Is Old Fur the New Fur?

A few weeks ago, after I finished an interview with Jade Harwood, one of the lovely designers behind Wool and the Gang, she pulled on a blonde-colored lush fur coat. I told her I thought it was beautiful. She told me it was her mom’s, and that she didn’t even know what kind it was.

Image from Let’s Get Ripped and Go to the Aquarium (Doesn’t that sound fun?)

Then, last weekend, my friend Indrani wore a chocolate-colored “chinchilla” (she reckons it’s really rabbit) to a dinner party. The moment someone paid her a compliment, she said it was second-hand, from Sidney’s in Williamsburg, since displaced by an overpriced supermarket. It makes her feel gangsta. Come to think of it, Indrani usually listens to NPR, and that night she picked me up bumping Hot 97.

Puffy and Kate Moss photographed by Annie Leibovitz for Vogue, 1999

There’s no getting around it. Wearing fur is fun. It makes us youngsters feel like we’re playing dress up–whether in our mom’s closets or Puffy’s. But it also makes us feel kind of guilty. Fur, after all, comes from animals. (My mom used to tell me her full-length beaver coat, which I named “Buster,” was made of roadkill, the implications of which I never fully understood.) It seems second-hand fur eases that sting.

Faran Krentcil of NYLON asked in the Huffington Post whether her hand-me-down black Mongolian lamb jacket was more ethical than her friend’s “vegan” fast-fashion. I would surmise that it is, and though I’ve seen neither, I’d be willing to bet money that Faran’s jacket is  much better looking, and a hell of a lot warmer.

Ethically, it’s the “it’s already dead,” justification, taken one step further, because the profits are removed from the brand that commissioned the slaughtering and skinning (sorry, it’s the truth) of the animal, so we’re not really supporting fur, per se, but rather…recycling! My mom has yet to send Buster my way, so for now I’m rocking this trend on my feet. I’m honestly not sure if the goats these came from were shorn or skinned, but I know these Lotto boots, which were my final purchase of the last decade at Amarcord in Williamsburg, are from the 1960s.

They are SO much warmer than Uggs, and less embarrassing to leave the house in. Okay, that second point may be debatable, but when it’s too snowy for sneakers, I wear these to the gym with leggings and a Patagonia top, and pretend I’m aprés ski, rather than midday yoga. Also, they’re a consistent hit with men of a certain age, and by a certain age, I mean toddlers. One such little fella was grinning at me on the subway the other day. When his dad asked him what he thought those shoes were made of, the boy gave me a little smile as he considered the question.

“Dinosaur,” he said.

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10 Comments

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10 responses to “Is Old Fur the New Fur?

  1. joe

    this was hilarious and maybe underscored the absurd cognitive dissonance of wearing fur while being intellectually opposed to fur trading.

    on the “it’s already dead” justification: isn’t this akin to me buying merchandise off of the street, say a microwave, that i know to be stolen and justifying it by saying, “well, it’s a great product, it’s the right price, and it’s already stolen. whether i buy it or not, nothing is going to bring this microwave back to its rightful owner”?

    • No, because you’re supporting an unethical trader, ie: a thief! Although…I suppose in a sense you’re right. The “already dead” justification (if it can be called that) does bear comparison to the “liberated” microwave. But, it’s definitely not the same as buying vintage fur from Amarcord.

  2. I have always like fur and leather. I like styles more suited to the late 1700’s early 1800’s mountain man era but fur is great. Fur is warm. Fur is soft. I have a raccoon pelt on top of my TV and rabbit fur lining my warmest hat.
    Great support of fur!

  3. kjw

    I used to wear a little vintage fox stole my grandmother gave me. My brother didn’t approve. One day I couldn’t find it anymore, and I suspect that the same thing happened to it that happened to the sunglasses my mother used to wear that everyone else in my family hated – an engineered disappearance. In the garden.

    I don’t think that wearing vintage fur does direct harm to animals. However, when someone like you, J, dons a little fur number and invariably looks fabulous, don’t you worry that you might be inspiring copycats who don’t do vintage?

    • Copycats like that three-year-old on the train, you mean? Maybe that’s part of why girls like Jade and Indrani are so quick to say their furs are second-hand. Honestly, with the economy in the crapper, I think most girls are going either second-hand or faux. But it is a worry, because when it comes to the ethical treatment of animals, cheap real fur is likely even worse than just regular real fur. That was the thought that kept me from buying this hat, which I really liked. Erin took this picture in the dressing room. http://www.facebook.com/photo.php?pid=4445209&id=268377942974

  4. I’d sworn off fur, even vintage, until this Christmas my grandfather presented me with a rabbit fur hat that he’d had stored in his closet for many years. It’s beautiful and warm and I’ve been wearing it almost every day.

    I think I’d feel better about it if I knew the rabbit, so to speak. I have friends who make wonderful things with the animal hides and furs that they hunt and trap. But those animals get to live in their natural habitat and aren’t raised specifically for the quality of their coats. As for the rabbit on my head, who knows if it got to live…er, “free range.”

    On a sidenote, I’m one of those people who gets guilty about fur but doesn’t think about leather at ALL. Is that because furry things are cuter?

  5. readin your blog from paris. love this post..
    xo

    • I think you will find that the fur coat Jade was wearing, originally came from Grandma. This makes it approximately forty years old. JER

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