8 Reasons Why Ordinary Things Look the Way They Do

According to Paul Harris, a Harvard University psychologist, children ask around 40 thousand questions between 2 and 5 years old. Then we get older and don’t ask ourselves why the sky is blue and milk is white anymore.

Bright Side can explain why usual things look the way they look. We’ve also found out the origin of some stable expressions and phenomena.

8. Why are their pants flared?

Flared pants were first described in 1813 as a part of a sailors’ uniform. Researchers say that their shape was significant. The trouser leg can be rolled up easily, allowing sailors to wash the deck. What’s more, when a boat approached the shore, sailors could get off, and still keep their pants dry.

Sailors were always at risk of falling in the water, and the shape of pants allowed them to take them off quickly. They even didn’t have to take off their shoes.

Later there was no more need for this uniform and flares became a part of people’s everyday outfits, which became popular and goes out of fashion from time to time.

7. Why are London telephone boxes red?

The first telephone boxes appeared in London in 1920. They were made of concrete, so they were a cream color, and only the door was red.

In 1924, a contest to design a new kiosk was held, and Giles Gilbert Scott won this competition. But his project was altered a little: the cabins were made of iron, not steel, and the color was changed from grey to red to allow people to be able to spot the telephone boxes on the streets.

Later this color became really useful due to London’s fog (including smog from industrial enterprises). So, due to the Great Smog of London of 1952, the city kind of shut down and everything was cancelled since people couldn’t see the stage in theatres or the screen in cinemas. But red telephone boxes were still clearly visible in these conditions.

6. Why are door handles made of brass in public places?

Many people know that silver can disinfect water, but we probably haven’t thought about the reason for this feature.

The thing is, the ions of some metals (silver, mercury, zinc, copper, lead, gold, and some others) possess something called the oligodynamic effect: they have a resistance to mold, viruses, and other microorganisms. This is the reason why door handles that are made of brass (an alloy of copper and zinc) are able to be cleaned really easily and stay free of germs, even in public places.

5. Why are sailors’ shirts striped?

Initially, wearing striped clothes was unacceptable for sailors. Only prisoners, sick people, and women of the night wore this clothing.

In 1858, Napoleon allowed the wearing of striped shirts in the navy. It’s said that stripes help identify a person on a deck and help to find a person if they fall in the water. By the way, the first swimsuits were also striped.

4. Why do soccer referees use red and yellow cards?

In 1966, during a match between Argentina and England, because of a language barrier, Argentine soccer player Antonio Rattin didn’t understand (or didn’t want to understand) German referee Rudolf Kreitlein’s words. Afterward, the player was removed from the field — he had been there for about 9 minutes. The English players couldn’t understand some warnings either, and people couldn’t figure out what was happening on the field.

After this accident, World Cup referee head Ken Aston created a clearer system of penalties and he suggested using red and yellow cards.

3. Where did the pockets on flight jackets’ sleeves come from?

In 1955, the MA-1 jacket was released. It’s a predecessor of modern flight jackets. Initially, they were designed for pilots of heavy bombers.

Designers supplied the jacket with a “service” pocket on the sleeve, that pilots really liked. It was really useful because they could put there their keys or a cigarette pack in there (that’s why the pocket was also called a “cigarette pocket”).

2. Why do trench coats have shoulder tabs?

The trench coat appeared in 1901 as an alternative to soldiers’ heavy overcoats. So some details had a practical use.

Thus, the storm flap on the chest was designed to protect a soldier’s shoulder from the rubbing of the strap of a rifle.

Modern trench coats often have shoulder tabs. Initially, their function was to keep the cartridge bag strap from sliding down and to prevent scuff marks. As a rifle was carried on one and the same shoulder, there was usually only one shoulder tab.

1. Why there are holes in men’s shoes?

The brogue, a style of shoe that is perforated, was first used by Irish and Scottish cattlemen in the 17th century. They worked on marshland, so they made small holes in their shoes so that they could get dry faster.

Later, those perforations became decorative, and brogue shoes became popular among noble people. By the way, these shoes were worn on the countryside and considered informal. Thanks to Edward VII, people started wearing brogues everywhere. The King liked to wear them while playing golf and spending time in the city.


Why don’t men fasten their suit’s bottom button?

Suits didn’t appear until the second part of the 19th century. At the end of the 19th century, men started wearing informal suits while horseback riding or spending time in the countryside. It was comfier for them to have the lower button unfastened.

It’s also said that this feature turned into a tradition thanks to British King Edward VII. He was a fashion icon and made unfastened lower buttons, tweed hats, black ties — instead of white ones, brogues, and other things really popular.

Why do we call daytime TV series “soap operas”?

When soap operas appeared, there was no such thing as TVs in every house, but everyone had a radio. So there were audio series about love, and housewives loved to listen to them while doing their household duties.

There were commercial breaks, which advertised the products of Procter & Gamble, Colgate-Palmolive, and other soap manufacturers. Later, certain series were tightly associated with cleaning products, and in the 30s, the American press invented the term “soap opera.” In 1940, the amount of these audio series made up about 90% of all daily broadcasted programming.

Tell us in the comments which things cause lots of questions, and we’ll try to find out why they look the way they do.

Preview photo credit East News
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