Mink, chinchilla, fox, and other fur coats were once a sign of status and wealth. But over the past few decades, real fur has (thankfully) fallen out of favor with the rise of animal rights advocacy.
As a result, manufacturers have tried to simulate the look of real fur, both to fool consumers and to help consumers fool their friends. The practice has been almost too successful because it’s nearly impossible to tell them apart. As a matter of fact, some manufacturers have begun presenting real fur as faux.
As many people steer clear of real fur for moral and ethical reasons, this deceitful practice is a real issue. How can you spot the difference?
The Humane Society’s Findings
The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) ran tests on multiple brands and found that many were selling “faux fur” items that were actually made with raccoon dog pelts. This revelation came following a disturbing video that surfaced back in 2005 of the animal being skinned alive in a Chinese fur market.
Every year, millions of raccoon dogs are raised and killed for their pelts, a fact that prompted the Humane Society to look into where these pelts were actually going and what they were being used for. That investigation led to the HSUS’s discovery that the pelts were sometimes turned into clothing items and sold under the guise of being faux fur, as well as pelts from other animals.
Faux fur comes with its own set of controversies. The fake fur material is made up of petroleum, the harmful environmental impacts of which have some environmentalists saying it’s not any better than real fur. And mislabeling is actually quite common when it comes to garments with fur trim, especially in the United States, the United Kingdom, and Australia.
How To Tell If It’s Real Or Fake
With faux fur being so realistic, it can be hard to tell which material you’re getting. But here are some ways to check.
1. Burn It
This obviously isn’t an option while you’re shopping, but it’s a great technique to test a piece of clothing you already own. Simply trim a few hairs and set them on fire (as safely as possible, of course).
Faux fur will melt in a sticky way and then cool to form hard plastic balls, which will probably also give off a plasticky smell. Real fur simply singes when you burn it.
2. Don’t Make Assumptions About Price
What might be most surprising of all is that the real-fur products being passed off as fake fur are actually sometimes sold at lower prices. Because most people expect real fur to be more expensive than the synthetic stuff, this has caused some confusion.
Fur from farmed animals, like raccoon dogs, is sometimes cheaper than faux fur due to the declined demand for real pelts. In fact, the HSUS found real fur parading as faux in items as expensive as $1495 and from designer brands such as Michael Kors, Burberry, and Marc Jacobs.
3. Examine The Tips Of The Fur
Humane Society International spokesperson Wendy Higgins told The Guardian that another tip for telling the difference between real and faux fur is to simply examine the tips of the hair. In real fur, the tips will taper and have pointed ends, while faux fur hairs (which are cut by the manufacturer) will appear blunt.
4. Examine The Base
Another thing to look for is how the hair is attached, so you’ll first need to part the hair to conduct this inspection. Faux fur will have a material woven backing, while real animal fur will have a leathery backing since it’s attached to the animal’s skin. You should also keep an eye out for hair length. Faux fur tends to have a uniform length, while hairs on real fur will have varying lengths.
5. Avoid Buying Online
Because it renders you unable to inspect the piece in person first, avoid buying fur or fur-lined clothing online. European Union regulations state that clothing with fur should clearly state that the piece includes “non-textile parts of animal origin” on the label. However, keep in mind that this rule doesn’t apply to online product descriptions.
6. When In Doubt, Leave It On The Shelf
Even with all these tips, some faux fur sold today is so convincing it’s impossible to tell it isn’t real. There’s also the possibility that it actually is real. If you’re still in doubt about whether or not a fur is fake, it’s best to be safe than sorry and just leave it on the shelf.