The Surprising Origins of 12 Popular Fashions

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fortton via iStock/Getty Images Plus

As you toss on your coziest flannel button-down and slip on a pair of your comfiest jeans, do you ever think about their origins? Many popular fashion trends had meaningful beginnings. Let’s explore why we wear—or once wore—socks up to our knees, cloth around our neck, and pants down to the floor.

1. The Bowtie

This nifty neckwear was once more than a fashion statement—they literally brought an outfit together. Bowties likely trace their origin to 17th-century Croatia, and were inspired by knotted neck scarves. This rectangular cloth accessory, often called a cravat, was folded and tied to hold the tops of mens’ shirts together. Over time, and perhaps due to the French interest in and eventual popularization of the style, they evolved into the ascots, neckties, and bowties we know today.

2. Knee-High Socks

In yesteryear, “acceptable” women’s fashion had a certain expectation of how much leg could be shown and implemented methods for concealment—from requiring women to wear hose to measuring to dress length by yardstick. But when wartime rationing called for nylon and silk to be used elsewhere, department stores experienced a stocking shortage. Around the same time, it became more acceptable for women to wear shorts or skirts during leisure activity, but this often still meant putting a pair of ankle socks (also a growing trend) over the hose. In time, knee socks became an acceptable substitute. Between the pants or skirts ending at just about the knee, and the sock beginning, flesh was still out of sight.

3. The Buffalo Check Flannel Shirt

While the black-and-red flannel shirt is ubiquitous in the hipster community today, the iconic Woolrich “buffalo check” shirt goes back to the 19th century. The company began with an intent on keeping Pennsylvania lumberjacks warm. Flannel is an economical fabric, made from twilled wool or worsted yarn, usually brushed to give it that extra soft and snuggly feel—so whether you’re an actual lumberjack or are just ordering the Lumberjack Breakfast Special at your local diner, wearing this cozy, fashionable top is appropriate.

4. Cuffed Jeans

Rolling up your jeans may be reminiscent of '80s and early '90s fashion fads, but the practice dates back to the late 1800s when people bought longer pants because they knew the pants would shrink—when Levi Strauss got his start, pre-shrunk cotton wasn’t a thing yet. So, until their pants fit properly, men cuffed the bottoms, which created a handy storage space for things like tobacco, money, or gum.

5. The Choker Necklace

From a simple piece of lace to an extravagant string of diamonds and from a studded dog collar to an ornate beaded piece, choker necklaces have been in and out of fashion for centuries. Archaeology tells us that ancient people, from Africa to the Americas, wore chokers, and it’s said this was not just for adornment, but also to protect the delicate neck. (In fact, bracelets and anklets were born from this notion as well.) As we do today with plastic wristbands, French women supposedly wore chokers after the Revolution for a cause: They tied red ribbons around their necks as a memorial to the beheaded (though this may be a later invention). It’s also thought that during the 19th century, prostitutes would wear black chokers. Every few decades, the trend was revived, from Mary of Teck, Princess of Wales in the early 1900s to Mick Jagger in the '70s to Gwen Stefani in the '90s.

6. An Unbuttoned Bottom Suit Jacket Button

Young men wearing their first suit may quickly learn that just because that bottom button’s there doesn’t mean you should use it. This fashion rule is said to date back to the early 1900s when King Edward VII had a little trouble fitting into his waistcoat, so he left the final fastener unfinished for comfort. Out of respect for his majesty, the royal court—and, soon, the rest of Britain—followed, well, suit; soon, the tradition spread across the Atlantic. Alternately, it's been said that, specifically with suit coats, the bottom button rule may have originated as a holdover from the more casual riding jacket. While its wearer was on a horse, the coat lay better when the button is open.

7. The High Heel

The dressy shoes we know today did not become popular while on the female foot. In the late 1500s, Persian horsemen wore heeled shoes to help feet stay in stirrups. As Near Eastern ways influenced European aristocrats, high heels became a status symbol. One of those most famed early adopters was France’s King Louis XIV, who preferred a red heel to show his wealth (the dye was expensive). The extra height added also some inches to his short stature. By the late-1700s, the trend—for men and women—died out mostly due to practicality. But in the mid-19th century, they made a comeback thanks to French erotic photography.

