Alexander Fury: Men in fur? It's more Liberace than Conan the Barbarian

Wear, what, why, when?

There's only one thing more contentious than the great fur debate: the great fur for him debate.

At his winter 2013 menswear presentation, Tom Ford showed no fewer than four mid-calf wild fox coats. It wasn't so much a comment on modern masculine luxury as simple economic savvy: the style is a runaway success at Ford's outposts in Russia. So he decided to do a few more. The Fendi, Marni and Roberto Cavalli collections were also smothered in fuzzy stuff.

It all sounds rather full-throttle. Which is the point. There's an unavoidable visibility to men in fur, a peacock sensibility that nevertheless exudes masculinity. Fur links you back to Ghengis Khan marauding through Mongolia, Henry VIII, wrapped in gingery fox for his Holbein portraits, to Fred Flintstone – or rather his real-life counterparts. Fur was the first prehistoric fabric, and the first status symbol. It's part of that hunter/gatherer male instinct.

But therein is part of the problem. We're not cavemen any more, and there's something that comes across as a bit barbarian to a bloke decked out in layers of fox. Perhaps that's what designers are aiming at. But be warned: if it isn't Conan, fur is usually camp. Fellows in full-length fur give me a fashion flashback to Michael Douglas as Liberace in Behind the Candleabra (below), or Matt Damon as his toyboy cohort vomiting in a seedy sex shop.

That's part of the unavoidable issue with blokes in fur. Forgetting moral arguments, as fashion so often does, the fact remains that a woman slinking in mink and a bias-cut gown conjures up Hollywood's golden age. A man tosses the same coat over a tuxedo andlooks like a comedy mobster or a Seventies pimp.

It's a minefield, never mind PETA. Even the comparatively innocuous shearling coat has its dodgier adumbrations. Two words: Del Boy. Not King Henry.

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