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Conventional Wisdom: Anthrocon

"Furries" unite from around the globe, as captured by photographer Arthur Drooker

by David Graver in Culture on 29 July 2014

Arthur Drooker, Conventional Wisdom, Conventions, Furries, Photo Books, Photographers, Photography

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“This is the highlight of my year,” Thumpie Bunny Eve shared with photographer Arthur Drooker, while sat atop a piano, wearing high heels, exuding sexuality—and wearing a rabbit costume. This was just one scene at Anthrocon, the world's largest convention for anthropomorphics, the humanlike animal characters more commonly referred to as "furries." Anthrocon is the latest stop on Drooker's Conventional Wisdom tour, during which the photographer has brought his lens—and his audience—into the weird and wonderful world of eccentric conventions, from Santas to sexual explorers. We've been following him for a year now, as he accrues imagery for a book-in-progress, and Anthrocon is most certainly one of the highlights.

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During the 4 July holiday weekend, furries made their way from around the globe to Pittsburgh's David L. Lawrence Convention Center and, according to Drooker, turned it "into a wild kingdom." He notes that this year’s gathering drew a record 5,861 attendees—the most since its inception in 1996. Drooker further contextualizes the scene: "Imagine a mass meeting of mascots and you get the idea." That said, through his own reporting, Drooker discovered the roots of anthropomorphics and cleared up a lot of misconceptions the community has befallen.

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First, “A furry is a fan of walking, talking animals; the idea of making animals more like humans, or making humans more like animals,” Drooker learned from Dr Courtney Plante, a psychologist who is conducting a long term survey of the fandom, and a furry himself. "What that entails for everyone differs considerably." Further, Drooker makes two noteworthy observations. Furries hail from various backgrounds and they aren't necessarily in costume; a tier dubbed the "fursuiters" are in fact the ones who come adorned, sporting anything from "inexpensive tails to elaborate full-body costumes that cost as much as $5000." Additionally, the convention is dominated by a family feeling—one that runs contrary to its media portrayal as being hyper-sexual.

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The vast, vast majority of furries who have suits, it’s a cherished thing, part of your self-identity. A lot of them don’t think of it in a sexual way. It’s not what it’s there for. It’s not what you do with it.

"Sex in a fursuit is nearly impossible, if not totally undesirable. Donning one of these thick faux fur creations is 'akin to wearing a sofa on your back,' as furries often describe it," Drooker shares with CH. "A fursuit limits one’s dexterity and vision. The temperature can climb to over 100 degrees in there, causing dehydration if one doesn’t take a water break or wear a cooling vest." Rather, “The vast, vast majority of furries who have suits, it’s a cherished thing, part of your self-identity,” Dr Plante says. “A lot of them don’t think of it in a sexual way. It’s not what it’s there for. It’s not what you do with it.” Rather, it's an expression of a fursona—an animal identity that symbolizes who the wearers are or what they aspire to be.

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At Anthrocon, people can comfortably embrace their fursona, embraced by a like-minded community. "Every species of the fandom felt celebrated," Drooker says. "There were meet-ups for cats (Feline Friendly Furry Fiasco), reptiles (Gathering of the Scalies), even rats and mice (Rodents!)." On top of this he observed activities as far fetched as "games such as Pawpets Gone Wild and Whose Lion Is It Anyway?" As well as workshops like Transfurmations, in which tips were offered up on both fursuit construction and character development. The convention also featured a nightly dance. Altogether, "Anthrocon was a zoo like no other," Drooker concludes. But moreover, those inside this special world shared the most important observation: the outside world is changing and the prejudice against furries is slimming. Maybe many of the smiles found therein will soon break free.

Cool Hunting was invited to follow Arthur Drooker behind-the-scenes as he continues to survey and photograph conventions around the US. All images in this ongoing series are by Arthur Drooker.

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Inside Botánica's Don Eliette Collection

NYC native Nic De La Paz finds inspiration in her father's richly textured wardrobe

by Graham Hiemstra in Style on 29 July 2014

Accessories, Design, Fashion, Jewelry, Menswear, New York

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Though the city is bursting with energy and ambition, designer Nic De La Paz's strolls through the busiest streets of NYC sometimes reflect the masses' tendency to follow fads. To do something fresh, and combat such style stagnation, the Brooklyn native founded Botánica, an accessories brand directly inspired by the vivid style of her father Eliette Anthony Alvarez. Following up on her debut "Rosary" collection, the label's recently released (and heavily admired) second season offering sidesteps the theme of religion in favor of focusing exclusively on De La Paz's father, and his richly textured wardrobe.

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The "Don Eliette" collection—which has a rather strong vintage Versace vibe—includes an 18k gold ring, two bracelets and a pair of sunglasses. Drawing on the jewelry her father acquired between New York and Puerto Rico in the '60s, '70s and '80s, De La Paz hopes to make rare statement pieces that feel both contemporary and timeless. "My dad is in everything that I do," says De La Paz, "[his fashion] had a huge influence on me as a kid. He was always very much about quality and having nice things, and keeping them nice." To ensure quality and a long life, each piece is made by hand in NYC's diamond district.

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In the coming months De La Paz aims to release her third collection under the Botánica label, once again eyeing religious iconography but this time with her sights set on the Middle East—a standout piece is the Arabic nameplate, an unconventional take on the immediately recognizable piece of jewelry worn by many New Yorkers. De La Paz's sole intention is to create lively, conversation-starting jewelry for men to express themselves.

Visit Botánica to view the current collection of unique, handmade pieces ranging from $260 to $630. And keep an eye out for the forthcoming collection online as well.

Lookbook images by Antwan Duncan, all others courtesy of Botánica

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Horace and the Rough Stuff Fellowship

Crossing Iceland's moonlike central desert—past and present

by Hans Aschim in Culture on 29 July 2014

Adventures, Bike Culture, Bike Touring, Biking, Iceland, Short Films

Long before bikes got fat tires, full suspension and carbon fiber frames, the urge to push the pedals off road found its way into the hearts of riders. One group, the UK-based Rough Stuff Fellowship has united such riders for decades, since a time when crossing rugged terrain was truly for the dedicated adventurer. "Horace and the Rough Stuff Fellowship" tells the story of Horace Dall, an astronomer who—80 years ago—single-handedly crossed Iceland's moonlike central desert in his suit and tie, solo, with just a napkin-sized map and the stars as his guide. The film tells Dall's story as well as the like-minded adventurers who came after him, only to find it had (sort of) been done before. The film, with its stunning high-definition shots of the landscape, examines the eternal questions: Why do we go off road? Why leave the comforts of home? Are there any new adventures to be had? The answers of course (if there are any) lie in the hearts of individuals. And—as the film suggests—if you keep looking, you're already there.

Check out the full short film above and visit Infinite Trails for more adventure films.

Video courtesy of Infinite Trails

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