Animals wear fur on the outside because they have to, why do humans?
July 26, 2014 1:44 PM   Subscribe

Having an outer barrier to wind and a trapped air space inside is the best way to insulate. It's axiomatic for insulating buildings. Impermeable skin on the outside and fur on the inside seems more effecient than fur on the outside. It seems to me that you could wear a less effective insulator, turned inside out as it were, that would weigh less. Why don't people that use animal skins for insulation do this?
posted by vapidave to Science & Nature (12 answers total)
There was some interesting work done on this earlier this year: Fur and feathers may keep animals warm mainly by scattering radiation, not just by maintaining an air barrier. In that case, the fur would need to be on the outside.

I wonder if it is also to do with the fact that the animal skin would be more susceptible to water damage (or other insults) on the "inside" side?
posted by LobsterMitten at 1:56 PM on July 26, 2014 [6 favorites]

The fur would get wet with perspiration and become a much more efficient conductor.
posted by clockzero at 2:00 PM on July 26, 2014 [2 favorites]

In addition to the above reasons- the fur would get smooshed.
posted by showbiz_liz at 2:04 PM on July 26, 2014 [1 favorite]

I wonder if it's actually that putting the fur on the inside makes the garment unnecessarily hot for most weather? This theory is supported by the fact that many of the residents of Alaska, where temperatures can be -50 F, do wear the fur on the inside. But for temperatures that only make it down to the teens, like parts of Europe, that might be way too hot.

Also, depending on the type of fur and whether you had another layer underneath, fur on the inside might itch like crazy.
posted by MsMolly at 2:05 PM on July 26, 2014 [2 favorites]

Why don't people that use animal skins for insulation do this?

Well, they do. E.g. the Inuit may use inner jackets with the fur inwards under an outer parka with the fur outwards, and it's also been used by people in central asia.
posted by effbot at 2:06 PM on July 26, 2014 [11 favorites]

Or the classic sheepskin jacket.
posted by sebastienbailard at 2:08 PM on July 26, 2014

Apart from the fact the fur and sheepskin linings are a thing...

Furs have powerful semiotic value. Look, I am rich. I am sleek. I am sensuous. I have animal qualities. Hide the fur and you can't communicate the same things.
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 2:09 PM on July 26, 2014 [4 favorites]

Fur is a lot less durable than leather. It is subject to less wear and tear on the outside than if it is turned furry side in.

Also, the hair will come out of the fur if it is in humid warm conditions. This is why people put their fur coats into refrigerated storage in the summer. Depending on the fur, a warm sweaty body can be enough to ruin a pelt. A lot of furs are quite delicate and so fur coats are almost always lined in cloth so they will stay usable. Even the leather is not often worn close to the body.
posted by Jane the Brown at 2:21 PM on July 26, 2014

Fur insulates by trapping air, turning it around would smoosh the fur down between your skin and the skin of the fur, deflating it and making it less efficient. Also this is already done in a way, in many species of hairless animals, eg seals or whales, by having the insulating layer of fat under the skin.
posted by wwax at 3:07 PM on July 26, 2014

My understanding is that northern peoples wear the fur on the inside for very cold weather, and when it is less cold out they wear the fur on the outside. I probably read that in a Gary Paulsen book (possibly Julie of the Wolves or Dogsong).
posted by fullerenedream at 3:06 AM on July 27, 2014

I used to have fur-lined gloves - so warm. As is sheepskin with the fur facing in. As a teenager, I had a ratty old sealskin coat, toasty warm, and quite water-resistant, which is one reason to have the fur face out, as well as being a social signifier of wealth.
posted by theora55 at 12:34 PM on July 27, 2014

I'm pretty sure that Farley Mowat in People of the Deer describes an Inuit costume having one layer of skins fur turned inward while the outer layer of skins had fur turned outward.
posted by glasseyes at 2:39 PM on July 27, 2014

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