A couple of weeks ago The Independent asked whether men can wear fur while keeping their street cred. The question is a timely one. Anyone who's picked up a fashion magazine in the last couple of weeks will see how this season's catwalks are awash with fur fashions for both men and women. You might not like it, but it's a trend you can't ignore. Designers are sending men down runways in a wide range of fur styles: everything from the modern bomber with fur to fur lapels on a range of garments - both highly wearable - as well as fur manbags and double-breasted reefer jackets in fur/fabric combos. None of these would look out of place in any major city in the UK or elsewhere for that matter. Admittedly the more whimsical animal prints and full fur garments would raise more than a few eyebrows.
The issue of men and fur is a key concern for me and as CEO of the International Fur Federation it's been playing on my mind ever since I took on the role a couple of years ago. It's no secret that fur sales are growing year on year. New techniques mean that fur is becoming more and more versatile. Designers are mixing it with fabrics such as leather, silk and wool and as a result it's moving from its purely traditional use as a cold weather item. If this is the case then surely the male market has to be one of massive opportunity for us. If I'm honest though, it's a tough call. As the Independent pointed out, there are so many connotations around the wearing of fur that can leave the average man feeling uncomfortable.
While I'm no branding expert, when I think of the sort of man who would wear fur, I like to take a simplistic approach. I call it my 'macho' or 'metro' rule of thumb. Funnily enough it seems to work. The 'macho' fur wearing man is essentially rural, earthy and deeply involved with country sports. He may or may not even have a touch of the Jeremy Clarkson there thrown in for good measure! He's likely to be a bit 'Viking' in style and keen to have the practical warmth that fur provides when he's involved in his various outside activities.
The 'metro' is almost the total opposite. He's a little bit urban and into fashion in a David Beckham sort of way. Like Beckham, he's not afraid to experiment with his style, be it a sarong, hair band or a bit of fur trim that might not be just about keeping warm but looking good too.
If I'm honest, it's a marketing nightmare, faced as we are with total opposites who have very little in common. One reads Farmers Weekly, the other GQ. What the two share however is that they are spending more than ever before on fashion and beauty items.
Yet, despite the Independent article, and its deliberate ridiculing of the subject, I sense that the tide is turning and that fur is coming in from the cold so to speak. When listing its attributes of what makes for an ideal modern man, Sunday Times Style recently included the ability to carry off fur trim, alongside other qualities such as being able to do basic DIY and plumbing as well as finding strong women sexy and the nous to buy presents without consulting his secretary or sister.
And our high streets are telling a similar story. Trapper hats are ubiquitous in our increasingly cold winter months amongst both 'macho' and 'metro' men alike. Aviator jackets and parkas have been and continue to be popular items. Even this year's summer festivals are revealing a flurry of loose-knit fur gilets on men. Teamed with a neat beard - de rigeur for several seasons now, especially amongst metro media types - it makes for a great look. If beards can become a fashionable look after so many years consigned to the grooming waiting room, I have great hopes for fur fashion for men.