Why does animal print fashion have such a primal effect on the erotic imagination?
You don’t have to be Desmond Morris to understand the associations between hunting and sexual conquest; in fact, many women will tell you that the male of the species hasn’t evolved much since his caveman days, at least when it comes to romantic pursuits.
But it goes deeper than that. At various times in history, animal print apparel has been a symbol of aristocratic wealth and power, or unbounded freedom, or more recently, vintage Hollywood glamor.
Psychologists and anthropologists have tried to understand the enduring appeal of animal print, too, and in a 2012 article a behavioral marketing analyst named Andy Coey went further, looking at its role in the “subconscious and conscious manipulation of both others and [our]selves.”
The Sydney-based Coey pointed out that the appearance of animal print triggers a prehistoric arousal instinct in viewers — but it’s an arousal based in fear.
“Whenever a human, any human, sees the pattern of a human predator, e.g. leopard spots, there is a significant amount of subconscious instinctual fear,” he wrote.
“Put simply, a man’s ‘inner caveman’ craps his pants for a split second when he sees Lady Leopard, due to a lingering age-old instinct designed to help avoid being eaten.”
As many studies have shown (and any bondage fetishist will tell you), fear is a kissing cousin of sexual arousal in the tangled web of human psychosexual response.
And that prehistoric fear-arousal instinct comes with a bonus: it makes the viewer look longer at the object of his desire and/or dread. The longer we look, the more excited we get.
When we see animal prints, Coey said, “an instinctual fear is primed in the center of the brain and that subconscious fear increases arousal, which is explained to the conscious mind as being attributable to the attractiveness of the object being looked at.”
In other words, animal print clothing doesn’t make you more attractive, it just makes other people think you are.
But that only partly explains why leopard- or tiger-print style has such a powerful impact. It also elevates how the wearers — women — view themselves.
“Seeing one’s self in the mirror when wearing animal print creates the same arousal effects in the wearer themselves about themselves. They feel increased self confidence due to a perceived increase in their own level of attractiveness. … It makes the owner feel like a ‘conqueror’, like they’re more valuable.”
All of which helps explain why animal-skin prints have become so ubiquitous in the world of lingerie, at the high end of the market and the low end too. Leopard-print lingerie today is both a cheesy, overworked cliché and a starting point for designers looking for new ways to create sophisticated and regal looks that trigger prehistoric passions.
A new label out of the UK, Pounce Underwear, is going for the latter approach with an all-animal-print range.
Pounce‘s debut Alpha Collection includes six style ranges that emulate the big cats — Wild Tiger, Aztec Tiger, Snow Leopard, Black Leopard, Midnight Cheetah and Moonstone Cheetah (shown above).
Each range includes Italian-made stretch satin briefs in three cuts and featuring original, stylized animal prints and colorways. Matching bras will reach the market before Christmas.
Briefs are priced at £45 while bras will be £95 in the company’s online shop.
Launching a lingerie brand that only sells animal-print undies might seem like a risky strategy, but Pounce is clearly going for the luxury customer here.
And for those women who feel a twinge of conscience when wearing something that mimics animal hide, don’t worry. Pounce might be the first “ethical” purveyor of leopard-print lingerie, as it vows to donate a percentage of profits to wildlife conservation projects that work for the protection of endangered species.
“[The] motivation behind this is simply to give back to nature what has been borrowed in Pounce’s inspiration for their prints,” the company said in a press release.
Finally, animal-print fashion that actually represents the interests of animals. Someone call PETA!
Here are some images from Pounce‘s debut lookbook: