Standing at the coffee machine with your co-workers and bragging about your cool outfit as a Star Wars stormtrooper; not many colleagues will question your weekend behaviour. Some might even be interested in trying it out themselves one day. Nobody will wonder why you so desperately want to hide your face behind a white mask – or in case you are the ultimate Star Wars geek with a Darth Vader costume – behind a black mask.
But I bet not many people will openly announce on the Monday morning at work that they crawled, jumped or only walked around on a costume event like Elfia as a fox, cat or bear in a furry outfit. It is maybe not so much that you hide yourself behind an animal mask; I think it is still the inheritance of the bad press a decade or two ago about furry geeks copulating with each other while wearing their suits.
In 2001 the Vanity Fair published an article about bestiality and plushophilia. I seriously think that the majority of the furry fans never even had heard of this term. Plushophilia refers to a sexual attraction to plush and stuffed animals. To my opinion, it is always possible to find someone with an aberrant sexual behaviour. There even might be someone out there who loves to stick his manly hood in a keyhole (if the law of physics would allow him to perform his desires). But anyway, from that Vanity Fair publication on, western media were only interested in one thing: how did you do it as a furry! I remember the Belgian reality show of Paul Jambers who managed to find two bear furries demonstrating how to have intercourse while wearing a furry suit. The fact that 99% of the furry geeks prefer sex without a sweaty and unhandy suit was not fitting the sensationalism of the media. The 1% got as much airtime as possible. The rest of the furries took shelter in their foxholes and on small conventions, trying to ignore any media attention.
In the course of years, this media hype has slowly extinguished. And the attention is now more focused on the escapism and the development of the furry suits. These suits and especially the face masks display almost a sort of art nowadays. The details are getting better and better.
I am personally always fascinated by the drive of someone who wants to identify him or her with an animal. With all respect but I consider an animal a creature with a lower intelligence than a human being. So why should you identify yourself with a less smart being? Or is it about the pure instincts of the animals and the capacity of living in the present without being bothered by thinking about past and future? The possibility of enjoying the moment without fearing time to come? There is a certain irony in this escapism from intelligence (If my thoughts are pointing in the right direction): you need quite some intelligence and also, empathy to be capable of replacing yourself in the mindset and behaviour of another living being.
I realise as well that wearing an animal suit is a very old tradition in many cultures. The furry movement is just a modern version of these traditional and sometimes trance performances of Indians and Africans wearing animal masks. The religious and magical part of these acts might not be as important anymore but the fascination for the animal kingdom is still alive. Furries will never disappear. The suits might develop. The preference for certain animals might change, but I bet that a century from now, you still will find people loving to shapeshift into an animal. And who knows: maybe you will have to look up twice to discover if this creature in the sky is really a bird or your neighbour flying around in an eagle wingsuit.