Cowboy boots have become a prominent part of the shoe industry. They are available in a variety of colors, with fancy designs. Traditionally made from cowhide leathers, cowboy boots now include: snakeskin boots, alligator/crocodile skin boots, sharkskin boots, kangaroo boots, elephant boots, stingray boots, elk boots, and ostrich boots among others.
Read on to learn about the characteristics of some animal skins used in the fashion industry.
Elephant leather is extremely durable. Its long fiber structure beneath the grain allows it to resist cracking and tearing. This exotic leather has a thick, durable, coarse, rippled texture. The open fibers create a somewhat soft and breathable leather. Although liquid can enter the leather easily, the 3-5 ounce thickness will allow for adequate dispersal of perspiration. Elephant leather has ample grain, texture and durability. It is also surprisingly comfortable to wear.
Leather made from the ostrich is the finest and most durable when compared with other leathers. It is luxurious, supple, soft and thick, highlighting a striking goose bump look from the big feather quill follicles. Although this luxurious leather is soft, it has an unrivalled tactile strength, which makes it one of the sturdiest leather available.
The leather’s durability is due to the natural occurring oils, which prevents cracking when exposed to extreme temperatures and the sun. Even when cut into thin layers, ostrich leather will maintain its durability after using it to make lighter weight clothes. Although very soft, ostrich leather will not stretch much.
The leather’s main distinctive feature is the quill. There is a high demand for the leather’s “full quill” and it’s the most expensive of all ostrich leather. The “smooth ostrich” or “half quill or “semi quill” has a smaller number of the quill pattern but is less valued and less expensive. The quill pattern comes from the big follicles, which contains a feather each. The distinctive large quill pattern is due to the large features, which grow on the bird’s back. The feathers removed from the quill leave an actual hole in the skin. See more information.
When compared to cowhide, kangaroo leather is flexible, strong and lightweight, and is highly resistant to abrasions. Compared to other highland boots, boots made from kangaroo leather have the best weight/strength ratio. The Australian kangaroo leather is not only lighter but also tougher than cowhide of the same thickness. Kangaroo leather is lightweight and thin and is noted as the toughest of all types of leather. Interestingly, when compared with calfskin, this leather is highly resistant to drying out. It is lighter and stronger than goat hide or cowhide. In fact, kangaroo leather has ten times the workable strength of cowhide and is 50 percent stronger than goatskin.
Manufacturers state that kangaroo leather makes the best boots ever. Averaging about 2 inches in thickness, kangaroo skins are extremely supple, flex freely but the concentrated, fine and tight fiber structure does not encourage much stretching. Kangaroo leather contains few oils so they are usually dry. There are minor color variations on the finished hides and there is no distinctive grain due to the glazed and plated skin. Most kangaroos have scars. If you want to find boots made from genuine kangaroo leather, look for the scars!
ALLIGATOR / CROCODILE
The skin of the crocodile and alligator present an eye-catching and stylish leather. The leather is tough, supple, and very expensive. The skin has a bony layer, which acts as a shield, while the dimples on the scales create an exotic appearance. The skin of the alligator and crocodile offer minimal stretching. The hard scales, with the bony material on the exterior will neither stretch nor flex. Most of the flex happens between the scales and most stretch occurs on the membrane
A skeletal layer in the skin acts as a safeguard, while dimples on the scales create an exotic look. The skin of the alligator and crocodile will stretch slightly. The scales are hard, some have a bony material on the back of them, and will not stretch nor flex. Most of the flex takes place between the scales and most of the stretch on the undermost membrane.
AMERICAN ALLIGATOR: Found in Southeastern USA, this alligator is reaped from farm-bred gators and the wild gators. The skin of the American alligator is a typical, versatile and durable leather but soft and pliable as well. When compared to the crocodile, the alligator’s skin is less bony. This softness makes it easier to cut, stitch and fold than that of other reptiles.
CAIMAN CROCODILE: This crocodile comes from South and Central America and its skin is harvested only from farms. Although related to the American alligator, the skin of both reptiles is entirely different. Caiman crocodiles have stiffer skins due to the characteristic calcium pins in the middle of each scale. The patterned scales result from the calcium deposit, which is not evident in alligator skins. This distinctive design will still be obvious even after dyeing. Check this URL for more on cowboy boots.
Produced from the skin of commercially farmed, venomous snakes, this leather is soft, thin, delicate and flexible with small hexagon scales creating fashionable detailed grains. The color pattern, unique grain, and scales make snakeskin leather a desirable option for boots.
Skinning is done in two ways:
- “Belly” or “front” cut python; cut down the belly and leave the small scales in the middle.
- “Back” cut python; cut down the back and leave the broad belly scales in the middle.
How do you know if the snakeskin is genuine? There is a “lip”, which opens near to the tail. This helps the snake to crawl. This lip is proof that the snakeskin is the real thing.