As reported in the journal Molecular Biology and Evolution (January, 2011), scientists have determined that human beings first began wearing clothes sometime between 83,000 and 170,000 years ago. Prior to that, our ancestors walked around naked.
Anthropologists speculate that clothes (i.e., the furs of animals) were first worn during early man's northward migration from the plains of present-day Libya, to the colder climates of present-day Europe. While clothing was originally adopted as protection -- to provide warmth -- the notion of garments providing "modesty" eventually followed.
And unlike the evolution of horticulture or weaponry (e.g., of clubs evolving into spears, spears evolving into bows and arrows, etc.), the concept of modesty didn't evolve. It arrived on the scene fully developed. Either you believed your genitals needed to be concealed or you didn't.
Not only did it not evolve, it did not begin en masse. By all accounts, the concept of modesty was introduced by the actions of one man, in one place, at one specific point in time.
The following is a dramatization of that event.
TIME: Summer, 110,000 years ago. Midday.
PLACE: The plains of present-day Libya.
CAST: Gort, Urk and Kril, three cave dwellers.
SCENE: URK and KRIL are waiting outside GORT's cave, casually talking. Both men are naked.
(GORT emerges from his cave, wearing a crude form of underwear. URK and KRIL stare at the garment in amazement.)
David Macaray, a Los Angeles playwright and author ("It's Never Been Easy: Essays on Modern Labor"), was a former union rep. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org