8. The Little Black Dress

It wasn’t always an old standby for a cocktail party, and its origins go back much further than Coco Chanel. In the late 19th century, wearing a black dress indicated a wealthy woman was dressed down (or in mourning). Soon, the standard uniform for the elite’s domestic help became a black dress. This way, there’d be no confusing the lady of the house and her maid. Later, the LBD also became standard dress code for working women, such as New Jersey telephone operators. However, as clothing prices dropped, lower class women could now afford to dress more stylishly after work. According to The Atlantic, "Thanks to the sewing machine, the paper pattern, and affordable fabrics, the working classes could finally, feasibly, dress like high society—even if they were now only permitted to do so after work hours. ... Society matrons exacted their revenge by dressing like shopgirls and maids, reappropriating their little black dresses for the upper crust."

9. Ruffles

Way back in the 16th century, soldiers wore multiple layers of clothes and slashed the top garment to reveal what was underneath. According to Racked, "The natural wrinkles that appeared were then appropriated by garment makers, who sewed flexible strings into their clothes. These could be pulled tighter to give a fashionable ruffled appearance."

10. Footie Pajamas

Footie pajamas are most often associated with toddlers, but these practical PJs are likely related to the union suit, a one-piece undergarment meant to keep people warm. One of the most famous examples of this children’s wear was produced by Michigan-based Dr. Denton Sleeping Garment Mills; the “blanket sleeper” was marketed to parents as “covers that can’t be kicked off.” Perhaps the most iconic feature of the classic footie pajama is the butt flap (also called drop seat), a helpful feature allowing wearers to go to the bathroom without taking off the entire garment.

11. Bermuda Shorts

Bermuda shorts are cut for comfort—literally. In World War I, Bermuda became a hotbed of activity. As the legend goes, one of the few tea shops on the island saw a boom in business thanks to the influx of British soldiers (the Brits love their tea, after all). But the crowded quarters and summer heat didn’t create the best working conditions. Rather than buy new uniforms, the owner trimmed his workers’ pants to just below the knee. A naval officer was inspired by this style, so much so that he and his fellow officers mimicked the look, dubbed them Bermuda shorts, and eventually adopted the style as a standard summer uniform, which quickly caught on.

12. Bell Bottom Jeans

The bell bottom pants we fell in love with in the '60s and '70s were inspired by the flared legs of sailor uniforms (1800s to the 1990s in the U.S.!). The story goes that seamen could easily roll up these belled legs to make way for deck swabbing. They also have a safety feature: if someone fell overboard, the design allowed for pants to be pulled over shoes so that they could then be turned into a life preserver. (Though some Naval historians dispute this, saying, “There is no substantive factual reason for their adoption” and that they “appear to be a tailored version of the pantaloon, designed for a bit of flair which set the sailor apart from his civilian counterpart.”) Although Coco Chanel designed loose-fitting, sailor-inspired trousers in the '20s, the style really hit in the mid-'60s, and it was DIY at first. Civilians would purchase sailor pants at surplus stores, and did so at first out of thriftiness. Others, who liked the idea of bell bottoms but didn’t have an Army-Navy store nearby, made their own by cutting the seam and sewing in a triangle of patterned fabric. Clothing companies, including Levi’s, finally gave in to this counterculture style.

19 Every Day Things Science Hasn’t Figured Out

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Haydar Dogramaci/iStock via Getty Images Plus

Science has enabled humans to complete some pretty incredible feats, like land on the moon, for example. But when it comes to common things like laughter or hiccups, scientists still can’t quite figure out the reason behind them. In this article, which was adapted from The List Show on YouTube, we look at everyday things that are still a mystery.

