-Izzy Fernandes (‘20)
Furs: extravagant, not to mention controversial, accessories popularized by Ned Stark, Marilyn Monroe, and Cruella de Vil, among others. Now, as they are back in style just in time for Fall and Winter collections, they leave individuals wondering: where did these wearable (and often expensive) pets truly originate?
Furs were originally used for warmth or to bestow the animal’s qualities on the hunter as he or she wore it. In some civilizations such as Egypt, they were also worn by kings or religious officials when performing religious ceremonies. In the 11th century, they became more popular in Europe and were primarily worn as a status symbol, with some restrictions even being placed upon what kinds of fur certain members of each class could wear. Later, pelts became more accessible due to the colonization of new lands in the Americas. This meant that furs were now able to be bought by many others besides the wealthy class, although their quality did decrease in correlation with the price (Fashion in Time).
Finally, in the 1900s furs made their debut on French runways, and by the 1930s were used by designers worldwide, often as embellishment or trim. In 1919, however, the United States government had imposed a 10% tax on real furs as part of wartime measures, which encouraged designers to seek out substitutes in the form of synthetic furs (Smithsonian).
As technological advancements were made in synthetic furs, demand shifted, as many were now able to purchase a similar version of real fur at a fraction of the cost. Additionally, this appeased groups such as PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals), who supported animal rights and were in favor of this new material (PETA).
Now, this version of the material seems to be the current trend. Although it still has the same luxurious connotation as real fur, it is deemed more ethically and economically sound by consumers and producers (Vogue).
As a result, one can now wear furs in brilliant colors such as red and blue, and enjoy them with zero guilt, all the while knowing no Dalmatians were harmed in the making of the product.