Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Thoughts on Fur

cream cotton bow-tie top (Halogen via Nordstrom)
faux fur vest (Old Navy)
orange print skirt (Tucker for Target, gifted)
brown tights (Merona)
suede and leather boots (Franco Sarto via DSW)

Today I attempt to parse my fist-pumping affection for the current furlike garment revival.  I can't decide if I'm for the democratization of fur in its less expensive faux forms, or if I'm legitimately opposed to authentic animal-derived garments.  Perhaps both.  Except, if the latter holds true for me, then I'd have to ditch these leather boots on ethical grounds.  And, frankly, I like leather.  Why doesn't wearing leather make me uncomfortable in the same way wearing genuine animal hair makes me uneasy?  It's likely that the tanning process so de-characterizes animal hides that it renders them unrecognizable, making it easier for wearers like me to disassociate the product from the source.  Not so with animal fur.  I wore a faux rabbit hair vest to class once, and, upon hugging me, a student declared she had "caught a bunny."

Not only do ethical issues make me uneasy about wearing genuine fur, but the same issues make me wary about the mere semblance of the authentic.  To the extent that, when wearing faux fur, I feel it necessary -- albeit ridiculous -- to preface all garment-related (ok, and -unrelated) conversation with "Don't worry,this isn't real."  Which is what I did yesterday while sporting this Old Navy vest.  (I can confirm that framing smalltalk in such a way ensures awkward social situations.)  If the mere suggestion of the authentic makes me bristle, then why not consider prints like the one Katie interrogated yesterday problematic?  Sure, gesturing at animal-derived material via printed cotton is less threatening, but exactly which garments warrant moral unease?  Only the real animal-derived clothes, or the ones that gesture at the real too?

I ask because this weekend, between handing out candy to costumed neighborhood kids, my husband and I chatted about our favorite childhood Halloween get-ups.  A psychologist's son, my husband noted that he was restricted or spared from (depending on your interpretation) wearing costumes that referenced violence or included pretend weapons.  "Why?" I asked. "Fake weapons are, well, fake."  To which he responded, "The semblance of the real can be problematic -- even harmful -- too."  Fair enough.

Should the same principle apply to fur?

  • Ok, no holds barred, where do you stand on the animal fur issue?  Do you wear genuine animal hair garments, faux animal hair garments?  Do you wear animal prints?
  • If you don't wear genuine animal fur for ethical reasons, then please elaborate on them.  As I'm thinking through this issue, it'd be helpful to hear your rationale.
  • Since I mentioned leather too, what do you think about wearing it?  I haven't sufficiently researched the processes for preparing either animal fur or leather, so I'm wondering if they differ in important ways.
  • On a lighter note, blogging friends weren't kidding when they raved over the Tucker for Target line.  This skirt is ubercomfortable, and the print works in my wardrobe even better than I expected.  Huzzah!


Martha said...

I am all for the faux. When I was in high school I was on a anti-fur rant when my grandmother looked me square in the eye with a whither look and said "If not for fur, I would not have gone to college." her dad was a furrier. And so there are a few furs in the family, from her days as a young woman. And when they come to me, I will probably wear them. I live in a place where it is often subzero for days at a time in winter, and fur is really really warm. I would not purchase a new fur, however. And yes, I wear currently leather and eat meat. My thinking on it is a little muddy, but I do think new furs, worn for purely non-functional, non-warming reasons, are unnecessary.


I adore this outfit!! So fun yet sophisticated. I really wanted this skirt from Target but they didn't have it in my size :/

La Historiadora de Moda said...

The difference between leather and fur goes beyond aesthetics and de-characterization. In terms of footwear, there are far fewer environmentally-friendly non-leather options then there are for vests, jackets, and coats. This is starting to change, but it can be extremely difficult to find vegan shoes that are stylish, eco-friendly, and reasonably priced.

For ethical and health reasons, I was a vegetarian for many years. Now I eat some meat (with many caveats) as a household compromise me with my spouse who hates legumes and doesn't like all that many vegetables or fruits. I have problems with real fur, even when it's second-hand. I have never owned any real fur, and I seriously doubt that I ever will. We have many options for clothing ourselves now so it seems especially ridiculous to kill animals for a coat.

I've gone back and forth about faux fur, and I have a couple of pieces that I don't wear all that frequently because of my own responses to them and because of the responses these pieces have garnered from students and colleagues.

Julia said...

I have 1 faux-fur piece - a white vest with a hood that is trimmed in faux fur.

I've thought about this as well - I don't wear real fur and likely won't. But I wear leather. I'm all for faux-leather too, but faux-leather often is more cheaply made and well, pleathery. But still, why do I feel fur is cruel, yet leather soft and lovely?

Diana said...

I don't wear real fur, and rarely wear fake fur although I don't have an objection to it. Although, can you really tell the difference between real and fake fur when just looking at someone wearing it? This admittedly bothers me a bit-I don't want someone thinking I'm wearing real fur when in fact I'm wearing fake. Therefore, something like leopard print is perfectly fine because it obviously did not come from a real leopard.

