A few years back, I bought this jacket at a thrift store. It looks like a normal jacket, but…
Why is it lined with leopard print? Finding this combination puzzling, I decided to look into the history of the leopard print.
The story of the leopard print begins with the animal itself. The leopard’s coat, distinguished by its rosette pattern, has evolved to serve as camouflage, blending in with the shifting shadows and making the predator undetectable to prey.
The wearing of animal skins such as the leopard’s pelt originally began in regions where those animals are native, such as central and southern Africa. These pelts carried symbolic meaning and were believed to transfer the animal’s strength to the wearer.
The western world domesticated this pattern in the 1930s with the MGM production of the film Tarzan the Apeman, which featured a cast clad in animal prints to indicate their characters’ “primitivity.” The success of this movie catapulted the leopard print into mainstream culture.
In the 1950s and 1960s, the leopard print came to symbolize high social status and wealth —
and in the 1970s and 1980s, an empowering pattern for the rock musician.
It seems to me that the leopard print, despite the subtle changes in its reputation, remained a pattern aimed at attracting attention — sometimes successfully showing wealth and elegance, and other times…less successfully.
But regardless of whether it’s a classy or trashy pattern, the fashion world’s obsession with the leopard print contradicts the leopard’s original purpose — to hide. Does this mean that my jacket, with the leopard print turned inward and hidden, more successfully connect to the pattern’s source?