Difference Between Layers Of Guard, Awn, And Down Hairs

Understanding Your Fur: Guard, Awn, and Down Hairs

Fur coats are a classic fashion staple for cold weather. Fur is warm and luxurious, but it also has many other benefits that make it worth the price tag.

From looking at your fur coat to feeling its texture, you can tell the difference between guard hairs and down hairs. Guard hairs offer better protection from the elements than down hair does, while down hair provides excellent insulation.

We’ll cover what the differences are between the different layers and hopefully help you make a better choice on which type of fur is right for you.

Knowing your fur is the basis for style.

To be a connoisseur of fur coats and accessories means you have to fully know and understand your fur; however, furrier language is complicated.

There are all types of jackets, vests, capes, accessories that come in various lengths and styles. To further complicate it there are numerous types of furs each with its own characteristics. That’s where the various components of fur come in.

There are three types of hairs in fur: Guard hairs, awn hairs, and down hairs. They all serve a different purpose and will greatly affect the style and feel of your glamourous garment.

As we explain the various layers of fur, we’ll start at the most exposed layer and work our way to the bottom, closest to the skin. With that, let’s go over guard hairs.

What are guard hairs and what do they do?

Guard hairs are the longer, coarser hairs that make up the outer coat of a fur-bearing animal. When you see the beautiful colors on an elegant blue fox jacket, you’re observing mostly the guard hairs. These are the most visible because they’re the longest and stand out compared to the awn and down hairs.

They primarily serve as a barrier against the elements, protecting the garment from wind, rain, and snow. Keep this in mind if you’re going for a versatile coat that is capable of withstanding harsher winter elements. You’ll want fur with pronounced guard hairs. One great example of a fur that has a highly protective layer of guard hairs is mink. Ever notice the glossy sheen on a mink stroller? Those are the guard hairs that repel water and snow keeping you as glamorous as ever.

Although not their primary purpose, guard hairs also play an important role in regulating temperature. They trap air close to the skin to help keep you warm on chilly days. Think of this layer of fur as the outer insulation.

However, as mentioned, these hairs are also the coarsest of the three. Sure, they’re still beautiful and soft, but the lower layers of fur are usually much softer.

What are awn hairs and what do they do?

Moving inward through the fur you’ll come across the awn hairs. This intermediate layer is a dual purpose as it plays a major role in protection much like the guard hairs and thermoregulation much like the down hairs; which we’ll cover shortly.

These furs tend to be shorter in length compared to guard hairs. You’ll notice these types of hairs as they may be slightly curled or wavy, but that can vary based on the conditioning of the coat as well.

The outer-most part of the awn hairs generally has better protective properties like being water repellent. Whereas the lower part of the fur acts as an insulator to help the down hairs keep you warm.

What are down hairs and what do they do?

Down hairs (sometimes referred to as underfur) are the shortest and finest hairs in a fur. They make up the inner layer of a fur and are responsible for keeping you warm. They are so effective at keeping you warm because they create a layer of air next to the coat that helps to insulate you from the cold.

These hairs are the most plentiful compared to awn and guard furs and are also generally flat, short, and curly. It’s these characteristics that keep the warmth. They keep numerous, tiny pockets of dry air that act as an insulator. It’s the layer of awn and guard hairs that keep this layer dry, helping with the insulation.

Are any furs better than the other?

Nope. The furs all play a vital role in protecting your jacket from the elements and keeping you warm. But you may find the characteristics of one layer more appealing than another.

There are some types of fur that only have only one or two of the three layers.

For example marsupials only have awn hairs, meaning you can get a luxurious possum fur jacket that only has awn hairs. Chinchilla on the other hand does not have guard hairs, but their awn and down hairs are so dense they have the densest fur of any land-based animals.

The various types of hairs have their own qualities, whether for protection or warmth. The real question is, what qualities do you want in a luxury fur stroller?

Choosing the type of fur that is best for you.

Fur Coat With Down Hairs

That is totally up to you. If you want a versatile coat that can handle the cold weather, go for a fur with pronounced guard hairs. Or if you want a coat that’s going to keep you really warm, choose one with lots of down hairs.

Just make sure to take into account what the coat is made of and how it will function for you. And, of course, always choose a high-quality coat from a reputable fur salon.


At first glance, the differences between guard hairs vs awn hairs vs down hairs can be confusing. But it’s important to understand which type of hair makes up your fur coat.

Guard hairs are the longest, coarsest hairs. They grow above the rest of your fur and help protect you from the elements. Awn hairs are next in line in terms of length, and they’re usually finer than guard hairs. They provide a good mix of protection and thermoregulation. Down hairs are the shortest and softest hairs on the garment and provide excellent insulation.

If you need help deciding on which fur is best for your wardrobe, we would love to help out. Give us a call or stop by our shop to speak with one of our expert furriers to find the perfect fur for your collection.

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