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A New Pathology

It has long been vaguely understood that the condition
of a man's clothes has a certain effect upon the health
of both body and mind. The well-known proverb, "Clothes
make the man" has its origin in a general recognition of
the powerful influence of the habiliments in their reaction
upon the wearer. The same truth may be observed in the
facts of everyday life. On the one hand we remark the
bold carriage and mental vigour of a man attired in a
new suit of clothes; on the other hand we note the
melancholy features of him who is conscious of a posterior
patch, or the haunted face of one suffering from internal
loss of buttons. But while common observation thus gives
us a certain familiarity with a few leading facts regarding
the ailments and influence of clothes, no attempt has as
yet been made to reduce our knowledge to a systematic
form. At the same time the writer feels that a valuable
addition might be made to the science of medicine in this
direction. The numerous diseases which are caused by this
fatal influence should receive a scientific analysis,
and their treatment be included among the principles of
the healing art. The diseases of the clothes may roughly
be divided into medical cases and surgical cases, while
these again fall into classes according to the particular
garment through which the sufferer is attacked.


Probably no article of apparel is so liable to a diseased
condition as the trousers. It may be well, therefore, to
treat first those maladies to which they are subject.

I. Contractio Pantalunae, or Shortening of the Legs of
the Trousers, an extremely painful malady most frequently
found in the growing youth. The first symptom is the
appearance of a yawning space (lacuna) above the boots,
accompanied by an acute sense of humiliation and a morbid
anticipation of mockery. The application of treacle to
the boots, although commonly recommended, may rightly be
condemned as too drastic a remedy. The use of boots
reaching to the knee, to be removed only at night, will
afford immediate relief. In connection with Contractio
is often found--

II. Inflatio Genu, or Bagging of the Knees of the Trousers,
a disease whose symptoms are similar to those above. The
patient shows an aversion to the standing posture, and,
in acute cases, if the patient be compelled to stand,
the head is bent and the eye fixed with painful rigidity
upon the projecting blade formed at the knee of the

In both of the above diseases anything that can be done
to free the mind of the patient from a morbid sense of
his infirmity will do much to improve the general tone
of the system.

III. Oases, or Patches, are liable to break out anywhere
on the trousers, and range in degree of gravity from
those of a trifling nature to those of a fatal character.
The most distressing cases are those where the patch
assumes a different colour from that of the trousers
(dissimilitas coloris). In this instance the mind of the
patient is found to be in a sadly aberrated condition.
A speedy improvement may, however, be effected by cheerful
society, books, flowers, and, above all, by a complete

IV. The overcoat is attacked by no serious disorders,

Phosphorescentia, or Glistening, a malady which indeed
may often be observed to affect the whole system. It is
caused by decay of tissue from old age and is generally
aggravated by repeated brushing. A peculiar feature of
the complaint is the lack of veracity on the part of the
patient in reference to the cause of his uneasiness.
Another invariable symptom is his aversion to outdoor
exercise; under various pretexts, which it is the duty
of his medical adviser firmly to combat, he will avoid
even a gentle walk in the streets.

V. Of the waistcoat science recognizes but one disease--

Porriggia, an affliction caused by repeated spilling of
porridge. It is generally harmless, chiefly owing to the
mental indifference of the patient. It can be successfully
treated by repeated fomentations of benzine.

VI. Mortificatio Tilis, or Greenness of the Hat, is a
disease often found in connection with Phosphorescentia
(mentioned above), and characterized by the same aversion
to outdoor life.

VII. Sterilitas, or Loss of Fur, is another disease of
the hat, especially prevalent in winter. It is not
accurately known whether this is caused by a falling out
of the fur or by a cessation of growth. In all diseases
of the hat the mind of the patient is greatly depressed
and his countenance stamped with the deepest gloom. He
is particularly sensitive in regard to questions as to
the previous history of the hat.

Want of space precludes the mention of minor diseases,
such as--

VIII. Odditus Soccorum, or oddness of the socks, a thing
in itself trifling, but of an alarming nature if met in
combination with Contractio Pantalunae. Cases are found
where the patient, possibly on the public platform or at
a social gathering, is seized with a consciousness of
the malady so suddenly as to render medical assistance


It is impossible to mention more than a few of the most
typical cases of diseases of this sort.

I. Explosio, or Loss of Buttons, is the commonest malady
demanding surgical treatment. It consists of a succession
of minor fractures, possibly internal, which at first
excite no alarm. A vague sense of uneasiness is presently
felt, which often leads the patient to seek relief in
the string habit--a habit which, if unduly indulged in,
may assume the proportions of a ruling passion. The use
of sealing-wax, while admirable as a temporary remedy
for Explosio, should never be allowed to gain a permanent
hold upon the system. There is no doubt that a persistent
indulgence in the string habit, or the constant use of
sealing-wax, will result in--

II. Fractura Suspendorum, or Snapping of the Braces,
which amounts to a general collapse of the system. The
patient is usually seized with a severe attack of explosio,
followed by a sudden sinking feeling and sense of loss.
A sound constitution may rally from the shock, but a
system undermined by the string habit invariably succumbs.

III. Sectura Pantalunae, or Ripping of the Trousers, is
generally caused by sitting upon warm beeswax or leaning
against a hook. In the case of the very young it is not
unfrequently accompanied by a distressing suppuration of
the shirt. This, however, is not remarked in adults. The
malady is rather mental than bodily, the mind of the
patient being racked by a keen sense of indignity and a
feeling of unworthiness. The only treatment is immediate
isolation, with a careful stitching of the affected part.

In conclusion, it may be stated that at the first symptom
of disease the patient should not hesitate to put himself
in the hands of a professional tailor. In so brief a
compass as the present article the discussion has of
necessity been rather suggestive than exhaustive. Much
yet remains to be done, and the subject opens wide to
the inquiring eye. The writer will, however, feel amply
satisfied if this brief outline may help to direct the
attention of medical men to what is yet an unexplored

Stephen Leacock