The Namath Effect? Interest in Fur Heats Up

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Joe Amon / Denver Post via Getty Images

Joe Namath in a mink coat for Super Bowl coin toss. The Denver Broncos vs the Seattle Seahawks in Super Bowl XLVIII at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey Sunday, February 2, 2014. (Photo by Joe Amon/The Denver Post)

You’ve seen the fur coat Joe Namath wore at the Super Bowl. You probably Tweeted about it. And apparently, the coat that got more attention than the game has inspired some to emulate Namath’s look—one alternately called cruel, brilliant, bizarre, and just plain ugly.

Even before the Super Bowl was proved to be a blowout victory for the Seattle Seahawks, the masses had essentially declared a winner: Joe Namath and his flamboyant fur coat.

As soon as the Hall of Fame quarterback appeared on TV screens sporting a coyote and white fox-trimmed fur coat so that he could handle the opening coin toss in comfort, warmth, and style, legions took to Twitter to comment. Some mocked the coat as hideous, while others praised Namath’s bold fashion choice. Naturally, PETA, the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, bashed Namath, declaring his “caveman coat” to be a “real embarrassment,” and reiterating its position that the wearing of fur is disgusting and cruel. Plenty of goofballs and pranksters jumped into the mix as well, with more than one Twitter account created purportedly in the person of Joe Namath’s coat, following in the tradition of other fake social media darlings, such as the escaped Bronx Zoo Cobra.

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Even as a lot of the attention showered on Namath and his fur was negative, there have been signs that some are eager to follow in the footsteps of the vintage quarterback and his vintage sense of style. The man who sold Namath the coat—Marc Kaufman, of Kaufman Furs in Manhattan—said that he was swamped with messages about the coat during the game, and that his company was flooded with orders from around the globe in the days afterward. “Dubai, Colorado, Washington State,” Kaufman said, when asked to name some of the spots where orders were originating.

A week after the game, the Detroit News reported that fur sellers in the Detroit area—originally founded as an outpost for the fur trade—have seen a surge in customers and sales after Namath’s fur-clad Super Bowl appearance. “It has driven people to our showroom,” one Detroit fur shop owner said of Namath’s high-profile fur.

A PETA spokesperson told the Detroit News via email that it was silly to think that Namath’s appearance was inspiring a new trend, while also taking a shot at Namath, who screwed up his simple job (the coin toss) by throwing the coin into the air before the Seahawks could choose heads or tails. The message read:

“We’re sure that the fact that Joe Namath was wearing a fur coat while he messed up the coin toss at the start of the Super Bowl hasn’t prompted people to rush out and buy fur, when the likes of Eva Mendes, Stella McCartney, Anne Hathaway, Kate Winslet, Natalie Portman, and many others are publicly shunning the industry… No matter how cold it is — even in Detroit — animals need their skins more than we do and there are numerous warm and fashionable options to choose from that don’t require skinning them alive.”

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Previous coverage of the fur industry indicates that PETA could be right: The Namath fur sighting probably hasn’t caused a huge number of consumers to suddenly decide to want to wear fur. Nonetheless, animal rights groups are surely upset that there are signs that interest in fur is on the upswing, if not in the U.S. than overseas.

Toward the end of 2013, the Missoulian reported that the trapping business in Montana was hitting a 30-year high in terms of prices and interest, thanks largely to increasing demand for furs in China, Russia, and Korea. Likewise, an NPR report published around the same time cited heightened interest abroad as the prime reason trappers have been commanding higher prices for furs. One Maine trapper, for instance, noted that a coyote fur—one, presumably, not unlike the fur seen in Namath’s coat—that would have sold at auction for $7 ten years ago is likely to sell for around $50 in today’s market.