For a neutral-toned pattern, cheetah print gets a lot of grief in the fashion space. When you hear the words “cheetah print”, some of us (uh hem, men) might be envisioning Carol Baskin-esque attire. And while we know that women don’t dress to appease men, it’s always interesting to ponder why we can’t see eye-to-eye.
As women, we know well that jungle-inspired prints can be uber tasteful when done right. If you don’t believe me, even the *one and only* Jackie Kennedy donned a plush, cheetah-print, Oleg Cassini coat once upon a time. And if cheetah-print is good enough for Jackie, it’s good enough for me.
So, where’s the disconnect between the way women see the taboo design and how men expect us to wear it?
Let’s start from the beginning.
A Brief History
While we’ve seen animal prints in main-stream fashion since the 1930s, there is a rich history dating back hundreds of years, to times when only the richest and most powerful could afford to wear authentic furs. In more recent times, animal prints made their way into the fashion world after the release of the 1932 film, Tarzan the Apeman; the original adaptation of the storyline many of us know and love today.
While this brought prints into our daily media, this was only the beginning of what would be decades of re-inventing everything from cheetah to zebra prints. In the 1950s, Christian Dior even released an entire line inspired by animal prints. This new-found representation across luxury fashion-inspired an evolution in the 1960s, as prints began fusing with bright colors, depicting a “wild and carefree” persona we often associate to this day.
In more recent decades, we’ve seen the modernization of not only cheetah and leopard print, but we’ve also seen the birth of zebra print and snakeskin – Courtesy of the 1980s. Although animal prints have seen years more favorable than others, they never leave our wardrobes entirely. Since the 1930s, we continue to watch their reinvention with every new decade and in 2021 we’re watching the beginning of a period that relies on much of the same trends that we saw in the ’80s.
A Fine Line Between Love And Hate
The truth is that when you look at clothing created specifically for men, it’s often made up of neutral colors and subtle patterns (if any at all). Men’s clothing is much more straightforward than women’s, which means it doesn’t require as much thought or effort to put an outfit together. Women can let their creativity shine through in ways that most men can’t. Incorporating cheetah print is just one stellar way to put that creativity to the test.
Seeking out insight as to where men draw the line on cheetah-print, what they say bears little difference to the opinions of the women around us – who do, in fact, adore the pattern. Many of them admit that when they envision a woman wearing animal-inspired pieces, they simply have a hard time picturing anything other than over-the-top, tasteless pieces (there’s that creativity lag, ladies). Yet, when they see it in the flesh, it makes a world of difference.
Quality over Quantity
It’s not about how much you can put into one outfit; it’s about how you can put it into said outfit. Start small, with pieces that are well-structured and well-designed. Cheetah-print is busy, and it often speaks for itself in any ensemble, so it’s important to be thoughtful about how you’re incorporating it.
Pick a few high-quality accessory pieces that elevate any outfit and begin experimenting with different ways to wear them. This is also a great way to get out of your comfort zone when it comes to color palettes, try tying in those accessories with bolder colors that create a really great contrast and provoke some thought.
If you are working with pieces that take up more surface area than accessories – that to-die-for wrap dress you’ve been eyeing – neutral palettes are a good place to start. When it comes to choosing the pieces, go for patterns that are a bit more subtle.
Not only will this allow you to incorporate them into different outfits, but by choosing more muted and neutral versions of cheetah-print, it doesn’t have to feel so loud. It’s a great way to include the pattern you know and love, without feeling reminiscent of an early-2000’s Rue21 store. Just saying.
A Time and Place
After all is said and done, it might not be about the pattern or the quality at all. If the piece seems out of place, it probably is. There’s a reason we have so many different items stuffed into our closets, there’s a time and a place for everything.
Yes, incorporating a cheetah-print coat into an all-black outfit might be a tried-and-true way to add life into your outfit, but that doesn’t mean you should. Animal prints are fun, they’re synonymous with creativity and a unique fashion sense, so make sure you’re wearing them to places that fit that same vibe. All we’re saying is a funeral might not be the best place to debut your brand-new cheetah-print heels, but a girl’s night out? Greenlight, go.