A Brief Reflection to the History of Fur

The history of fur is deeply intertwined with human civilization, spanning thousands of years. From practical uses in early human societies to its status as a luxury fashion item, fur has played a significant role in human development. Here’s an overview of its history:

Prehistoric Times

Fur was one of the first materials used by early humans for clothing, providing essential warmth and protection against harsh climates. Archaeological evidence shows that as early as 30,000 years ago, humans were using animal skins and fur to make garments. Fur was crucial for survival in extremely cold environments. It was not only used for clothing but also for making shelters and blankets.

Ancient Civilizations

The ancient Egyptians, though residing in a warmer climate, valued furs for trade and ceremonial purposes. They imported furs from other regions and used them as symbols of status and wealth. In ancient Greece and Rome, fur was a luxury item. It was often worn by the elite and used in religious ceremonies. The Romans, in particular, had a significant fur trade network.

Medieval Period

During the Middle Ages, fur became increasingly associated with royalty and the upper classes. Fur trading became a major economic activity. Russian sable, ermine, and other luxurious furs were highly prized.


Although sable might be today’s supreme type of luxury furs, historically, ermine was the symbol of royalty and nobility. The white fur of the ermine, with its distinctive black-tipped tail, symbolized purity and moral integrity. In medieval times, it was believed that the ermine would rather die than soil its pure white coat, reinforcing its symbolic value. During this period, sumptuary laws in various European countries restricted the use of certain furs to royalty and the highest nobility. Ermine-lined robes became standard attire for European monarchs during coronation ceremonies. Ermine was  reserved for kings, queens, and high-ranking nobles. Spectacular coronation portraits displayed in museums today show how effectively European monarchs used ermine and art as a projection of power and wealth from the onset of their reign. The distinctive look of this type of fur became synonymous with royal authority.

It is worth mentioning that even in contemporary times, ermine continues to hold a significant place in the ceremonial and symbolic attire of contemporary royalty, particularly within the British monarchy. The British royal family uses ermine-trimmed robes during significant state events such as the State Opening of Parliament. This event is a key moment in the UK’s political calendar, and the use of ermine underscores the solemnity and tradition of the occasion. Additionally, ermine is also used in the robes worn during the coronation of British monarchs. For example, during Queen Elizabeth II’s coronation in 1953, her Robe of State featured a long train of velvet lined with ermine.

Age of Exploration

The fur trade was a driving force behind the exploration and colonization of North America. European powers, particularly the French, British, and Dutch, established extensive fur trading networks with Indigenous peoples. Founded in 1670, the Hudson’s Bay Company became one of the most influential fur trading companies, controlling vast territories in North America.

18th and 19th Centuries

By the 18th century, fur had cemented its place in fashion. Furs like beaver, mink, and fox became highly fashionable in Europe. The Industrial Revolution brought advancements in fur processing and garment manufacturing.

20th Century

The first half of the 20th century is often referred to as the “golden age” of fur fashion. Hollywood celebrities and high fashion designers popularized fur coats, stoles, and accessories and fur became the symbol of supremacy and star quality.

21st Century

Nowadays, real fur still remains a popular choice and a wardrobe essential for many women. Fur garments are timeless pieces that continue to be highly associated with high fashion and prestige. Their unique texture and appearance is difficult to replicate with synthetic alternatives, making them incredibly desirable for fashion markets.


The history of fur is a testament to its enduring significance in human society. From a survival necessity in prehistoric times to a symbol of luxury and status in modern fashion, fur’s journey reflects broader social, economic, and environmental changes.