There are only a few images that I will never tire of seeing. The one above from the Hardy Amies archive is one of these. I came across this shot about 7 years ago and the fur was the first thing I noticed. Until then I had never seen a fur coat worn by a man that looked elegant. Most probably owed to the tasteless rap/RnB groups pimping them up now. My association with them has now changed.
Since then, I’ve been interested in the application of fur into the male wardrobe, leading me to build a small vintage (pre 70s) collection of such garments (pictured above). With fur/faux fur starting to make a resurgence in menswear it prompted me to look into where this coat has come from and the history and significance behind it.
Now, I know man has worn fur since he was living in caves, but the fashion of wearing one probably peaked in popularity in the 1920′s and early 1930′s. During the 20s, every man who could afford a fur coat had one. Back then it was a statement piece to signify your status, allowing for the individual to advertise his wealth and social ranking.
These affluent gentlemen were bankers, salesman and interestingly students. The Ivy league-ers of the decade wore these coats predominately pitch-side for the cold matches whilst watching the varsity teams. Racoon fur was the choice of students and spectators, which saw a strong demand for it well into the mid 30’s.
In 1935, the leading men’s fashion magazine Men’s Wear reported: “The raccoon coat is back in fashion. More were seen at the climax football games in the East this season than at any time in the past ten years. The best style, worn by undergraduates and alumni alike, is very dark in color, has a shawl collar and usually hefty leather buttons”.
These coats fell into decline as the world went into war and the depression set in. Time passed and the economy slowly revived itself and by the 1950s fur was falling back into the reach of the American middle class and college go-ers alike. The alumni of the roaring 20’s had now grown up and were handing their wears down to their sons to sport as they had once done. Such articles have resurfaced outside of families and here’s an example of one being sold currently via Etsy – 1920’s Raccoon duffle coat.
By the 1970s, public awareness of fur had evolved (due to the ill-treatment of the animals), and many questioned the necessity of garments, in order to keep the style alive fake fur was advertised more heavily. Since then fictional and non-fictional fur has been tabooed and those that wore it were predominantly female. Now though, things have changed and it will be interesting to see the influx of this material as the winters set in.