1. It's still not understood why we cry.

A woman crying.
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Crying is still a scientific mystery. Physiologically, it’s clear what’s happening when someone cries. But, it has been more difficult to figure out the evolutionary reason for tears. We know that babies cry to communicate and get attention. So, some experts believe that adults might also cry for social reasons, like to bond or to warn others that something is amiss.

2. The reason we laugh is still unknown.

A woman talking on the phone laughing.
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Like crying, we also don’t know why people evolved the ability to laugh, but experts guess it has something to do with communication—and not just that we find something funny. One researcher found that only 20 percent of laughs he looked at were preceded by anything deemed in any way humorous.

It's possible we laugh to let other people know that we’re okay or to bond with each other. A study published in 2016 gave evidence for the latter. Researchers found that an outside observer could distinguish whether laughter was produced between a pair of strangers or a pair of friends.

3. Scientists haven't figured out why we blush.

A woman blushing at work.
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Blushing is often telling others things we don’t want them to know, like the fact that we’ve done something wrong or embarrassing. Some experts believe that we may have evolved blushing to show submission to group leaders. Others think it may have something to do with the fact that blushing people have been shown to be considered more likable, so it helps peers look past the bad things we’ve done.

4. It's still unclear why anesthesia makes us pass out.

Doctors putting a patient under anesthesia.
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General anesthesia has been in use in the United States since 1846, but there are still some uncertainties about why the chemicals in anesthetics cause people to pass out. A recent study showed that the drugs affect proteins in the brain and the reason we go unconscious has to do with altering neural activity, but more research is needed.

5. We aren't exactly sure what consciousness is.

A man looking out the window.
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Consciousness is frequently defined as how we feel present and alive in the world. But the question is: Why and how do we feel conscious? It’s of interest in both philosophy and science. Scientists would like to know which part of the brain is responsible for consciousness, but it’s still a mystery.

6. It's unclear exactly how medications like Tylenol work.

A woman taking a painkiller.
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We don’t 100 percent understand how pain relievers containing acetaminophen give us pain relief. We do know that acetaminophens aren’t totally consistent; they’re more effective in some types of cells than in others. So for now, scientists believe the drugs might be a specific type of enzyme inhibitor.

7. We aren't sure why we get hiccups or how to stop them.

A mother burping a baby.
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Scientists don’t know what causes hiccups, what purpose they serve, or how to cure them. A lot of people have favorite techniques, from gargling water to pulling hard on the tongue, but there’s no scientifically-proven way to get rid of them.

In 2002, one researcher tried to get to the bottom of the problem by looking at how 54 hospital patients had been treated for hiccups. They tried multiple treatments, like holding their breath and medication, but none were proven effective.

8. Scientists haven't figured out why tornadoes start.

A tornado in a field.
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We don’t know why only some thunderstorms create tornadoes and others don’t. Generally, it’s understood that tornadoes come to be when cold, dry air interacts with warm, humid air. But the thunderstorms that result from those air conditions only sometimes cause tornadoes.

9. Scientists also haven't figured out why tornadoes end.

A tornado in the distance.
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It’s also unclear why tornadoes die—though experts believe that at least sometimes it has to do with the tornado’s interaction with cold temperatures.

10. It's still uncertain why we need to sleep.

A woman sleeping.
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There are theories as to why we need sleep, but no one knows for sure. It's possible our ancestors slept because it kept them out of danger during the night. Or it could be an energy conserving function. What we do know is that sleep helps us recover from the day, and there’s evidence it changes the connections in our brains.

11. The reason we dream is still unclear.

A woman asleep.
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Similarly, there are no clear answers as to why we dream. Some sleep experts think dreaming doesn’t have a purpose at all. Others have theories, like that we’re playing out threatening situations, like being chased, so that we’re better equipped to handle danger while awake.

12. We still aren't sure why we have the urge to scratch.

A man scratching an itch.
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We often understand why we itch. But, we don’t completely understand why we have the urge to scratch. The body has receptors just for itches that are almost identical to those that convey pain, and it’s thought that scratching might interfere with these signals. But at the same time, it might cause the skin to get more irritated, which causes even more itching.

