In the midst of yet another controversy about another high street brand being found to be selling cat fur as fake fur, I shared some tips on twitter about how to spot the difference. I haven't worn any animal products in a very long time, and unfortunately real fur is often not labelled as such, so over the years I've picked up some handy ways to tell the difference. This is by no means an exhaustive or comprehensive list, but it is tips that can help you be more ethical in your purchases, so I wanted to expand upon them here.
1) Check the thickness of the fur.
Real fur is very thin, but because faux fur is synthetic it is thicker. Think of the cats and dogs you've met over the years, their fur is very thin, and that's what real fur looks like.
You can see how thin and wispy this fur is, it been dyed and from a distance may look fake, but it's real.
2) Check the backing.
Real fur is usually still on the animal's skin even after it's been made into a product, so it will be backed with leather. If the fur is stitched on, or is attached to a stretchy material, it's going to be faux. Faux fur is usually stitched on in sections, whereas when you part faux fur all you will see is leather, because it's not been attached to the leather, it grew out of it. This is really obvious in pom poms for example, because they will have a leather section in the centre, but in a fur collar for example, it's easier to disguise as another layer of material may be sewn over the top of the leather backing to hide it.
3) Feel the fur.
Is the fur incredibly soft and does it feel absolutely divine? Then it's probably real. If it feels like you are petting a cat, I hate to break it to you, but you probably are. Faux fur is more coarser because it is made of plastics. It if feels too good to be true, it usually is. This can be subjective, and you can get some pretty soft faux fur, but real fur is like petting a cat.
Wonderful faux fur from Plus Equals.
4) Burn the fur!
OK, so you can only get away with this one if you already own the product, but if you are concerned that something you own is real fur, the easy way to check is to pull a few strands out of the item and burn them. Faux fur will melt into a ball because it is made of plastic, and it will smell like burning plastic, whereas real fur will just burn.
5) Does the fur taper at the end of the strand?
This is one I forgot to tweet about! If the end of the strand of fur tapers to a fine point, it's probably real. Faux fur tends to be one length throughout the strand, whereas real fur will taper off, just like a cat's whisker or fur does.
Real fur can be dyed any colour, so don't think that because the fur of your dreams is a veritable rainbow of colour that it must really be fake. My Mum had spotted a scarf she initially thought was faux, but had her doubts about whether or not it was real. She showed me it and it was real fur in an actual rainbow ombre, she was horrified and so glad she checked before buying me it.
I hope this helps you make a more informed decision, if you aren't sure, just don't buy it. It's not worth accidentally supporting such a horrific industry. Remember, this list isn't a rule book, but a guide, so use it to help you, but I'm not an expert, just sharing tips I've picked up over the years.