You go into a textile shop and ask for the cheapest ones; you come out with something that changed the course of history.

That’s what happened in October 1912, when Frederick Courtney Selous, a 36-year-old Englishman, went into a drapery shop in London and asked for the cheapest possible suit that would protect him from the rain and cold. He didn’t have a lot of money, so he ended up choosing something that was essentially a long-sleeved dress with pants.

Even if you’ve never heard of Mr. Courtney Selous, you’ll almost certainly know his design. When he presented his idea for the cheapest, simplest and most practical suit ever made to The Times newspaper, he cited a new science called ergonomics, which explored the human body’s interaction with materials and elements of the environment. It was initially developed in the United States for use in aircraft manufacturing, and the world over, it is now accepted as the definitive guide to creating sustainable, comfortable and functional clothing.

What makes Courtney Selous’s design so unique is that he combined two seemingly opposing factors: cheap and comfortable.

The design is so well known that even those who were not fortunate enough to encounter it in person often have heard of it. As a result, the design has been produced in both the U.S. and U.K. by a number of companies over the past century, with the most iconic example being the blueprints that appear on the cover of Lewis Carroll’s famous Alice in Wonderland. What many people may not know, however, is that the design was initially inspired by a creature with which we are more familiar than we may care to admit — the bat.

The Bat Resembles a Yeti

If you’ve ever seen a bat, you’ll know what kind of creature it is that inspired Courtney Selous. Not only does it have large sharp teeth but, as the name would suggest, it also has large wings that it uses to catch its prey.

In 1912, however, bats did not yet have the same bad reputation that they do today. In fact, the majority of people didn’t even know what a bat was. In Europe, it was common to find people dressed up as bats on Halloween, and some even thought that they could control the creatures through magic.

The similarity in appearance between a bat and a Yeti — a mythical creature with a human-like head, long hair, and a furry body — is no coincidence. In fact, the first record of people dressing up as bats on Halloween appears in a 17th-century German book of legends. According to the book, the Yeti were originally inspired by the animals that German miners saw when they went underground:

“These men became the butt of many practical jokes, and one of the favorite jests of the Saxon miners was to pretend they were drunk and to ask the German engineers to tell them where the beer was kept. In their cups, the miners would imitate the howling of wolves, which was taken for granted to be the howl of a Yeti.”

In addition to being a familiar inspiration for Halloween costumes, bats also feature heavily in literature. One of the most well-known scenes in literature involves Sherlock Holmes and his struggle to understand the true nature of a bat robed in a black mantle. (As it happens, this was the style of the night when he lost track of his wife.)

Holmes’s struggle to understand what he was seeing made the mystery novelist, Arthur Conan Doyle, realize that even though bats are commonplace in fiction, very little was actually known about them. So he set out to change that, partly by funding a research project called The Empire of the Clouds, which studied cave dwelling and other aspects of the creatures’ biology.

What Doyle discovered was that although bats are capable of flight, they mainly used their wings for gliding and not for taking off like planes do. In addition, the researchers working with Doyle found that bats are capable of generating a surprising amount of high-frequency noise through a unique form of communication called echolocation. (Doyle named the mechanism after himself.) As a result of his research, Doyle was able to write a definitive article on bats for the Strand Magazine, which was published in January 1916. Although the article is more than a century old, it remains one of the most in-depth studies of its kind.

The Rise of the Bat

The first recorded case of a person being attacked by a bat dates back to 1676, when the creature bit a man named William Brogden in Gloucestershire, England. (One of the most famous British writers of the time, Arthur Conan Doyle, was actually responsible for Brogden’s death. Brogden had sued Doyle for libel after Doyle published a story that portrayed him as a murderer and a drug addict.)

The media started to take notice of the increasing incidence of people being bitten by bats in the early 20th century. In 1906, a dentist by the name of William F. Townsend published a study in which he detailed the physical harm that bats can cause. In it, he listed 14 different injuries that the creatures had inflicted on humans, ranging from lacerations and puncture wounds to severe bites and broken bones. (One particularly sad story from this period involved a 12-year-old girl who lost her right arm in an accident involving a cherry pie she was baking when a bat flew in through the window and attacked her.)

The fear that people had of bats at this time was also due to them being associated with a number of strange and sometimes deadly diseases. In 1901, an English physician named Arthur Doubleday published a study in which he suggested that bats were the source of a disease that was terrifying people at the time: rabies. (At the time, there were no known cures for rabies, and the disease was commonly spread through bites from infected animals.)

In the 1920s, rabies began to be seen as less of a threat, mainly because people started to develop a greater awareness of personal hygiene. At the time, people mainly kept their distance from the creatures, fearing that they might contract a deadly disease. Since then, exposure to bats has not been associated with any known infections.

Other diseases that people thought they might contract from bats included histoplasmosis, which is caused by a fungus that resides in soil and bat droppings, and typhoid fever, which is spread by contaminated food and water.

The Fall of the Bat

Most people are now aware that bats are not dangerous and, in fact, can be quite beneficial. Over the past century, we have learned a lot about them and started to appreciate their value. In 1930, an American mammalogist named Roy Chapman Andrews led a team that spent a year living among the Aguaruna Indians in what is now known as the Peruvian Amazon. (The research was funded by an insurance company that was trying to reduce the number of accidents caused by animals.)

One of the most fascinating elements of the research was seeing how the scientists were able to track the creatures’ behavior through scientific instruments and GPS. Bats are one of the few animals that are still capable of causing damage to humans, and the fear that people had of them at the time was only exceeded by their appreciation for what the creatures can teach us about ourselves.

It was during this expedition that Andrews was able to discover a new species of bats that he named after himself: the rufous soprano. (Sadly, Roy Chapman Andrews died in 1939 and never got to tell the world how special his discovery was.)

If you think that seeing a bat is pretty horrific, you should probably read up on what happens when people are attacked by strange creatures. For example, in 2014, a man in his 20s was mauled to death by a shark in Fiji. (The shark had reportedly been swimming in the ocean for the past three days, which had drawn a great amount of attention from onlookers.)

The Most Amazing Suit Ever Designed

We now come to the point in the article where we reveal the most amazing thing ever to happen to a human being — or at least a creature that walks, swims and flies like we do. When Frederick Courtney Selous went to the drapery shop to get the cheapest possible suit, he didn’t expect to walk out with something that would change the course of history.

What he got was something that would allow him to live his life while also serving as a reminder of the tragedy that ensued 71 years later, when he died in a car accident — at the age of 96.