How To Tell If Your ‘Faux' Fur Is Actually Real

Regardless of how the fashion industry spins fur - and the spin is strong in this industry - there's nothing humane about stealing the skin of another being.

As writer Tansy Hoskins expressed so movingly in The Guardian earlier this year, "Fur farms involve 75 million animals kept in tiny cages, many of which become infected with disease, suffer horrific injuries and go mad from grief and stress."

So, there's faux - a clever mash-up of synthetic fibers designed to look, controversially, like the real thing.

Or is there?

Over the years, a slew of retailers have been caught selling real fur marketed as faux.

"We've seen time and time again, they've been caught selling real fur as fake fur," Christina Sewell, fashion campaign coordinator at PETA, tells The Dodo. "That's been a problem."

This year, Neiman Marcus was called out for selling three pairs of boots touted as being made with fake fur - only, the Humane Society of the United States alleged, the fur was all too real.

While the store never addressed the controversy, the products quietly disappeared from shelves. Similarly, a report from Today alleged there was animal fur in supposedly faux products from fashion mainstays Michael Kors, Aquatalia, Jacadi and Cluny.

It seems, if you're looking to do the right thing by animals, knowing the difference between fur and faux may just come down to you.

Here are a few handy tips:

Touch it.

Despite the hell it's been through, real fur is super-soft. Unsurprisingly, it feels like petting a very svelte, well-groomed animal. You know, like your dog or cat.

Faux fur, on the other hand, will always feel more plasticky - which, of course makes sense since it's most commonly made from acrylic or polyester.

Burn it.

It's called the burn test. And it's exactly that.

"You can pull a few hairs from the garment and burn them," Sewell says. "And if it smells and burns like human hair, you can probably trust that it's real."

Or, does it melt away like plastic, even curling up into little plasticky balls? And does it smell like plastic? Congratulations, you're probably safely in faux territory.

Of course, you shouldn't be setting things alight at shopping malls. So, if you're in a pinch, start with a few basics.

Part it.

A gentler method than torching a coat, you can always push the hairs to the side for a closer examination of the fur's base.

"If you dig into the bottom of the stitching of the coat, you should be able to see where the hair's attached to the fabric," Sewell explains.

Also, she adds, real fur is often completely smooth at the base. Like human skin.

Reconsider it.

Why are you buying something that's only pretending to represent animal pain anyway? After all, if we think fur is cool enough to fake, doesn't that make fur, well... cool?

Read it.

Everything that went into a piece of clothing should be clearly written on the label. Of course, we've heard that before. And, as in the cases listed above, some retailers may not have gotten the memo.

Now, read this.

We still have a long way to go, it seems, before wearing tortured animals seems like an antiquated, embarrassing notion.

Fur remains a catwalk staple. And it's no wonder when millions see nothing wrong with it. A 2014 Gallup poll noted that 63 percent of Americans felt perfectly fine wearing clothes made of animal fur.

And yet, some people are leaving a light on, even in the haute and cold world of high fashion.

Hugo Boss recently announced plans to go fur-free in the fall of 2016. Fashion icon Stella McCartney continues to be a beacon of glad fashion tidings for animals.

And, of course, there's you. Isn't there?

If you want to wear fur, take the time to be sure it's faux. And tell your friends that there is nothing fashionable about Canada Goose jackets or Kit and Ace hats, which happen to be made from animals much like our pet dogs.

The Humane Society of the United States produces a handy field guide for people looking to do the right thing by animals. If you would like to learn more about how to tell the difference between fur and faux, check it out here.