When you walk the streets of Oslo and try to suss out what makes up the fashion scene in Norway, you’ll start noticing some patterns. Textured tights, rubber bands around pant cuffs, chunky boots, slouchy sweaters, oversized scarves, leggings that look like jeans, Helly/Hansen or Bergen’s of Norway outerwear…and fur. If you’re picturing faux fur as trim on a hood, you’re so sweet and naïve. Like I was. Like I was until I saw the stunning numbers of women (and some men) walking down the street in full-length coats, cropped jackets, stoles, muffs, headbands and hats made of animal pelts. Don’t limit your imagery to a woman your grandmother’s age, think of your little sister. Covered. In. Fur.
When I talked to one of my Norwegian friends who owns several pieces made of fur about this fashion statement, she was very candid. She told me she likes how it feels, likes how it looks, doesn’t think of it in terms of ethics at all but in terms of aesthetics of fashion and practicality of winter warmth. Period. I told her that most Americans aren’t exactly PETA activists, but that I truly can’t imagine anyone I know in the U.S. who isn’t receiving Social Security wearing real fur. Admittedly, that may just have to do with the circles I run in, but the trend is widespread enough on the streets of Oslo to display that it’s not limited to one demographic. They just love them some fur.
It’s hard to explain why fur is especially repulsive when meat is eaten, leather is worn and so many of our products our tested on animals. I was discussing the fur-phenomenon with an American friend of mine and she brought up a valid point: wouldn’t it be hypocritical at worst or futile at least to make a personal protest against fur if you aren’t also willing to give up all the other animal-based products in your life? Perhaps it’s both hypocritical and futile, but perhaps it’s a baby step along the road to understanding what’s important to us.
For example, think about the environment. I would be willing to bet that most people, if asked, would say that the issues of animal cruelty and the challenges to the environment are things they are concerned about. Many people recycle, carry reusable bags and turn off the water while they are brushing their teeth. Most people who do those things would not give up their car, convert to solar power, compost their own feces or take other more drastic measures to live in an environmentally sustainable way. Since they are not willing to make the most inconvenient changes, does it mean they should give up on all the smaller, simpler measures as well? Probably not, since the argument can always be made that every little bit counts.
This logic can also be applied to the cessation of wearing fur in hopes of lessening animal cruelty. Like carrying a reusable shopping bag, abstaining from fur probably won’t inconvenience you at all. There are plenty other ways to stay warm, many other garments with which to express your fashion sense. Some people may argue nutritional reasons for eating meat, or perhaps biological reasons for using animals in pharmaceutical testing. Any number of activists, myself included, could debate that, but what is the argument for fur? There is truly no need for fur. It’s simply a luxury, an accessory, a status symbol.
I have no plans to arm myself with red paint and walk the streets of Oslo punishing the perpetrators of crimes against animals PETA-style. There probably isn’t enough red paint in the city to accomplish that. But I do feel comfortable enough having a dialogue with fur-owning Norwegian friends in an attempt to exchange understanding. To help them understand the logic behind ending fur-farming, to see how fashionable it can be to make socially conscious choices. To help me understand why looking like Cruella deVille wearing a the hat of a Russian heiress is a desireable look for a modern woman. We both spoke, we both listened.
I still don’t get it.