The other day I read a short piece in the New York Post backing the right to wear fur. While I personally am against wearing fur myself, I do believe that each person should have the freedom to choose their wardrobe the same way we can choose our art.
There is a restaurant in the lower east side of New York City called Freeman’s whose walls are cluttered with taxidermy. Now, I understand that taxidermy is nowhere near the scale of evil that activists protest: factory farms, fur farms (where the animals may be gassed, electrocuted or poisoned) and hunting. However, for me, there is a strong emotional resonance between taxidermy and this other source of fashion. This place is packed every night, it is recognized as one of New York’s hipper spots – a place to see and be seen. One night while dining there I must admit that I did find it disturbing to be carnivorous while the eyes of a ram peered down at me. But as I looked around, everyone was deep in conversation and the only glancing that was going on was to check out the outfits on any newcomers. My favorite bar out in Montauk, called The Dock, also has deer and birds stretching out from the walls, but how can I be offended when I myself am enjoying a cheeseburger? Of course I might hesitate to bring a vegan friend to any of these places, but why would I when today there are so many other options. I could just as easily save these places for nights out with other carnivorous friends. Perhaps it is a testament to the efforts of activists that I am even affected at all by these things. Were it not for them, I and countless others might not even have tripped over these issues.
Last year when I was shopping for a winter coat I found it hard to find one with a fur collar/hood that was faux. I struggled with putting down the bomber jacket at Ralph Lauren because the hood was lined with raccoon trim. While the jacket fit me as if I was the muse for the designer himself, I could not condone the soft silky fur as a personal accessory. Not to say that I couldn’t admire and appreciate it on someone else (perhaps it would look best on the raccoon himself). That same year, a friend of mine came home with a white jacket lined in rabbit fur. I quickly slid into it and gushed over its softness. When she admitted that it was rabbit I cringed, and the image of soft white bunnies with little pink noses immediately came to mind. However, the jacket did look great on her, and she wore it all season without red paint or profanities being tossed her way. To me it looked fantastic because of the cut – short and fitted, bomber-style, and color – winter white. But for her it was all of that and soft and warm, I assume because of Bugs’ cousin.
Fur coats are indeed a fashion from the past that has carried over to today, with increasing popularity over the past two years. Nevertheless, I rarely see young women wearing full fur coats. I saw the most fur when I lived on the Upper East Side and rode the subway downtown. The reason why, of course, is that fur is not simply warm and “high fashion,” but a status symbol for those who can afford the real thing. There was always a woman or two in my car that had a full fur coat. I could see some people glare or inch away, cringing as their skin brushed by.
I wouldn’t want members of PETA to give up their fight. I admire people who know themselves and the world well enough to pick and choose what they believe in. If protestors stay on the sidelines so do their messages. This is true from the Civil Rights Movement where protestors did violate personal space. And, only by doing so did they make the progress they did. Should we be ashamed to eat a hamburger in the company of our vegetarian friends? Should we storm out of a restaurant because of the hunted animals that adorns the walls? Maybe. But should people get red paint and tofu pies tossed at them merely for flaunting their style? Although protestors who do these things are an over-exaggerated small minority, they still exist. And for me one visit to www.peta.com was enough information and education to denounce fur for fashion.
To me, fashion has always been about the individual. So many of us love to pour over magazines and comment and speculate over why one chose to wear what they did, admire someone for their boldness, or berate someone for their mismatched, unseasonable outfits. Fashion is a publicity stunt, a hobby, a passion, an art, an addiction, … fashion is so many things to so many people and if it’s not illegal than anything goes. Until wearing fur does become illegal, this is one of the challenges of the conscious fashion-conscious.