Can You Tell Real Fur From Fake? After All, Those Labels Can (Unfortunately) Be Deceiving

Recently, faux fur products have revamped their look. Fake fur was once coarse to the touch, flashy, and had a synthetic feel that most shoppers could detect easily. Hard-lined vegans and even staunch vegetarians could easily avoid purchasing a piece of real fur just by the touch and feel of the product, while those seeking real fur, whether for pure ingredients or a staple of wealth and stature, could easily check the label provided on the garment and trust that origin of animal was correct. However, in recent years, with the makeover of faux fur, it has become increasingly harder to tell the difference between fake fur and real fur.

When I was a young, creepy 10-year-old, I told my parents that I needed to be a vegetarian for my personal well-being. Meat was always the last thing on my plate at the end of our family suppers. I often ended up sneaking whatever meat products left on my plate under the table for our Labrador to eat when my parents looked the other way. My parents were ready for a long debate about animal rights and the health benefits of being a vegetarian, but they couldn't have been less ready for the response I gave them when they asked why: "I can feel their dead energy inside me." I mean, it was basically a horror movie waiting to happen, so they relented. 

Even with the very solid arguments that fake fur is harmful to our environment, which means it's highly destructive to animal life in the long run, I have a hard time purchasing animal fur. Decades later, the idea of something dead inside me OR on me still makes me squeamish. Manufacturers and high-end fashion designers have made headlines by mislabeling faux fur as real fur — as well as vice versa. If you are a fur-wearer, you know the age-old trick of passing off cheap rodent fur as mink, but passing off fake fur as animal fur is a whole new ball game, according to the New York Times. Whether companies are just getting shoddy with their labeling practices or if they are consciously passing off the new faux fur look to market to a wider audience, these mistakes can be incredibly infuriating to consumers. 

If you are under the impression that your new puff jacket is 100 percent real down only to find out it's got more synthetics then Beyoncé's weaves, you will be truly disappointed. If you have carefully selected a new coat on ASOS specifically because you finally found a warm coat that is allegedly faux fur and find out that you've been duped? You will be royally pissed.

Obviously, since companies have made this fashion faux-pas as recently as 2014, it's time us shoppers take matters into our own hands. How do you really tell the difference between fake fur and real fur? After doing some digging around and speaking with Rachel Kibbe, founder of the ethically sourced online clothing store Helpsy, I learned some great tips for those looking to purchase fur from an animal and those looking for synthetic strands.

1. Fake Fur Will Not Taper

If you notice that the strands on the garment in question are tapered, getting shorter, or narrowing as you go down the piece of clothing, chances are you've got yourself the real deal. If you are purchasing an item online, try to zoom in as close as possible to see if you can make out any tapering.

2. Check the Threadwork


If you are shopping in a store and question the validity of a label claiming to be real or synthetic fur, feel around the seams. According to Kibbe, fake fur should have weaving where the hair attaches to the fabric.

3. Check the Lining

You know how you can see the uniformed pattern of rows on knitwear? The same thing should happen with most fake furs. Although you may need a magnifying glass to actually see the patterns in a solid colored garment, you should be able to feel the rows. Real fur should have a second inner lining to reduce the wearing tension of the garment. According to Gracie Opulanza's site, fake fur typically does not include a second inner lining.

4. Check for Bunching

Apparently, even the new faux furs out there don't hang quite as stiffly as real fur. Opulanza's article on deciphering fake fur from real fur during online shopping, states that real fur will gather and bunch — particularly in the sleeves — whereas fake fur drapes noticeably more and doesn't hold the same plumpness. If you only have pictures to go on, see if you can tell from the fullness of the jacket.

5. Burn a Few Strands

Let's say you've exhausted all of your detective skills and the results were still inconclusive. When you bring your garment home, simply burn a few strands of the coat to determine if it's real or fake fur (I recommend cutting a few pieces of the fur off instead of lighting the entire coat ablaze). The scent of hair burning will prove your clothing is real fur and a chemical smell will prove the garment is fake. Fortunately, manufacturers haven't found a way to fake the unforgiving scent of burnt hair.

Image: Who Cares?Emma ForsbergIan 'Harry' HarriskellyCommunity History SA/Flickr; Giphy; Dasha Petrenko/Fotolia

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