13. Science still hasn't figured out the cure for aging.

An older person and a younger person.
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Scientists know some things about why we age, but no one has fully figured it out. There’s little evidence for popular hypotheses having to do with things like free radicals and telomeres. Aging is probably the result of a complex group of poorly understood processes, meaning a cure isn’t happening any time soon.

14. Ornithologists still don't know why only some birds migrate.

Birds flying in a v-shape.
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It’s also unclear why some birds migrate while others don’t. The ones that do migrate might do it to conserve energy, which might be kind of confusing, since they’re flying great distances and therefore expending a lot of energy to get to their destination. But it’s likely worth it since they’re probably traveling somewhere with abundant energy sources—a.k.a., plenty of available food. Luckily, thanks to technology like tracking devices, scientists are able to track birds more easily and are now learning much more about migration.

15. Scientists haven't figured out the “nature vs. nurture” debate.

A family sitting at a table.
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The question of nature versus nurture hasn’t been settled yet. Technically, we know that our genes interact with our environment to foster characteristics—but science isn’t sure to what extent. A complicating factor is that it varies by trait and individual person. How much your genes are influencing your IQ, for instance, may be different from someone else.

16. We still aren't sure why the placebo effect happens.

Dark pills with one white pill in a pile.
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The placebo effect is pretty mysterious. It has been proven again and again that sugar pills and other fake treatments can actually make someone feel better. And it’s not just a feeling as scans have shown that placebos affect the area of the brain associated with pain. We still don’t know why. It’s believed that placebos somehow help release endorphins, but experts need more information.

17. It's still unclear why bicycles are able to stay up on their own.

Bikes in a row.
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Have you ever given a bike with no one on it a push and noticed that it stays up on its own? It doesn’t fall over for much longer than you expect, and we don’t know how it manages to balance itself while moving.

18. How skates work on ice is still unknown.

A woman putting on ice skates.
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And another mystery of physics: How do skates work on ice? There is a popular theory. We know that ice has a very thin layer of liquid on it. So, a skate moving quickly on top of ice might make more liquid because the friction causes melting. The skate is actually changing the ice itself, creating a path on which to glide.

19. There still isn't a cure for the common cold.

A woman with a cold.
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We get colds from seven separate families of viruses and those families have sub-viruses. So, to cure the “cold,” there would need to be a cure that acts as a catch-all for about 200 sub-viruses.

6 Surprising Facts About Nintendo's Animal Crossing

Nintendo
Nintendo

by Ryan Lambie

Casting you as a newcomer in a woodland town populated by garrulous and sometimes eccentric creatures, Nintendo’s Animal Crossing is about conversation, friendship, and collecting things rather than competition or shooting enemies. It’s a formula that has grown over successive generations—which is all the more impressive, given the game’s obscure origins. The 3DS version now one of the most popular games available for that system, and the franchise was catapulted into further fame when Animal Crossing: New Horizons was released on Nintendo Switch in March 2020. Here are a few things you may not know about the video game.

1. Animal Crossing’s inspiration came from an unlikely place.

By the late 1990s, Katsuya Eguchi had already worked on some of Nintendo’s greatest games. He’d designed the levels for the classic Super Mario Bros 3. He was the director of Star Fox (or Star Wing, as it was known in the UK), and the designer behind the adorable Yoshi’s Story. But Animal Crossing was inspired by Eguchi’s experiences from his earlier days, when he was a 21-year-old graduate who’d taken the decisive step of moving from Chiba Prefecture, Japan, where he’d grown up and studied, to Nintendo’s headquarters in Kyoto.

Eguchi wanted to recreate the feeling of being alone in a new town, away from friends and family. “I wondered for a long time if there would be a way to recreate that feeling, and that was the impetus behind Animal Crossing,” Eguchi told Edge magazine in 2008. Receiving letters from your mother, getting a job (from the game’s resident raccoon capitalist, Tom Nook), and gradually filling your empty house with furniture and collectibles all sprang from Eguchi’s memories of first moving to Kyoto.

