Making the world a more humane place for animals is fundamentally a matter of changing hearts and minds. No progress for animals would be possible without shifting perception. Where once a person wearing a fur coat conveyed a sense of wealth and status, it is now an image of callous indifference in the face of incredible animal cruelty. But progress isn’t a straight shot: Every now and then a fad seems to take us a step backward. Recently, a new trend on social media known as the “mob wife aesthetic” has lauded the fur coat look. Here, PJ Smith, director of fashion policy for the Humane Society of the United States, explains why we should care about trends like this and how, when it comes to eradicating animal cruelty, appearances matter.  

A trend currently sweeping TikTok is the “mob wife aesthetic.” Thought to be a reaction to minimalist fashion, this look includes bold makeup, loud prints and oversized sunglasses. All fine and good—but it also includes fur. 

Regardless of whether the fur is new, used or faux, even short-lived social media trends like this can have a real impact on animals if they lead to an increase in demand for new products made from animal fur. Spikes in demand can result in a surge in pelt prices, which means fur farms will breed more foxes, raccoon dogs, chinchilla, rabbits and mink to meet that demand, and millions more animals will suffer in cages for their entire lives only to be killed by anal electrocution, bludgeoning, neck-breaking or gassing. Buyers for the fur trade in Russia, China and elsewhere will clamor for more pelts, potentially increasing fur production that already causes suffering for millions of animals on fur farms, as well as countless wild animals and even unintended pet victims in cruel traps and snares.  

At a time when fur production is at the lowest it has been in decades, driven by conscious consumers who want nothing to do with the animal cruelty, high environmental impact and public health risks associated with the fur trade, it’s trends like this that can slow down momentum and give relevance to a product and trade that deserves nothing more than eradication. 

A lot has changed in culture and fashion since the 1970s and ’80s, the time most people associate with the “mob wife” look. Now that most luxury brands have gone fur-free, the idea that fur means luxury has dissipated. Luxury is now associated with products that are sustainable, ethical and innovative; animal fur is none of those things. In fact, animal fur is considered one of the most environmentally damaging materials in the world, according to data from Kering, the parent company for Gucci, Alexander McQueen, Saint Laurent and Balenciaga.  

Today’s consumers are simply more aware of where their clothes come from than they were in the 1970s and ’80s. Prior to the internet, most people had never seen footage of raccoon dogs being skinned alive, mink having their necks broken, foxes being bludgeoned with a steel rod and then electrocuted, and trapped animals stomped and strangled to death. These practices are done to keep costs low and not damage the pelt, and despite the high markup, “mob wives,” even “real housewives,” might be shocked to know that most fur is rather cheap, sometimes costing only a few dollars to produce.