I DO wear leather though and don't feel badly about it... I think in our heads we think of leather more as a by-product of beef, if it makes any sense, even though it may not always be true. Somehow this makes the leather less of a luxury or frivolous good. I do think wearing fur is OK if you were, say, living on the tundra in the 1800s and needed to wear furs for the purpose of not freezing to death. I could also make the argument that, for me, leather (at least for shoes) IS a necessity, since I find fake leather shoes unbearably uncomfortable.

Someone said...

This is, indeed, a really complex subject.

If we look at it historically, it totally made survival sense for people to wear fur and leather from animals they hunted for food, and it was less wasteful to use as much of the animal as possible. I don't have an ethical problem with meat per se; we are physically designed to eat it in moderation. Nature is all based on food chains and we're part of that. So on a basic level, I see no problem with the concept.

However, once we look at the industrial growing and farming of animals for food, leather, and fur, then things start to diverge from what was once more sensible and natural. Factory farmed food animals are proving far less healthy for us because of how they are raised, and there is NO reason in today's time for raising animals *only* for their skins. So those twists on animal use I am not so down with.

Now...I do have a vintage used fur...I do feel that, since it exists, it may as well be used and not wasted. I also have a faux fur coat that I wear far more often (it is ALSO vintage, about 40 years old). So again, reused. There is something about the look of faux fur (when in natural tones) that recalls our primitive natural past, so I can see why people still respond to that part of things.

However, I do NOT wear animal prints. This has less to do with an animal rights stance and a lot more to do with feminism as well as the fact that I think animal prints are tacky, overdone, and tired.

I ask you though: ever seen a man wear an animal print as part of a serious outfit? I dislike their implication that women are like "wild animals," sexually uninhibited yet mute, something for men to "hunt," capture, and dominate. I don't find any of that cute, sexy, or edgy - just gross.

Scholar Style Guide said...

First, I am totally drooling over this skirt! And the boots are great! I must confess that I'd like the look better without the vest, though. I don't like the aesthetics of fur, so it's not a tough ethical choice for me to avoid it in all versions. This probably stems from a vintage fur stole my mom had when I was a kid that still had all 4 feet and the HEAD attached. Every time I looked through her closet and this thing peeked its head/claws out at me, I wanted to vomit and swore off fur for life.

This attitude extends itself to anything with hair. So any animal print that is applied to a faux or real hairy texture is out for me. Otherwise I have no problem with animal print, though I agree that it easier for animal print to skew as tacky than other prints.

To answer Someone: yes. Crocodile leather shoes count as "animal print," I think, as well as ostrich boots, etc, and other exotic "leathers." I have certainly seen men wear furs, as well. So while I'm not sure I understand what you mean by "a serious outfit," there is a masculine culture that embraces these animal items in similar ways.

I try to be somewhat ethical in my purchase of leather. If it's not an item that I intend to wear/carry for a long time, I go for faux leather over the real thing. I feel guiltier about wearing an animal for a "trendy" piece than I do for an investment piece (which speaks to Katie's post yesterday), since I do associate leather goods with durability and functionality.


Callipygian said...

I became a vegetarian around my 14th birthday (and I just turned 29 yesterday) and I stopped wearing leather sometime before I graduated from college. While I don't usually like the look of fur on an aesthetic level, I'm ok with fake fur if it's obviously fake. Otherwise it seems to glorify the real thing too much.

Brooke said...

My friends and I (most of whom are also vegetarians) have had this debate a number of times. What I've decided is that while I, at times, like the faux-fur look, I don't want to be seen as someone who would wear fur. Because faux fur looks so real, it is basically impossible to tell real from faux - which is great for die-hard fur-fans. I'd like to see real fur removed from the market entirely (and honestly, I think those massive fur coats that people think are so glamorous look ridiculously tacky). But with faux fur, I think it's your own call. I've finally decided it just isn't for me.

As for leather, it kind of grosses me out, but as an equestrian, most of our riding equipment is made of leather. Leather is typically a byproduct of the meat industry, though, unlike fur, so I don't feel as bad about it (although I do feel bad saying that for some reason).

Katie W said...

Go for faux! I find the thought of wearing an actual fur creepy, and I wish I could say that it was strictly for the animal cruelty aspect, but it's really the dead thing part... I feel the same with leather although I don't really have an issue with leather shoes because they aren't close enough to me nose to remind me.

It may not make me the best person, but it's honest.

Stylepint said...

I love your outfit. As for fur, since I don't own any, I'm a bit ambivalent about the subject. At times I can understand the use of real fur in cold weather countries where there is no real replacement for its warmth. However, faux fur seems to be gaining ground in mimicking the look and texture of real fur so that it's harder to pick out.

Plus, if I'm against fur, I should be against leather as well since it's still animal skin for ethical reasons so for now, I don't have a strong stance on fur, but I do love the look and feel of it.