Since the day man first realized he could cover his butt with the skins of lesser beasts, he's been torn between purely utilitarian clothing and looking cuter than Ugg, that cocky jerk caveman down the path. It seems like fashion trends these days are nothing but pointless peacocking, but you might be surprised to find out that many of them arose from a very genuine need. Meet the rebellious and emotionally damaged offspring of aesthetic and function ...
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Even the most stylish woman will admit that high heels are a pain. In addition to routine complaints like soreness and calluses, they can cause permanent nerve and joint damage. But hey, they make your legs look longer and push your booty up and out, which is totally worth the risk of serious injury, according to booty aficionados everywhere.
Professor Emeritass, Booty Studies, Oxford University.
But Originally ...
High heels weren't even created for ladies. Not only were they the exclusive domain of men, but they were the exclusive domain of the manliest of men: soldiers.
"The high heel was worn for centuries throughout the Near East as a form of riding footwear," according to Elizabeth Semmelhack from Toronto's Bata Shoe Museum. It started in Persia, where horseback warriors found it difficult to maintain their stance while shooting their bows and arrows. They created shoes with a defined notch into which the stirrup would slide, allowing them to balance properly on their horses while standing.
Bata Shoe Museum
And look fabulous while doing so.
When Persia embarked on its first diplomatic mission to Western Europe in the 16th century, the royals they met were delighted by these novelties. They added their own fashionable twist by increasing the height of the heels to let everyone know that the wearers were people of status who couldn't be bothered with common things like walking very far or functioning correctly in society. Women really only started wearing them when it became fashionable to dress androgynously. That's right: Women first started wearing high heels to look more butch.
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So if you "men's rights" guys really believe in your cause, you'll strap these on and take back what's yours.
The polo shirt is the standard uniform of the upper-middle class: classic, office-appropriate, vaguely sporty (but not the barbaric, poor people kind of athleticism). And when office hours are over and it's time to kick back, why, you just pop that collar up like a douche-sail and ride the breeze into Pussytown, population: soon to be you.
"Hope these clouds clear up. It'd be a shame if they ruined the Roofie Regatta."
But Originally ...
It turns out there was plenty of substance to this stupid style.
Tennis player Rene Lacoste, aka the alligator logo guy, is credited with the invention of the polo shirt, which caused quite a stir when it was introduced in 1926. You see, tennis players used to be restricted to uncomfortable and impractical attire: heavy, long-sleeved oxford shirts, starched to roughly the same stiffness as a rich white dude's butthole at an ethnic comedy show.
"I'll keep the hat. I'm not a savage."
Rene didn't enjoy playing tennis in a set of cloth armor, so he set out to make a lightweight, well-ventilated, short-sleeved shirt that would actually have some functionality for a person who swings his arms around in the glaring sun for hours at a time. A key component of his design was a flexible collar that could be propped up to protect the player's neck from the sun. That's right: The first popped collar was not only intentional, but practical.
The practice of wearing your polo shirt with the collar folded down didn't catch on until the wealthy spectators, to whom avoiding the outdoors was a raison d'etre, adopted the style. The guy with the popped collar is technically doing it right -- and you, gentle soul rocking through life with collar modestly flat, are emulating a bunch of clueless rich jerkwads.
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"The solution to this problem lies in the heart of douchekind.
If only I had known, I should have become a watchmaker." -Rene Lacoste
Since the late '70s, the mohawk has been the hairstyle of choice for informing The Man that you will conform only to the standards of people who like the same music as you. The mohawk dates back to and is named for the Native American tribe, while the association with punk rock is a little harder to track: It's because they're both warriors, right? Warriors who don't conform to authority, be it white slavers or your mom asking you to take the garbage out.
"However, I will conform with recommended annual physicals. That's just common sense."
But Originally ...
