||The examples and perspective in this article may not represent a worldwide view of the subject. (July 2007)|
A closet (especially in North American usage) is a small and enclosed space, a cabinet, or a cupboard in a house or building used for general storage or hanging/storing clothes. A closet for food storage is usually referred to as a pantry. A closet, through French from Latin clausum, "closed" began life in the 17th century as a small private room, often behind a bedroom, to which a man or woman could retire, for privacy, reading, or enjoyment of personal works of art: for this usage, see Cabinet (room).
Modern closets can be built into the walls of the house during construction so that they take up no apparent space in the bedroom, or they can be a large, free-standing piece of furniture designed for clothing storage, in which case they are often called a wardrobe or armoire. Closets are often built under stairs, thereby using awkward space that would otherwise go unused.
In current British usage, a "wardrobe" can also be built-in, and the word "cupboard" can be used to refer to a closet. In Elizabethan and Middle English, closet referred to a larger room in which a person could sit and read in private, but now refers to a small room in general. In Indian usage, a closet often refers to a toilet. This probably originated from the word water closet, which refers to a flush toilet.
In North America, chests, trunks and wall-mounted pegs typically provided storage prior to World War II. Built-in wall closets were uncommon and where they did exist, they tended to be small and shallow. Following World War II, however, deeper, more generously sized closets were introduced to new housing designs, which proved to be very attractive to buyers. It has even been suggested that the closet was a major factor in people's migration to the suburbs.
Closet tax question in colonial America
Though some sources claim that colonial American houses often lacked closets because of a "closet tax" imposed by the British crown, others argue that closets were absent in most houses simply because their residents had few possessions.
Closets in pop culture
Figuratively, a closet is a place where one hides things; "having skeletons in one's closet" is a figure of speech for having particularly sensitive secrets. Thus, closet as an adjective means secret—usually with a connotation of vice or shame, as in "a closet alcoholic" or "a closet homosexual," though sometimes used as a humorous exaggeration for any potential embarrassment, as in "a closet comic book fan." To "come out of the closet" is to admit your secrets publicly, but this is now used almost exclusively in reference to homosexuality. The documentary film The Celluloid Closet uses this reference to gay people in its examination of how Hollywood films have depicted homosexuals on the screen. This is also extensively used in a controversial episode of South Park.
Psychologically, bedroom closets are the center of many childhood fears. Children fear during the night that a monster or any other paranormal creature hides inside the closet, and is destined to frighten the child. The Bogeyman is one prominent example. This is a common theme in films. In the first Poltergeist movie, the closet was where ghosts hid. The "monster in the closet" fear was developed for comedic possibilities in film Monsters, Inc.. In the newspaper comic Bloom County, the character Binkley had an "anxiety closet" in his bedroom, from which his fears would manifest themselves, while he was sleeping. Similarly, the strip Opus also has a closet which houses his worries. Recently a closet was one of the focuses of the film Sex and the City.
Types of closets
- Broom closet: A narrow floor-to-ceiling space for the storage of lengthy items.
- Coat closet: A coat closet is a closet of a house where people store their hoods, jackets and coats. A coat closet is typically located in the entryway, so that it is close to the front door.
- Linen closet: A tall, narrow closet, typically located in or near bathrooms and/or bedrooms. Such a closet contains shelves used to hold towels, washcloths, sheets, and toiletries.
- Spear closet: An architectural slang term for a small, oddly shaped, "left over" space, whether actually used as a closet or not.
- Utility closet: A closet used for permanently housing appliances, most commonly the heating/cooling unit and water heater, especially in apartments where they cannot be put in a garage, attic, or basement.
- Walk-in closet (often shortened to "walk-in") :A closet large enough to walk inside to store clothes or other objects, on two or three sides. They may have lighting, mirrors, and flooring distinct from adjacent rooms.
- Wall closet: A very shallow closet closed off from a room by a curtain or folding doors, with only enough depth to hang clothes or store them folded on shelves.
- A water closet (abbreviated "WC") is not a storage closet but a small dedicated room containing a flush toilet. The euphemistic term comes from the British English definition of a closet as a small private room. In this case, it was a small private room with running water.
- Wardrobe: A type of furniture for storing clothes.
It is worth noting that the phrase walk-in closet is not used in the UK and some commonwealth counties, where the phrase walk-in-wardrobe, or walk-in-robe, is used instead.