What Is Faux Fur Anyway?


Faux fur is fast becoming the fashionista’s best friend. With animal rights groups like People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, or PETA, launching full-scale public relations attacks on designers who use real fur, even some of the most up-market fashion houses are passing on the mink. These days, faux fur is found at every rung of the fashion ladder. But what is faux fur, and where does it come from?

Faux fur has been around since the Great Depression. Originally, fake fur was created as a cheaper alternative to real fur, which only the upper classes could afford. Early fake fur was, well, pretty fake looking. It was mostly made from alpaca hair. In the forties and fifties, fake fur got a lot more realistic when acrylic polymers became available. These synthetic fibers were able to mimic real fur better and could also be dyed more easily.

Today, most faux fur is still made from acrylic polymers, but these fibers are enhanced with other polymers, making them modacrylics. Some manufacturers are also experimenting with natural fibers like cotton and hemp to make faux fur. Natural fiber faux fur is warmer than synthetic faux fur and more environmentally friendly.

Faux fur has a number of benefits over the real deal. For one, no animals are hurt in the production of faux fur. Trapping and farm raising animals for fur also requires many times more energy consumption than producing faux fur textiles. Additionally, faux fur is significantly cheaper and lasts longer. While faux fur isn’t quite as warm as real fur, synthetic materials in outerwear can provide adequate insulation for practically any weather condition.

Lots of faux fur is made in China, and recently the Humane Society discovered that many “faux fur” jackets imported from China were in fact made from raccoon dog hair. Besides the horror of wearing your pooch’s cousin as a coat, this is an example of fraud. The best way to tell if your faux fur is really faux is to look at the base of the fur and see if there is a thread backing or a skin backing. If you see skin, then your “faux fur” is a fake.

UPDATE: Clearly a hot topic and we appreciate the discussion in the comments section, though I would just add that we don't shill for anyone. First, just want to review the two sections in the article that deal with the environmental question.
1. "Natural fiber faux fur is warmer than synthetic faux fur and more environmentally friendly."
- Here we've claimed that making faux fur out of cotton or hemp is more environmentally friendly than that made of acrylic polymers.
2. "Trapping and farm raising animals for fur also requires many times more energy consumption than producing faux fur textiles."
- This statement was based on the findings of an often cited 1979 study by the Ford Motor Company comparing the energy consumption for fake vs. real fur. From the wiki on fake fur: "The energy consumption for the production of one coat made out of fake fur was given with 120 MBtu in a study of the scientific research laboratory of the automobile manufacturer Ford in 1979, compared to 433 MBtu for trapped animals and 7,965 MBtu for animals raised in fur farms." We gather that Alan doesn't think that study is credible and we're open to exploring that possibility, and doing another article.
Finally, despite Alan's generally appropriate assessment of market forces, there are in fact documented instances of real fur being sold as fake fur. See CNN's piece here:

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