There are few things that can set you apart from a crowd like exotic skin shoes. The unmistakable pattern of genuinely rare leather can transform your otherwise conservative outfit into a look that will make you the star of any room you walk into. Exotic shoes are as popular as ever, and there’s a good reason for that.
Taking a walk on the wild side is guaranteed to garner attention, but there’s a lot to know about this fashionable footwear before you take the plunge. Here are the five things to keep in mind as you weigh this high-end purchase:
1. Yes, there is a difference between alligators and crocodiles
In case you didn’t pay attention in science class, we’re here to remind you that the alligators and crocodiles are not the same animal. While you were daydreaming of something else, your high school teacher probably explained that you can spot the difference between the two by spotting an alligator’s shovel-shaped snout versus a croc’s sharp V-shaped nose. There’s also another key difference that is probably of greater interest to you today: the look and feel of their skin.
Crocodile skin tends to have a uniform pattern thanks to scales that look similar to each other regardless of where they come from on the belly. Alligator skin, meanwhile, tends to be less consistent in its layout with minor scars that can give different designs to each square inch of material.
That’s not to say that one skin is objectively better looking than the other. Some may prefer the variance in tiles that you get from alligator skin –– after all, your penchant for the unpredictable is probably what led you to shopping for exotic skin shoes in the first place! Others may opt for the more symmetrical layout of crocodile skin, including the trademark small dot on each tile which is left from a removed hair follicle.
2. The origin of the animal makes a difference
Aside from the species of animal, you may want to consider where your leather is initially sourced from. In the case of alligators, American alligator is widely considered to be the most desired skin for shoes. After that, there's saltwater crocodiles, freshwater crocodiles, and, finally, caiman crocodiles. Contrary to what some laymen might believe, there is a difference between each of these varieties.
Does that mean you should immediately spring for alligators raised in the good ol’ U S of A? Not necessarily. American alligator leather is constantly in high demand and it is almost always priced to match. You may find that one of the lesser graded skins for your desired alligator shoes or other exotic shoes are just as aesthetically pleasing and at a more affordable rate. You can be more certain of the leather’s feel and pattern consistency if it comes from a specific region, but with some thorough comparison shopping, you may find a pair of shoes that are easier on the leather you keep in your pocket.
3. Not all exotic skin shoes are made from reptiles
Crocodiles and alligators get much of the attention in the exotic leather world, but there’s a whole world of fantastic animal leather shoes out there. Ostrich leather, taken from the largest bird in the world, offers a breathable exterior that is both tough and durable yet also soft to the touch. Don’t believe that the bird is the word? One popular online shoe retailer offers more than 200 different ostrich exotic skin shoes for men.
It doesn’t stop there. You can find exotic skin shoes made from deer, snakes, eels, and even stingrays if you’re after a pair of shoes that are guaranteed to be a conversation starter.
4. Exotic skin shoes are not just for formal events
A great pair of crocodile cap toe brogues are an excellent choice for a formal function, but fashion-forward folks will find that there are a plenty of exotic skin shoes that will work for business meetings, dates, or just a night out on the town.
Looking for a sharp pair of sneakers with comfortable memory foam on the inside and a dazzling exotic skin on the exterior? They're out there. If you've grown tired of your old traditional boat shoes, you can slip into some alligator side-zip slip-ons instead to give some bite to your old outfit. Want to look like a modern and stylish John Wayne? There are a multitude of options in the way of cowboy boots available in python, ostrich, lizard, and any other unique leather you can possibly imagine.
5. There’s (probably) a pair of exotic skin shoes within your price range
They say that, sometimes, it hurts to be beautiful. Looking good doesn’t come cheap, either.
Exotic boots, oxfords, and loafers can cost upwards of $1,000, but that's not the case for every pair. Snakeskin loafers, for instance, can be had for less than $80. There are also Wild West-style elk skin boots available in the $200 range and cobra sneakers under $250 for sale. Yes, you can break out from the pack without breaking the bank.
Many assume that shoes made with exotic leather will cost them an arm and a leg, but there are a wide range of options available for those who want to boldly accessorize. You can find luxury footwear to fit any budget if you buy from an established shoe retailer with a deep inventory of products.
It’s shopping time
There’s little doubt that your outfit will be turned up a notch with a pair of new exotic skin shoes. Now that you’re armed with some background knowledge on what to look for, we hope that you’ll be bound for success in your pursuit to dress for success. Happy hunting!
Casey Pontrelli is a freelance writer and content strategist. Casey has collaborated with industry insiders, from independent boutique owners to leading fashion brands.