Fashion’s Call Of The Wild: A Sociology Of Style Perspective On Animal Totem Trends


Have you been noticing an abundance of animal prints on your nights out lately?  Perhaps you have seen a lot of feathers flying from people’s ears or design motifs at Crate and Barrel with big black crows and big-eyed owls?  You are not alone, but indeed witnessing a style-trend that has been bringing the wild into the urban jungle for the last year or so.

My friend Eve recently wrote an article for Sociology of Style exploring this context.  I have re-posted most of it here, as I know my readers like a little bit of style with their social science sometimes.   Enjoy!

Animal and Nature Totems in Style:
Why does everyone have a bird/bunny/owl/sun on their necklace/t-shirt/wall/tattoo?

The clearest way into the Universe is through a forest wilderness. ― John Muir

Even though you have always loved birds, the shelves of design-sophisticate shops like Jonathan Adler, Anthropologie and ABC Carpet & Home have started to look a bit like that old Alfred Hitchcock movie, without the screams of terror.

What gives?

The reason may be that these images are more than fanciful decoration. They are neo-shamanic imagery. Flaunting flora and fauna on our clothes, jewelry, and walls is our way of bearing modern totems that reflect our relationship to nature and our own wildness. The city is the new jungle. We are all vying for our place in it, struggling to survive while simultaneously trying to sync our heartbeats to the rhythm of the Earth. We develop tribal loyalties (to brands, political parties, sports teams) in order to ground ourselves in the natural order of things by finding nature where we can.

In the face of a world that disregards our feral origins in favor of a more contemporary “civility,” stylish representations of animals and nature develop into pervasive design presences, inviting cultural identity through consumerism. How we choose to adorn ourselves and our homes says a lot about the natural impulses that are driving us.

Boxes of honey-bee thank you cards tap into a deeply held cultural need for community. A quirky owl wall decal expresses a collective thirst for higher wisdom. Wide-eyed rabbits embroidered onto pillow shams access the child within. Foxes screen-printed onto messenger bags evoke our innate ingenuity.

For tips from Eve (and more from Sociology of Style) on how to “Be a style shaman of the modern age!”, click here and scroll to the bottom of the original article:

And as some extra fun pop culture context, enjoy this Portlandia Sketch. After all, it’s not a trend until it’s been officially mocked:

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