2. Animal Crossing was originally developed for the N64.

Although Animal Crossing would eventually become best known as a GameCube title—to the point where many assume this is where the series began—the game actually originally appeared on the N64. First developed for the ill-fated 64DD add-on, Animal Crossing (or Dōbutsu no Mori, which translates to Animal Forest) was ultimately released as a standard cartridge. But by the time Animal Crossing emerged in Japan in 2001, the N64 was already nearing the end of its lifespan, and it was never localized for a worldwide release.

3. Translating Animal Crossing for an international audience was a difficult task.

The GameCube version of Animal Crossing was released in Japan in December 2001, about eight months after the N64 edition. Thanks to the added capacity of the console’s discs, this version of the game included characters like Tortimer or Blathers that weren’t in the N64 iteration, and Animal Crossing soon became a hit with Japanese critics and players alike.

Porting Animal Crossing for an international audience proved to be a considerable task, however, with the game’s reams of dialogue and cultural references all requiring careful translation. But the effort writers Nate Bihldorff and Rich Amtower put into the English-language version would soon pay off; Nintendo’s bosses in Japan were so impressed with the additional festivals and sheer personality present in the western version of Animal Crossing, they decided to have that version of the game translated back into Japanese. This new version of the game, called Dōbutsu no Mori e+, was released in 2003.

4. K.K. Slider is based on Animal Crossing’s composer.

K.K. Slider with his guitar
K.K. Slider appearing in promotional artwork for Animal Crossing: New Horizons.
2020 Nintendo

One of Animal Crossing’s most recognizable and popular characters is K.K. Slider, the laidback canine musician. He’s said to be based, both in looks and name, on Kazumi Totaka, the prolific composer and voice actor who co-wrote Animal Crossing’s music. In the Japanese version of Animal Crossing, K.K. Slider is called Totakeke—a play on the real musician’s name. K.K. Slider’s almost as prolific as Totaka, too: Animal Crossing: New Leaf on the Nintendo 3DS contains a total of 91 tracks performed by the character.

5. One Animal Crossing character has been known to make players cry.

A more controversial character than K.K. Slider, Mr. Resetti is an angry mole created to remind players to save the game before switching off their console. And the more often players forget to save their game, the angrier Mr. Resetti gets. Mr. Resetti’s anger apparently disturbed some younger players, though, as Animal Crossing: New Leaf’s project leader Aya Kyogoku revealed in an interview with Nintendo's former president, the late Satoru Iwata.

“We really weren't sure about Mr. Resetti, as he really divides people," Kyogoku said. “Some people love him, of course, but there are others who don't like being shouted at in his rough accent.” Iwata agreed, saying, “It seems like younger female players, in particular, are scared. I've heard that some of them have even cried.”

To avoid the tears, Mr. Resetti plays a less prominent role in Animal Crossing: New Leaf, and only appears if the player first builds a Reset Surveillance Centre. Divisive though he is, Mr. Resetti was designed and written with as much care as any of the other characters in Animal Crossing; his first name’s Sonny, he has a brother called Don and a cousin called Vinnie, and he prefers his coffee black with no sugar.

6. Animal Crossing is still evolving.

A game once inspired by the loneliness of moving to a new town has now become one of Nintendo’s most successful and beloved franchises. Since its first appearance in 2001, the quirky and disarming Animal Crossing has grown to encompass toys, a movie, and five main games (or six if you count the version released for the N64 as a separate entry). All told, the Animal Crossing games have sold more than 30 million copies, and the series is still growing. In late 2017, the mobile title Animal Crossing: Pocket Camp was released for iOS and Android—it was a big step for the franchise, as Nintendo is famously selective about which of its series get a mobile makeover. And in March 2020, Animal Crossing: New Horizon was released on Switch, selling a whopping 1.88 million physical copies during its first three days on the market.

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