Fur is generally thought to have been among the first materials used for clothing and bodily decoration. The exact date when fur was first used in clothing is debated. It is known that several species of hominoids including Homo sapiens and Homo neanderthalensis used fur clothing.Fur is still worn in most mild and cool climates around the world due to its superior warmth and durability. From the days of early European settlement, up until the development of modern clothing alternatives, fur clothing was popular in Canada during the cold winters. The invention of inexpensive synthetic textiles for insulating clothing led to fur clothing falling out of fashion.
Fur is still used by indigenous people and developed societies, due to its availability and superior insulation properties. The Inuit peoples of the Arctic relied on fur for most of their clothing, and it also forms a part of traditional Russian, Scandinavian and Japanese clothing.
It is also sometimes associated with glamour and lavish spending. A number of consumers and designers—notably British fashion designer and outspoken animal rights activist Stella McCartney—reject fur due to moral beliefs and perceived cruelty to animals.
Animal furs used in garments and trim may be dyed bright colors or with patterns, often to mimic exotic animal pelts: alternatively they may be left their original pattern and color. Fur may be shorn down to imitate the feel of velvet, creating a fabric called shearling.
Common animal sources for fur clothing and fur trimmed accessories include fox, rabbit, mink, beaver, stoat (ermine), otter, sable, seals, cats, dogs, coyotes, chinchilla, and possum. Some of these are more highly prized than others, and there are many grades and colors.
In Europe and Asia, cheap and plentiful dog and cat fur is sold under different names to disguise the origin from shoppers in the United States, such as dog fur being labeled "Mongolian Wolf". In a study by the Humane Society of the United States, all twenty-five fur trim coats from twenty different retailers were found to be mislabeled, usually in the case of fur from an animal that it is illegal to kill for fur being labeled as a legal animal. One example of this was a coat being labeled as having fur from a raccoon, when in reality DNA testing proved that he fur came from a raccoon dog.
Processing of fur
Traditional Sami fur footwear
The manufacturing of fur clothing involves obtaining animal pelts where the hair is left on. Depending on the type of fur and its purpose, some of the chemicals involved in fur processing are table salts, alum salts, acids, soda ash, sawdust, cornstarch, lanolin, degreasers and less commonly bleaches, dyes and toners (for dyed fur). Workers exposed to fur dust created during fur processing have been shown to have reduced pulmonary function in direct proportion to their length of exposure.
In contrast, leather made from any animal hide involves removing the fur from the skin and using only the tanned skin. The use of wool involves shearing the animal's hair from the living animal, so that the wool can be regrown. Fake fur or "faux fur" designates any synthetic material that attempts to mimic the appearance and feel of real fur.
The chemical treatment of fur to increase its felting quality is known as carroting, as the process tends to turn the tips of the fur a carrot orange color. A furrier is a person who makes fur products as fur garments, fur blankets etc. and repairs, alters, cleans, or otherwise deals in furs of animals.