Historically fur has been a symbol of luxury and distinction. It holds high value in countries all over the world, from early European royalty through early American traders, right though the modern fashion world of today. The industry has come a long way from the days of early pelt traders. Today there are many types of furs available from all over the world and through the science of modern breeding technologies, fur ranching techniques, and fur manufacturing methods, many improvements have been made. Today, these improvements reveal a whole new world of choices and fashions to choose from. There are many types of fur coats available for sale. In fact, there are enough to cause confusion for un-apprised buyers. It’s important to understand the most popular types of fur coats before making a purchase so that you are able to walk away confident and pleased with your new fur coat purchase.
In this first part of a two article series we will take a look at the different fur parts that make up a pelt, mink fur and its features, and rabbit fur and its benefits. The follow-up article will discuss fox fur, chinchilla fur, and other fur types in detail, as well as pelt origin.
All fur has three parts; the leather, guard hairs, and underfur. The leather is obvious to most people, but just in case, it is the backing that holds the fur hairs in place. It’s what holds everything together. Without the underfur and guard hairs you would be left with a plain old leather coat or jacket. The underfur is the fuzzy (and usually softer) dense, but very fine hairs. The underfur is what gives a fur coat its warmth, and is usually shorter in length than the guard hairs, but not always. The guard hairs are usually shiny and longer compared to the underfur. The furs guard hairs are responsible for all types of fur coats sheen.
Mink fur has remained on a pedestal throughout the fur industry’s evolution. It is soft and lightweight and has glistening guard hairs paired with a medium density, soft underfur. Female mink pelts are smaller than male pelts and offer narrower stripes in the construction of a mink garment. These pelts sometime make for a softer, silkier coat than one constructed male mink pelts. Female mink pelts typically have thinner leather, thereby reducing the weight of the final fur coat.
Don’t let sleek mink pelts fool you! These types of fur coats are incredibly durable despite their lavish look. Mink fur offers an infinite variety of colors from natural shades of ranch, mahogany, demi-buff, autumn haze, and white, to nearly any color under the rainbow when dyed. When it comes to mink, the difference in the height of the guard hairs versus the underfur is called the “nap”; usually, the shorter the nap, the higher the quality of the mink.
Although natural (non-dyed) mink is the most desirable, it usually has a premium price due to the extra expense of obtaining and meticulously matching the pelts. Of course, there is nothing wrong with dyed mink, it just doesn’t have the same color quality as natural mink fur. Currently, most furs are minimally dye “enhanced” or dye-added. This means that a small amount of dye is used (not enough to soak through to the leather) on the fur fibers to establish a consistency of color across all pelts used in constructing the garment.
Natural Mink Colors
- Ranch Mink – Black (It is often thought that the term “ranch” refers to the origin of the material in that it comes from a mink ranch as opposed to being trapped in the wild. This is not accurate; the term ranch refers to the color, which is extremely dark brown to pitch black mink.)
- Mahogany – Deep dark brown
- Demi-buff (Lunaraine) – Medium to light deep brown
- Autumn Haze – Light brown to beige
- Glacial – White (not pure white) with a gold tint
- Arcturus – Light beige with a subtle bluish tone
- Black or Brown Cross – White to Glacial tone with either a black or brown striping on the tips of the guard hairs on the grutzen (The grutzen is the center stripe down the back of the pelt.)
- Blue Iris – Very deep grey/blue
- Saphire – Silvery grey
- Cerulean – Light grey
- Azurene – Off-white with grey undertone
- White – Bright white
- Artifical colors – Mink can be almost any color in the visible light spectrum!
Rabbit fur typically has medium length guard hair that appears in several natural colors, such as shades of brown or tan, as well as any color under the rainbow when dyed. These types of fur coats are great for children because they are comparatively lower priced, lightweight and very soft texture.
There are basically two types of rabbit fur: Normal and Rex. Normal rabbit fur has medium-low durability rating, but due to the price compared to other furs it is considered a high value for the money. Rex rabbit fur has a medium durability rating and is significantly softer and fluffier than normal rabbit fur. Normal rabbit fur can vary significantly in quality, with the lower qualities being prone to shedding and loose hair, while Rex rabbit fur has a very narrow quality range and sheds very little. Rex rabbit fur typically hits a price-point slightly higher than regular rabbit fur. Because of its price-point and soft texture, rabbit fur is one of the most highly sought-after types of fur jackets and material for trim on leather and cloth coats.
More information about fox fur, chinchilla fur, and other fur types in detail, as well as pelt origin will follow in “Choosing Types of Fur Coats, Part Two”.