Exotic Leather Shoes

About Vintage Exotics

Exotics, Just so many choices...

I have to say, I LOOOOOVE Vintage Exotic Skin Shoes! Not so many years ago I did not even know so many wonderful exotic skin shoes even existed. I had always been a "calf man" when it came to shoes and thought Exotics were reserved for cowboy boots and western wear. Boy, was I wrong! On this page, I will take you through my personal introduction and journey through the wonderful world of Exotic Leather Shoes.

Introduction to Exotic Leather Shoes

Let's start where I started! Not many years ago my Father called me on the telephone and asked, "do you think you could help my friend sell some cowboy boots on Ebay?" Up until then I had purchased a few items on Ebay (albeit mostly office equipment for my company), so I figured it couldn't be so difficult and said, "Sure, I'll give it a try". A couple of weeks later a package arrived at my office, and when I opened it up...

Well, to say that my eyes nearly popped out of my head is NO exaggeration. I was literally blown away. I had never seen exotic leather footwear of any sort before, and these Lucchese Classics Handmades were the perfect introduction. Each tile of the alligator skin was unique, there was a HUGE range of natural colors, something like this can only occur thru the wonders of Nature... no way to make something like this artificially. As I rummaged through the rest of the box my Father had sent me, I was introduced to something new and fabulous over and over again...


Sadly I am not really a "Cowboot Boot Guy", so these particular pairs weren't my personal style, but I was HOOKED (Addicted is probably more accurate). The search was on. My goal was to explore the wonderful world of exotic skin footwear... and get some for my feet!

Vintage Kangaroo Skin Shoes

I could easily start this with, "In the beginning..." because Kangaroo Skin has been used to make shoes for a looooong time. Lightweight and very durable (IE: resistant to drying out over even many decades), shoemakers loved this hide, and because of this durability, many examples survive today from the earliest shoemaking examples. It is very interesting to note that Kangaroo is generally much more resistant to drying out than calfskin. While a large percentage of the calfskin shoes I have seen from the 1920's and 1930's now suffer from major dryness issues (IE: cracking leather), comparable shoes in Kangaroo are often pristine.

Also note the very fine grain of the leather and the natural creasing. While Kangaroo Skin DOES crease, those creases almost never lead to cracks all the way thru the leather. A well-worn pair of Kangaroo Leather Shoes develops a LOT of fantastic character and patina (natural color-changing of the leather thru age and contact with sunlight).

1920's Regal Paddock Boots:


1920's Kangaroo Captoe Derby by Connolly:


1930's Kangaroo Oxford Captoe by Edwin Clapp


Buffalo, Bison & Ranch Oxhide

The first pair of genuine Exotic Leather shoes I ever owned came in this category. At first glance the leather looked like just another example of stamped calfskin (calfskin is pressed in a machine in order to create the famous "pebble grain" and similar texture in the leather). The fact that the grain was irregular was a nice bonus, but I was not overly impressed. UNTIL I held them under direct light!

It seems that all Exotic skins have that same fabulous "depth" to them. A seemingly endless number of colors create a visual delight. Again, I was (and remain to be) truly impressed with Mother Nature's wonderful creations.

1950's Florsheim Buffalo Skin Derby Wingtips


1960's Buffalo Skin Wingtip Derby by Nunn Bush


1960's Church's English Ranch Oxhide Oxford Wingtips


Please note that the term "Buffalo" is technically incorrect. Although enjoying a resurgence in recent years, the American Buffalo was at the edge of extinction for some time (due to over-hunting & human encroachment on their natural habitat). Most of what we refer to as "Buffalo Skin" was actually "Water Bison". The Bison is a cousin of the Buffalo, and their hides are quite similar. Some shoemakers honestly called their leather "Water Bison" and others "Buffalo", but for our purposes here, we will just call them all "Buffalo". This same concept holds true for "Ranch Oxhide". Some Vintage English shoe companies used Ox Skin to get a very similar effect to what the Americans were achieving with Water Bison (most notably Church's, which got heavily involved in the Exotic Leather Shoe craze and made some great shoes of any leather). Again, for our purposes, we will refer to all these similar leathers as "Buffalo".

Vintage Shark Skin (Sharkskin) Shoes

-Tiger Shark Skin (Sharkskin) Shoes

Most of what we find in regards to Vintage Sharkskin Shoes is Tiger Shark Skin. This is definitely a "Hardcore" Exotic Hide. The ridges are very deep and irregular. For this reason, Shark Skin was used mainly for Gunboats (thick soled "monster" shoes) and Country shoes (more rustic styled and rugged... for a countryside journey if you will). This may well be the most durable of all the Exotic Shoe Leathers. Bend it, crease it, bang it, even let it get near soaking wet (remember, sharks LIVE underwater, so it shouldn't be too surprising their skin is pretty much waterproof). This stuff is TOUGH. Even after handling dozens of pairs of Vintage Sharkskin Shoes, I have never come across a pair with a true "crack or tear" in the leather.

Allen Edmonds Tiger Sharkskin Wingtips


Knapp Tiger Shark Skin Norwegian Derby


Allen Edmonds Sharkskin & Calf Spectator Saddles


-Smooth Shark Skin (Sharkskin) Shoes

Although MOST of the Vintage Shark Skin shoes were made of Tiger Shark, there were a few made out of a "Smooth Shark" hide. In all honesty, I do not know exactly which species of shark these come from. In fact, it may well be endangered today because I never see this leather in modern shoes, even when I look at the offerings of top bespoke (custom) shoemakers (another passion of mine). However, these photos clearly show that there was a more elegant Shark Skin Shoe option during the Vintage Shoe days. The wholecut (one piece of leather used for the entire shoe) requires the shoemaker to marry a perfect piece of leather to an otherwise very plain shoe style (no broguing or cut pieces of leather of any kind are used) in order to make a great shoe. In my opinion, Smooth Shark is one of the leathers that can make it happen!

Allen Edmonds Smooth Sharkskin Wholecuts


Vintage Seal Skin (Sealskin) Shoes

Sealskin is a controversial leather to say the least. The hunting of seals was (and still is) a very brutal business, and personally I am not interested in ever owning a modern pair of Seal Skin shoes. However, I do marvel at the beauty of the shoes made with this leather many decades ago. It was never very popular (and always quite expensive for the hides) or widely used... the few pairs I have handled were from the 1930's thru the early 1950's. "Rare" is an accurate word to describe the experience of finding a pair, but with the expense and relative rarity of the skins, when you do come across a pair, you are probably looking at a shoemaker's Top-Level-Workmanship.

1940's Sealskin & Calf Spectators by Edwin Clapp


Custom Made Sealskin Oxfords made in Switzerland
FOR SALE! Click Here!


Omega of Australia Seal Skin Wingtip Derbies


Church's "Fighting Seal" Sealskin Loafers


Vintage Elephant Skin Shoes

MORE ON ELEPHANT SKIN SHOES COMING SOON! For now, please just enjoy the pictures.

Elephant Skin Chukka Boots by Church's of England


Elephant Skin Longwing Wingtip Derby by Hanover


Vintage Camel Skin Shoes

MORE ON CAMEL SKIN SHOES COMING SOON! For now, please just enjoy the pictures.

Camel Skin Wingtip Derby By Dack's


Camel Skin Apron Toe Derby by Hartt



*For Questions, Comments, or to put me to WORK finding YOU the prefect pair of Vintage Shoes for YOUR feet, CONTACT ME!

*I also am interested in purchasing YOUR Vintage Shoes, so if you have anything wonderful, Please let me know!

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