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Life is too short to wear mundane shoes. What you wear can say a lot about your character, class, and style. Hence, settling for a dull pair of shoes can affect how you present yourself to the world. 

One of the most popular and widely-used materials for making shoes is leather. There’s a long list of exotic skin used for men’s shoes that you can choose from. Since that is the case, it may be challenging to pick the best exotic skin for your leather shoes. But fret not because this article will provide you with a comprehensive vintage guide to exotic skin shoes for men:

Most Common Types of Animal Leather Used for Exotic Dress Shoes

Each type of exotic skin offers different qualities and properties. Each skin also undergoes different procedures for its final look depending on these attributes. While some skins are suitable for a rough environment, others require subtle and delicate care. Thus, it’s important to understand the differences between them. Listed below are the most common types of animal leather used for exotic dress shoes:

  1. Crocodile

Crocodile skin is a crowd favorite among the materials used for luxury shoes. It has a consistent pattern and invariable scales best for rugged shoes. The leather used for making crocodile skin shoes comes from the belly skin. 

The types of crocodile commonly used as leather are Caiman, Nile, Saltwater, and Freshwater. Because of their rarity, it is relatively more expensive compared to other leather materials. However, each skin has different values depending on their quality. The Caiman leather is the most common and also the cheapest, while the Australian Saltwater Crocodile has the highest leather quality.

  1. Buffalo

You may have encountered different terms for Buffalo skin leather shoes like Bison or Water Buffalo. Over the years, these leather terms have become interchangeable. Buffalo skin is the best choice for men’s boots with its durability, tension, and sturdiness. Despite this, it remains soft and comfortable to wear. It also has a grainy and porous surface that creates an extra appealing appearance. 

  1. Alligators

Alligator skin remains the most popular and expensive choice among exotic skin shoes for its high-quality leather. Its tiny triangular scales on its skin creates a very unique and distinctive pattern. Keeping an eye on these patterns will help you distinguish the value of alligator skin shoes. It also has a natural enamel sheen that elevates its luxurious look.

For making shoes, the best part of the alligator would come from the belly, similar to crocodiles, or the tail. Alligator skin is the most common material used by high-end and luxurious leather footwear brands as well.

  1. Snake

Snakeskin has a shimmering, glossy surface that is popular for making women’s shoes. However, this skin is now making its way to men’s shoes and boots because of its flexible property. It typically has different colors of black, white, and brown matched with unique scale patterns. 

The cut of snakeskin leather may either come from the snake’s belly or back. This skin quality provides the wearer an extra soft and comfortable feeling compared to harder leather surfaces. The most common species used for snakeskin are python, anaconda, and rattlesnakes.

  1. Ostrich

Would you believe that ostrich skin can also serve as a high-quality material for men’s leather shoes? It has a naturally bumpy texture with ridges, creating a sleek final look. The part of the skin used to make ostrich skin shoes are either the legs or the quill. The surface and texture of the skin, as well as the size, would depend on the animal’s age.

Aside from its unique and distinctive texture, the ostrich skin is also highly durable because of its crossed fiber structure, making it crack and dry resistant. However, it has a limited stretch expansion.

  1. Kangaroo

Kangaroo skin, or K-Leather, is a popular material used for various types of men’s footwear. It has a very durable property, having far more tensile strength than the usual calfskin and goatskin. Kangaroo skin also has highly tight interlocked fiber layers and concentration. However, it is light and thin, making it flexible to wear. In fact, kangaroo skin shoes typically weigh half as much as calfskin leather shoes.

Because of its quality, it’s famous for use as athletic shoes. Furthermore, you can easily wear Kangaroo skin shoes as casual shoes with its softness. However, note that it has a visible grain and may crease and darken easily compared to other exotic skin in this list.

  1. Lizard

Lizard skin is perhaps one of the most exotic skins used for leather shoes. They cost way more than regular leather but costs much less than the expensive alligator and crocodile skin shoes. It is an excellent material for leather shoes because of its highly sturdy soles as well. 

The common lizard species used for lizard skin shoes are Teju lizard, Iguanas, and Komodo Dragons. These species typically have tile-shaped patterns with sleek and sheen color. The parts of the skin used for lizard skin shoes generally are the lizard’s belly or back.

  1. Elephant

Elephant skin is also an excellent material for making leather shoes. Unlike illegal elephant tusk poaching, the product of elephant leather is legal and undergoes a regulated procedure. It is sturdy and has a cracked finish that is scratch and scuff resistant while remaining comfortable and breathable when worn. Its dull color creates a uniquely bold and sleek final look along with its grooves.

Characteristics of a Suitable Exotic Skin

Not all skin shoes are created equally. Some have intrinsic elements that make them better compared to others. Judging the overall quality of a pair of exotic skin shoes is determined by a myriad of factors: the materials used, the manufacturing technique, aesthetic considerations, and many more. 

