Today on the marshrutka ride into the center of the city, I realized what today’s post would be about. I was sitting on the marshrutka, looking out the window, and it suddenly occurred to me: since the cold weather hit, I have been seeing fur. A lot of fur. I see women wearing fur, men wearing fur, and even children wearing fur. I can safely say that I have seen more fur here in Ukraine since the beginning of December than I have ever seen in the United States.
I see fur on the collars of peoples’ coats, fur lining the hoods of coats, fur boots, fur hats, and fur coats. What I find slightly strange about the fur boots is that the fur is on the OUTSIDE of the boots, not on the inside of the boots. I would think that it would be more effective in keeping a person’s feet warm on the inside of the boot, but then, fur coats have the fur on the outside of the coat too, don’t they? So it must work to keep the feet warm. Or maybe they just wear it for a fashion statement?
Fur seems to be the ubiquitous way for people to stay warm here in the winter. When the cold weather hits, out comes the fur. To be sure, not all of the fur is genuine – I am sure that some of it is faux fur. Yet I am seeing a great deal of the real thing as well.
What I wonder is, where did this habit of wearing fur come from? I am curious, especially since I am seeing so much of it. In the United States, fur was never REALLY popular, and in the past 20 years or so, it has become even less so. We wear wool, thinsulate, fleece – we do not often wear fur.
When I was a child, my mom had a rabbit fur jacket, which I loved to pet, because it was so soft. In addition, my grandmother had a mink jacket, which I rarely saw because she only wore it for “special” occasions.
As an adult, I became less fond of fur, after learning of the conditions in which the animals which eventually become coats are raised. Add to that the fact that the only reason these animals are brought into existence is to eventually become coats, and I you can see why I don’t really care for fur.
But I cannot fault Ukrainians for wearing it – after all, it is the cultural thing to do, to wear fur in the winter. Is there any status involved in it, if a coat is made of leather with fur trim, or made completely of fur rather than a fabric with fur trim? These are cultural subtleties that may or may not exist, I simply do not know. I do know that I will keep seeing fur this winter and next, though I will not be wearing it.
So the fur thing – I see it as another one of those “hey, here’s how Ukraine is different from the United States,” cross-cultural topics of interest. Not better, not worse – just different. Normally I hardly notice these things anymore, but occasionally I do.