Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Fur the Sake of Fashion

Via Benny Bleiman of Zooillogix at Science Blogs comes a real dog of a fashion news item:
A totally normal British couple has made headlines by wearing sweaters, knitted out of the hair of their deceased pet dogs. Beth and Brian Willis have made two sweaters, one out of Kara, a Samoyed, and the other from Penny, a Swedish Lapphund.
Hmm, totally normal? Well, I guess I'm always saying that normalcy - like gender and race and a whole bunch of other goodies - is a social construct. Some constructs have a useful and benign function, though, and "thou shalt not wear the fur of your deceased pets" seems like as a good a taboo as any.

Here are the originals:

And here's the fashion statement/canine tribute:

I actually knew a couple who did something similar. I hadn't thought of them in years until this news item popped up. They were my landlords in Palo Alto the summer after I graduated from college in 1986, a young couple in the thirties with no kids and, from what I gathered, some fertility issues. They kept a couple of long-hard dogs (the breed is lost to history) who seemed to function as an ersatz. I was occupying my then-boyfriend's rented room for the summer while he was in Germany. They were very kind when Grey Kitty broke her jaw, driving us to the emergency vet at 10 p.m., well past their usual bedtime. I imagine Kitty saw this as minor compensation for all the times those critters put the fear of Dog into her.

They also evicted my boyfriend a few weeks into the fall - after he'd already lived there a year - when they figured out that he and I had been coupling in said rented room. Why it took them so long, I don't know. They were extremely Christian, so that may explain both their naiveté and their swift, draconian reaction. (And yes, I'm pretty sure the sex was worth it.)

Anyway, a couple of years later they moved out, and somehow I heard through the grapevine that they'd been collecting dog hair in order to knit with it. I couldn't picture it. Now I can - a bit too clearly.

Both photos from the Daily Mail (UK), which was Benny's source, too.


Sugarmag said...

I have to disagree with you here, Sungold, because I think it's a great idea. I remember as a teenager wishing I could make wool out of the hair I brushed out of my dog. I never did it because I don't know how to spin or knit and now my dogs have short hair, but I do understand why someone would do such a thing. Now this is the part that will make you think I am completely weird, but I have heard people say that if you do that, you can't get the smell of dog out of the fur. That would not bother me because I really like the smell of dog.

SunflowerP said...

"Normalcy is a social construct." Word!!


Smirking Cat said...

My first reaction was mild disgust, but when I saw the picture, I can see the appeal of keeping something so tangible about their pets. It must be comforting to just touch it. Assuming the dogs aren't killed simply for the sake of making a sweater, it's an idea that may work for some people.

Sungold said...

You guys are getting me to think about why wearing a pet's hair gives me the willies. I'm not being anti-dog (despite the cat theme of this blog!). I'd feel the same way about my dear departed Grey Kitty's fur.

I think, for me, the ickiness comes from the way hair changes when it's no longer attached to a living creature. It becomes alienated, somehow, and just strange. Most of us like hair attached to our pets and partners and children. My boys like to pet my hair, for instance. But if a hair turns up in dinner, everyone's icked out beyond what's reasonable in terms of hygiene. I mean, my hair is pretty clean, so there's some sort of taboo at work here related to our body boundaries.

Then again, we all wear wool, and some also wear angora ... the taboo must relate only to creatures within our social communities.

Good food for thought. Thanks!

Sungold said...

Don't worry, Smirking Cat - the dogs weren't killed. Their hair was collected during their lives. I imagine dogs with such long fur need/like to be brushed pretty regularly, which would avoid the problem of sweeping the hair out from behind the sofa. :-)

debatin said...

Edmund Leach, in Culture and Communication, talks about how cut-off hair is metonymically related to its former owner and can therefore be used for magical practices...

Sungold said...

And I guess that helps explain why disembodied hair only evokes an emotional reaction when it comes from someone within our social world.

GK's loose fur definitely was magic ... if by magic you mean able to conjure up an impossible number of hairballs.