Exotics – Your cow leather alternatives
Shoes Above: Crocodile by Riccardo Bestetti
Up until I moved to Italy to learn bespoke shoemaking, I never really was a fan of exotics. This was partly due to the fact that in America, certain exotic leathers are made in a way that they are insanely gaudy i.e. blue and green ‘pythons’, yellow ‘gators,’ pink stingray etc. And the other reason being that many of them are made, in my opinion, on the ugliest lasts and in terrible styles. So, needless to say, living in the States gave me a very skewed perspective on how I felt about exotic leathers. It wasn’t until I went to Stefano Bemer’s RTW shop and saw these two crocodile derbies (one pictured below in red) that I began to understand that exotic leather shoes can be made beautifully…
Sea Creatures – Shark, Stingray, Fish etc.
This category is probably (no, definitely) my least favorite of the exotic leather kingdom. With the exception of shark, I really don’t care for anything made from a creature that comes from under the water. I see, admire and appreciate beautiful stingray shoes made by Riccardo Bestetti, but I just don’t seem to ever really desire them, especially when they have the white bit on them that looks like an eye or something. Fish too, simply awful in my opinion. While it can give a cool-looking effect, it just seems so limiting to me. What if the scales flake off? And you can’t shine them, not well at least. But hey, to each his own right?
Reptiles – Snake, Crocodile, Alligator, Lizard etc.
Another category that I cannot say that I am ecstatic about, but I can say that I do like a nice wholecut made in crocodile or alligator. The key here is about choosing the leather properly, making sure that it’s symmetry is as tidy as can be and the the scales are not too differentiating. But this is difficult (and extremely costly) to do. That’s the reason why, you see that few people can do it. And they are usually the people whose shoes cost $1000+ just for their calf skin shoes, let alone the price of a crocodile shoe. Snake skin I am just not a fan of period and lizard I can only do in small amounts, like the facing of a shoe or some sort of accent on it. Now just because I know that this might come up, I will preemptively say, without embarrassment, that I have no clue how to tell the difference between crocodile and alligator. I do know that there is (according to experts) a difference between their scales but cannot say with confidence what that difference is. So, if you are one of those experts reading, then please feel free to leave a comment, in order to enlighten us all.
Others – Carpincho, Pig, Elephant, Russian Reindeer, Mountain Ram, Pony, Ostrich etc.
Now this jumbled category does contain many of the exotic leathers that I find to be much more appealing. That being, it would appear that I tend to appreciate things that seem to have legs, with the exception of pony and ostrich that is done awfully. But the rest of these can produce a shoe that is not only intriguing but very cool too. Funny thing is, since delving myself head first into the shoe industry, I had never seen many of these leathers let alone heard of them being used to make shoes. But after having seen the likes of carpincho and mountain ram, I will definitely be on the hunt to acquire a pair or two in the –most likely distant– future.