However, the most vital aspect is the quality of the exotic skin used in making shoes. Here are some of the characteristics of suitable exotic skin for the best footwear: 

Size of the Skin

As laid out in the previous paragraphs, exotic skin can be sourced from almost any animal — from lizards to ostriches to elephants. But, since the surface area of these animals’ skin varies, the leather produced from them will have differences as well. 

Animals with wider skins tend to produce continuous leathers. On the other hand, smaller animals conceive narrower leathers which need to be sewn together. In terms of patterns, the wider skins have seamless prints, while smaller skins may have fragmented and discontinuous markings. 


We want our skin shoes to withstand the wear-and-tear during usage, so it is just intuitive to select animal skins that are durable and tough. Generally, exotic skins that last long are those with significant thickness and high density. 

Alligator and crocodile skins, which are very thick and dense, make for a durable shoe material. They can be used in the upper part of shoes with little to no reinforcement. They also need less care and maintenance compared to softer skins such as those of snakes or lizards. 

Aside from thickness and density, other factors affect the strength of exotic skins. Manufacturing processes and animal conditions are essential variables as well in determining the toughness of leather. 


In terms of visual appeal, smooth exotic skin shoes provide more sleekness compared to textured ones. For this category, mammal skins are the most dominant type because they possess a relatively smoother appearance. However, other leather sources can also exhibit this characteristic. 

Reptile skins like those of snakes and frogs may not be naturally smooth, but they can be processed to give them a flawless, glossy finish. The bumps and patterns will still be there, but the treatment will provide a more refined texture. 


Shoes need to be rigid and elastic at the same time. That is why it is crucial for exotic skins to be able to retain their shape even through slight deformation. We don’t want a piece of leather that cracks easily when dented. 

Flexibility is an inherent property of the skin of particular animals. For instance, land animals tend to have stretchier skins. Water animals like crocodiles, on the other hand, yield leathers that are prone to cracking because they are supposed to be constantly hydrated. 

Don’t worry, though. Post-processing can also increase the flexibility of animal skin, even those which are derived from water-living animals. High-quality alligator leather tends to be flexible because it has been cured and tanned effectively. 

Size of Scales

For those who like textures, the size of the scales does not really matter. Small scales from snakes and bigger scales from anteaters are equally beautiful. The important condition is that the scales should have sizes that are regular and almost identical. Regular scale sizes make visually pleasing exotic leather shoes. 


The most beautiful thing about exotic skin is that no two patterns are exactly the same. Leather from zebras may have the characteristic black and white stripes, but how these stripes arrange themselves is completely unique. 

The blending of exotic leather is concerned about how the patterns on these skins look like. People who wear items made of exotic animal skins want the distinct, identifiable prints to be showcased. For example, a cobra skin bag should bear the appearance of genuine cobra skin — complete with the scales and the markings. High-quality animal leather mimics the actual appearance of its source animal.

Don’t Forget About Your Soles

Any good pair of shoes will not be complete without the appropriate soles. For exotic skin shoes, there are actually multiple options when it comes to the material for the soles. Here are the two most popular choices: 

  • Leather Soles. These soles offer the advantage of being more comfortable and breathable. They also exude a classier and more rugged look because of the cattle leather used. However, the main trade off is that leather soles are less rigid and tough, requiring you to have them replaced every so often. 
  • Rubber Soles. More modern and widely-available, rubber soles are the go-to of most exotic skin shoe manufacturers. After all, they are relatively cheaper to make, and they last longer than their leather counterparts. Moreover, rubber can be colored in various ways to match the blending and patterns of particular animal skin. 

Which Shoes Should You Choose?

Exotic skin shoes for men are indeed a must-have item in your wardrobe. They are unique and they say something about your personality. While it may not be advisable to wear them every day, you can always find occasions where you can flaunt this classy footwear. 

Now that you know the different types of animal skin shoes and their ideal characteristics, the next step is to buy them. You have countless options to choose from. The important thing to remember is to make sure that you balance comfort and style.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs):

What are the most common types of animal leather used for exotic skin shoes?

There are many types of animal leather used for making exotic skin shoes, such as crocodile, buffalo, alligator, snake, ostrich, kangaroo, lizard, elephant, and more. Each of them has various features and undergoes different procedures to achieve its final look. For instance, although some skins can survive in harsh settings, others require subtle and delicate care.

Is it ethical to wear exotic skin shoes?

As long as these exotic skin shoes are legal at the time of purchase, it isn’t unethical to wear them. For instance, the production of elephant leather is considered legal; meaning it undergoes a regulated procedure compared to illegal elephant tusk poaching.

What clothes should I wear with exotic skin shoes?

Exotic skin shoes can be worn on special occasions and events, such as dates, nights out, weddings, etc. Hence, a well-fitted suit works best with exotic dress shoes as this makes you look stylish, wealthy and successful. The shoe color should perfectly match your belt as well. Another best outfit to sport with exotic skin shoes is jeans with a blazer and a shirt underneath, which is something you can wear on just about any occasion.

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