It's common knowledge that today's fur industry is notoriously cruel to our fuzzy little brethren of Earth, and understandable that the tide has turned severely since the Golden Age of Hollywood, when women like Liz Taylor and Rita Hayworth would traipse around red carpets with full-body fox stoles around their necks (head, paws and all).
But most of us aren't the first owners of a floor-length chinchilla coat straight from the furrier, because, um, most of us aren't Kanye West. Instead, many of the fur wearers among us stumbled on the piece in the back of Great Aunt Harriet's closet or hidden between nasty-ass jogging suits at Goodwill. So is wearing a vintage fur piece any more ethically sound than wearing a fur piece made now? IDK! IDK! But a long piece in Collector's Weekly goes to great lengths to find out.
It's no coincidence that the fur industry first boomed during the Great Depression along with generally escapist entertainment, and our economic climate today seems to be mimicking the resurgence of fur in all forms—even a hoodie, as seen at New York Fashion Week. (The Ralph Lauren, Calvin Klein, and Marc Jacobs shows this year all included real fur.)
Like, say, a vegetarian who occasionally eats chicken, the capacity that we have to trick ourselves into thinking that we're sticking to our moral code—even as we deviate from it—is astounding. As usual. Says Rachel Poliquin, the author of The Breathless Zoo: Taxidermy and the Cultures of Longing.
"As soon as you get into talking about animals, and the appropriate ways we use animals, it's just such a never-ending pit of questions... Unless you live your life without using any animal products, and you don't wear leather shoes or a leather belt, and you don't eat meat, you're always a hypocrite, and there is no gray. I think a lot of people like to live in the gray zone."
Samantha Davis, a vintage store owner: "When it comes to wearing it, I understand that it perpetuates the trend as a whole, so it's a risk when you walk around in it, because people can't tell whether you're in vintage or not." On the flip side, one of the obvious benefits of buying vintage fur is that you're not purchasing any new cheap animal products from Asia, where we have little to no knowledge of the treatment or slaughter process of the animal.