During World War II, millions of men served their country by fighting in the military. Hundreds of thousands of others worked in hospitals or factories. And thirty-two men did their part by wearing lice-infested underwear.
Model of a body louse, National Museum of Health and Medicine.
Origin of the Experiment
It began with the recognition of the serious public-health problem posed by body lice (Pediculus humanis corporis
). Being infested by these tiny insects is not only unpleasant, but also potentially deadly, since they're carriers of typhus. During World War II, medical authorities feared that the spread of lice among civilian refugees could trigger a widespread typhus epidemic, leading to millions of deaths, as had happened in World War I.
In an attempt to prevent this, the Rockefeller Foundation, in collaboration with the federal government, funded the creation in 1942 of a Louse Lab whose purpose was to study the biology of the louse and to find an effective means of preventing infestation. The Lab, located in New York City, was headed by Dr. William A. Davis, a public health researcher, and Charles M. Wheeler, an entomologist.
The first task for the Louse Lab was to obtain a supply of lice. They achieved this by collecting lice off a patient in the alcoholic ward of Bellevue Hospital. Then they kept the lice alive by allowing them to feed on the arms of medical students (who had volunteered for the job). In this way, the lab soon had a colony of thousands of lice. They determined that the lice were free of disease since the med students didn't get sick.
Next they had to find human hosts willing to serve as subjects in experiments involving infestation in real-world conditions. For this they initially turned to homeless people living in the surrounding city, whom they paid $7 each in return for agreeing first to be infected by lice and next to test experimental anti-louse powders. Unfortunately, the homeless people proved to be uncooperative subjects who often didn't follow the instructions given to them. Frustrated, Davis and Wheeler began to search for other, more reliable subjects.
Eventually Davis and Wheeler hit upon conscientious objectors (COs) as potential guinea pigs. The Selective Training and Service Act of 1940 allowed young men with religious objections to fighting to serve their country in alternative, nonviolent ways. At first they were put to work domestically at jobs such as building roads, harvesting timber, and fighting forest fires. But in 1942, inspired by the example of the British government, it occurred to U.S. officials that these young men were also a potential pool of experimental subjects for research, and they began to be made available to scientists for this purpose.
The Vancouver Sun - Feb 3, 1943
In theory, the COs were always given a choice about whether or not to serve as guinea pigs. In practice, it wasn't that simple. Controversy lingers about how voluntary their choice really was since their options were rather limited: be a guinea pig for science, or do back-breaking manual labor. But for their part, the COs have reported that they were often eager to volunteer for experiments. Sensitive to accusations that they were cowardly and unpatriotic, serving as a test subject offered the young men a chance to do something that seemed more heroic than manual labor.
Eventually COs participated in a wide variety of experiments, but Davis and Wheeler were the very first researchers to use American COs as experimental subjects. And they planned to infest these volunteers with lice.
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More denim weirdness. Designer Y/Project has come out with denim panties. On social media, people have nicknamed them “Janties” (short for Jeans Panties). They're available from retailer SSense
, for $315. From their website:
Denim can be cheeky. And eye-catching. These “brief-style shorts” can be worn under or over pants, meaning they’re far more versatile than what you’d traditionally expect from a pair of briefs. Underwear that doesn’t need to stay “under there.”
Bra-maker Simons recently apologized for its line of bras named after prominent Canadian women. For example, they had the Beverley bralette, named after former Chief Justice of Canada Beverley McLachlin. The Flora, named after Flora Macdonald, Canada's first female minister of Foreign Affairs. And the Stella push-up bra, named after social activist Stella Lord, who fought against poverty in Nova Scotia.
Some of the women are still living and hadn't been contacted for their consent. Plus, the link between lingerie and chief justices, social activists, etc. seemed unclear to just about everyone. Noted Marketing professor Ken Wong: "This is marketing at its worst... Somebody there probably said, 'We need to connect our product to this empowerment movement.' But what they failed to consider is will people find it offensive and insulting."
More details: msn.com
An idea recently introduced by Hanes, which is putting trading cards featuring Michael Jordan modeling underwear into packs of their men's underwear. From the press release:
Beginning March 11, more than 800,000 specially marked bonus packs of Hanes men’s underwear, including Comfort Flex Fit boxer briefs, will contain a pack of 30th Anniversary Michael Jordan trading cards. A total of 170 different Fleer trading cards have been produced by The Upper Deck Company, each with a picture of Jordan from one of his Hanes advertisements on the front and vital statistics and fun facts on the back. Cards are inserted randomly in five-card packs. Ten lucky consumers will find a rare Michael Jordan autograph card in their packs.
If there's a total of 170 different cards, how much underwear would you need to buy to get them all?
Apparently, they exist. Farm Show magazine
Dairy farmers can reduce mastitis by fitting their cows with "bras", according to Michael Battisti, a Syracuse, New York, dairy farmer, who outfits half of his 69-cow herd with brassiere-like harnesses to keep them from damaging low-hanging udders with their hooves... "They keep the udders clean and the teats tucked up out of the way so they won't get stepped on," says Battisti, who has used bras on his cows for several years.
Long Beach Independent Press-Telegram - July 2, 1977
Created by Kursty Groves. The bra monitored the wearer’s heartbeat and contacted the police if there was a sudden change indicative of a panic response (suggesting that the wearer was being attacked or in danger). The bra was reportedly going to be manufactured and sold by the British design firm PDD, but as far as I can tell, it never made it to market.
Image source: Visual Arts Data Service
Discover magazine - October 1999
Atlanta Constitution - July 25, 1999
Organic Basics boasts that its Silvertech 2.0 line of underwear has been treated with anti-microbial silver chloride, and therefore never needs to be washed. Or, at least, only needs to be washed every few weeks.
Maybe that pitch works for some people, but it doesn't work for me. I don't want to be rewearing a pair of sweaty, old underwear, even if it has been anti-microbially treated.
Product page (Kickstarter)