-acceptance; self-esteem; sociability; and competency. It can also create a sense of belonging, particularly amongst young people.