"Martha Kold Bakkevig and Ruth Nielson performed the first good scientific analysis of wet underwear in cold weather. Their study, Impact of Wet Underwear on Thermoregulatory Responses and Thermal Comfort in the Cold, appeared in 1994 in the journal Ergonomics.
Bakkevig, at Sintef Unimed in Trondheim, Norway, and Nielson, at the Technical University of Denmark, found eight men who were willing to wear wet underwear in the cold while having their skin and rectal temperatures monitored. The experiment was carried out in a special test chamber where the temperature was kept at 10C. Some men were given wet pants, others dry ones. The materials were various - wool, cotton, polypropylene and various blends.
Before donning the sodden underclothes, each man was weighed in the nude and temperature sensors were affixed to various parts of the body. A six-inch-long rectal thermometer was inserted.
Each man sat alone in a chair in the cold room for 60 minutes with the thermometer up his butt. Every 10 minutes he filled out a questionnaire that asked the degree to which he was (a) shivering, (b) sweating and (c) comfortable or uncomfortable. There were additional questions, along related lines. Every 60 seconds, machines recorded the man's skin temperature, weight and inner temperature. At the end of the hour, the man removed the wet underwear, and was again weighed in the nude. The underwear was also weighed.
The scientists analysed the data and produced graphs and charts depicting what had happened. Some things remained constant throughout the hour:
• Men wearing wet underwear always reported their underwear felt wet.
• Men wearing dry underwear always reported their underwear felt dry.
• Men with wet underwear felt colder, and less comfortable, than men with dry underwear.
Bakkevig and Nielson drew two conclusions: that wet underwear does influence thermoregulatory responses and thermal comfort in the cold; and that the underwear's thickness matters much more than what it's made of. For discerning these truths, they shared the 1995 Ig Nobel prize in public health." (Continued via The Guardian, Marc Abrahams) [Ergonomics Resources]