The Mohawks weren't doing it as a symbol of defiance. They pioneered the hairstyle because they were just plain sick of folks ripping their scalps off their heads. To combat the growing practice of snatching enemy scalps in battle, which was generally performed by making an incision around the hairline and gripping the hair to yank off the scalp, the Mohawks would pluck the hair from the sides of their heads, leaving only a 3- or 4-inch strip at the crown of the head, which would typically be separated into three locks that would then be braided or otherwise decorated. This ensured that there wouldn't be enough hair at the hairline to lift the sides of the scalp away from the incision.
"Plus it concealed my receding hairline, which did wonders for my self-esteem."
To recap: The original mohawk was a purely logical and necessary defensive measure to avoid getting part of your head taken off. But unless there were some particularly savage mods dominating the scene, it was pure vanity for the punks.
"I'll have you know I'm one-sixteenth ... uh, Tonto. So there."
Makeup trends come and go, but classic black eyeliner is here to stay. But we all know that makeup is nothing more than pretty frosting on a sex-cake. What practical purpose could painting your face possibly serve?
But Originally ...
You've probably heard the rumor that Cleopatra invented eyeliner, which of course isn't true, but it did all begin in ancient Egypt. The ancient Egyptians weren't making themselves up just to feel pretty, however, but to reduce the glare of the harsh African sun on their eyes. Ever watched a football game? It's the same reason the players smear grease paint on their cheeks.
Jamie Squire/Getty Images Sport/Getty Images
"He didn't even notice ... I spent a lot of time on this, dick."
There's also quite a bit of evidence that the eyeliner served a medicinal purpose. In ye olden days, bacterial eye infections ran rampant, and the eyeliner was helpful for keeping flies and other nasties out of your seeing bits. Furthermore, researchers have recently discovered the addition of lead salts in the eye makeup of ancient Egyptians. It was a puzzling find, because the salts required a painstaking process to create, and lead is generally pretty low on the list of things a reasonable person wants to poke in their eye. Then the researchers did some tests on the salts and found that they were pretty damn effective at killing bacteria.
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So there you go, kids: Got pinkeye? Shove a pencil in there. The ancient Egyptians did it, and those smart dudes built the pyramids.
You, dear Cracked reader, are undoubtedly a suave and dashing specimen. You own a suit for every day of the week, and two for Friday (the weekend gets messy, ladies). We don't have to tell you about cuffs; you take for granted those buttoned sections on your suit's sleeve. Although you might have asked yourself, whenever there was a brief respite in the sexual tornado that is your off-hours, why would I need to open up my suit cuffs? I'm not going to suddenly need to get elbow-deep in a dude's torso or anything ...
But Originally ...
If you were wearing a suit in the 19th century, it was very likely that you would suddenly need to get elbow-deep in a dude's torso.
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And if not in a dude's torso, then in your great-great grandmother.
Those things at the end of your jacket sleeves are actually called surgeon's cuffs. Back in the 1800s, men of high social status, like doctors, had their suits tailored to their needs -- needs that very much included rolling up their sleeves to get elbow-deep in some guts on a whim, and a gentleman did not remove his coat in public, even in an emergency.
"Can I at least loosen my tie?"
"Not unless you want me to revoke your license so fast your head will spin."
As the suit became more commonplace and more likely to be worn by someone who wouldn't need to medically cut a bitch on a moment's notice, tailors started just slapping some buttons onto the fabric to emulate the style. So, much like an unpopped collar, you've been frontin' like a surgeon every single time you've worn a suit, and you didn't even know it.
"So I pushed the doc aside and said, 'See this coat? I got this.'"
Thanks a bunch, history.
Find out which items on this list didn't make the cut (and why they wear those stupid things) at Mannafesto, then follow Amanda Mannen on Twitter, where she's just constantly spilling things on herself.
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Related Reading: If you've got an eye on fashion's future, click this link and see why blindness is about to blow up. More interested in the crazy explanations behind historic fashion trends? Click here and learn how the wig and male pattern baldness are intertwined.