The origin of leopard print
Wearing leopard print was originally a sign of wealth and power due to its expense, worn and utilised by kings and queens, often believed to give them a sense of protection. Leopards have often been a symbol of resilience, fierceness and a feminine mystique.
Leopard print became a widely popular and key part of your wardrobe in the 1930s. Interestingly, the Tarzan movie proved to be a major source of inspiration for the print, bringing a feeling of attractiveness to it.
One of the first wearers of the print in the 1950s, the singer Eartha Kitt believed leopard print symbolised power. An iconic photo of the 50s, Kitt was head-to-toe in fashion, and was regarded to be defiant and confident, ultimately playing a big role in the rise of leopard print.
"Kitt was a starting point, as I was deeply fascinated by her as a child...she looked fabulous in her prints -- a strong figure. But she was also a woman of substance. To me, the spots tied both aspects together." Jo Weldon
A trend that keeps on evolving
Leopard print has a long history and throughout the decades has hit many fashion highs and lows, but has always found its way back in style.
Something that makes leopard print unique is the fact it can be worn by everyone, from royalty to rock stars, making the print sophisticated, yet labelled trashy by some at the same time.
Whilst the print used to stand out, in the twenty-first century the print almost blends in due to its huge constant popularity, making it a part of everyday fashion.
In recent years however, powerful females such as Beyonce and Michelle Obama have been spotted in leopard print. This once again brought rise to the view that leopard print is symbol of a strong and independent woman, in the same way that the leopard is seen.
Problems that have come with wearing leopard print
It is well known that leopard print is often regarded as a female print, rarely worn by men. It is for this very reason that for men wearing the print, it creates a sense of rebellion and non-conformity.
“the trophy-wife-in-a-leopard-coat trope crashed in the late 1960s, with Anne Bancroft's appearance as the frustrated and malevolent (but insanely stylish) trophy-wife-turned-predator in The Graduate, as well as the development of the anti-fur movement.” Jo Weldon
In the 60s, leopard print was considered more trashy and low class due to its connection with being a trophy wife. Wearing the print was a symbol of being a young, attractive woman in need of a successful older person, with the woman being seen as an object for men to look at.
Still to this day, however, leopard print is considered to be cheap and sleazy by some due to its previous history. It is argued that females still wear this print in order to present themselves as objects to men, causing the print to still be associated solely with sex appeal in the same way it was viewed in the 60s.
In 1962, Jackie Kennedy wore an Oleg Cassini leopard-skin coat. The coat was a sensation and widely loved, but it caused a spike in demand for real leopard skin, leading to the death of as many as 250,000 leopards. This created multiple issues surrounding animal print as a whole, yet the use of real fur is rarely in use today due to an increasing awareness of ethicalness.
Why the trend will live on forever in style
As Fashionista magazine noted: many of ‘the street style crowd’ in Paris for Spring 2020 Couture Week were proudly showing off their leopard print; many of them in heels, jackets, and skirts.
"The classic leopard print has had a serious revamp of late…A timeless trend, it is worth investing in a piece or two for the new season. Whether you want to brave a head-to-toe leopard print look or wish to inject a neutral outfit with the fun print." Daily Mail