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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.

Bestetti - Stingray
Bestetti – Stingray

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?

stefano bemer
stefano bemer – shark skin

Reptiles Snake, Crocodile, Alligator, Lizard etc.

Stefano Bemer
Stefano Bemer

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.


Dimitri Gomez
Dimitri Gomez
Anthony Delos
Anthony Delos


Gaziano & Girling
Gaziano & Girling
Carreducker – Lizard skin


Others Carpincho, Pig, Elephant, Russian Reindeer, Mountain Ram, Pony, Ostrich etc.

George Cleverley
George Cleverley – Carpincho , picture courtesy of Leather Soul

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 distantfuture.


Stefano Bemer - Elephant
Stefano Bemer – Elephant


Jan Kielman
Jan Kielman – Pony Hair


George Cleverley - Russian Reindeer , picture courtesy of Leather Soul Hawaii
George Cleverley – Russian Reindeer , picture courtesy of Leather Soul Hawaii
G&G - Pigskin
G&G – Pigskin


Barker Black - Ostrich
Barker Black – Ostrich
George Cleverley, Mountain Ram leather, courtesy of Leather Soul Hawaii

15 thoughts on “Exotics – Your cow leather alternatives”

  1. Distinguishing Alligator Leather From Crocodile Leather

    Skins from alligators and crocodiles can be distinguished by the presence of small “pores” on the posterior portion of scales over much of the skin of crocodile – but not in alligators. The function of these pores, also known as integumentary sense organs, is not fully understood. (This information is from , a supplier of very high quality alligator and crocodile skins.)

  2. the idler of march

    This is an interesting post.

    Ostrich opera pumps – pretty sure that’s the first time I’ve ever seen those, and hopefully it will also be the last. I have mentally flirted with crocodile shoes before but I think they are ultimately a bit like plus-fours or boater hats and the like – crossing over the line from style to costume. Which is convenient given how expensive they are. However you do see the odd model with crocodile facings (is that the right word? The upper half of the shoe?) and normal leather around the rest of it – they are a bit more restrained and can look quite good I think.

    With the elephant, is that definitely legal? I thought the things were endangered? It looks shit anyway so fortunately my moral objections fit with my sartorial ones. Though I guess you get a lot of shoes out of a single elephant.

  3. Yanks have F*** all style

    How on earth do crocs look costume? Ricardo Bestetti do sublime interpretations. Would love to see how you dress. Are you an American or boring brit?

  4. the idler of march

    Mm. Actually, I was watching the 80s classic ‘The Roadhouse’ last night and I noticed the bad guy – forget his name – pairing off his crocs with a white cotton double-breasted suit, gold buttons obviously, which nicely offset his felt stetson, and I realised you were on the money and I was gravely mistaken.

    I guess it depends on your lifestyle. I myself go to an office and restaurants and shops and stuff. Whereas you yourself enjoy an antagonistic relationship with the late Patrick Swayze and his dubious ‘kung-fu’, whilst sipping mint juleps, firing your pearl-handled derringer in the air and occasionally exclaiming ‘I own this town!’. Time, place, occasion, I guess.

    I actually think they can look good, but lots of stuff looks good and part of dressing well is how you integrate it into the real world. Otherwise my Elizabethan cod-piece would be seeing a lot more action.

  5. Yanks have F*** all style

    Idler of March. That is a seriously superb response. You have rebuffed my comments without resorting to crass language or confrontational comments. Sincerely impressed and doff my hat to you. Have a great Christmas and a prosperous 2012.

  6. the idler of march

    Yanks have F*** all style:

    I doff my felt stetson to you too sir. I must admit I had initially mistaken you for a mere troll, perhaps on account of your nom de guerre, which I have to say I still cannot agree with, though not American myself. Nevertheless it is genuinely refreshing to have a debate over the internet resolved without confrontational comments, as you say. Enjoy 2012 and please wear your crocodile shoes as much as you like. To each his own.

  7. Shoefan – Thanks for the info!! And the pic..

    Ike – I like Jan Kielman. Have never seen the shoes in person but i love the fact that he is not afraid to design and make some very unique…I can’t speak on quality though…but i would imagine that it would be on the higher end of the spectrum

    Idler of March – I actually heard that it is not legal and legal all at the same time, with exotics in general…there are certain stipulations that you have to uphold or you can get into a lot of trouble. I am no expert when it comes to that, and probably will never be since I am not too fussed with having many of them in my collections. I am simply lover of calf and suede…

    Yanks – Impressive that you actually complimented someone…


  8. The elephant leather can be used only if it has been taken from an animal which died of natural death. This is allowed by international laws, according to CITES (the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora) and it is very difficult to use this leather as you have to go through a huge ammount of documents and burocracy.

  9. Looking for alligator shoes used, advise me know where?
    My husband is a true lover of shoes, but we can not afford to buy one of those models who dreams for years. He came to mind reading this article to surprise him by giving him the shoes in crocodile like this
    they like a lifetime but use! I advise you know where to look?

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