At a formal dinner I attended recently, a woman in a backless, black Madame X type of gown left the table and returned a few minutes later in her fur coat. You see, she had gotten the chills. After we’d retired to the lounge some young men lifted the coat — a gorgeous, fluttering smoke-grey alpaca — and modeled it for jokey photos. They were stylish in the ironically nerdy way, with clipped beards and horn-rimmed glasses. Brandishing tumblers of scotch, with the coat thrown over their slim-fitting tuxedos, each one looked effortlessly (and, perhaps, unwittingly) glamorous.
It takes a special kind of man to wear a fur. GQ, an authority in such matters, recommends against it. There was a time in the early twentieth century when it was socially acceptable for men to wear fur. (Picture F. Scott Fitzgerald at a Princeton tailgate in a full-length beaver skin.) But this was very simply to keep them warm. Jim Hendrix, Eric Clapton, and other rock stars wore furs in the 1960’s, with a strong bohemian, androgynous edge. Joe Namath wore furs through the 1970’s, as if headed out to the Playboy Mansion, although, perhaps to his credit, he never seemed entirely comfortable about it. The men who wear furs best today are athletes and rock stars, who are best able the requisite hyper-masculine swagger. For most rappers, like 50 Cent and Sean Combs, it’s just another cliche, along with private jets and Cristal. But Kanye West takes it to another level, wearing full-length furs with astonishing ease, all about town, over his jeans and sneakers, and open in front, so that it’s perfectly clear he’s not trying to stay warm. Like the young men in the grey alpaca, he’s not trying too hard, and he’s enjoying it. A lot.