When you make a high-end piece of fashion wear, odds are you want to make sure that whoever buys that item takes proper care of it so that it will last for as long as possible. Keeping fashion wear looking nice keeps clients happy.
Of course, once the client has bought their custom-made crocodile skin boots, your control over how the product is taken care of is over. However, before the client leaves with their fashionable new footwear, there are a few general tips you can share with them so that they can get the most useful life out of their crocodile hide products.
Please note that this list consists mostly of general advice, and that some leather finishes might require extra care steps:
When not in use, crocodile leather items such as boots or shoes should be kept in a cool, dry environment. One example of an appropriate place to store crocodile leather boots would be in a shoe closet.
For larger crocodile leather pieces, such as jackets, avoid folding them tightly. Crocodile skin, particularly caiman skin, has calcium deposits in it that makes the skin more rigid. Folding the skin too tightly at points that were not meant to be folded can cause damage, resulting in unsightly cracks or crease marks.
Ideally, instead of trying to fold leather items and putting them in a small dresser drawer, they should be hung on a coat hanger. Crocodile leather belts should also be hung by their belt buckles to avoid causing cracks in the leather.
First and foremost, you should always avoid getting leather excessively wet. While many may assume that their crocodile leather repels water rather than absorbing it, too much moisture can actually cause damage to the finish of the leather. So, if your crocodile leather wear gets wet, it is important to clean off the excess moisture promptly.
To remove excess moisture, gently rub the affected area of the crocodile leather product with a soft, dry towel or cleaning cloth to soak up the majority of the excess moisture. Once that is done, hang-dry the item to finish removing excess moisture. It is important to avoid using direct sunlight or any other direct heat source when drying the leather, as that may cause damage to the finish and result in discoloration or cracks.
After the leather is dry, apply leather conditioner formulated for your crocodile leather to help protect the finish and keep it looking new. When applying the crocodile leather conditioner, be sure to follow the application instructions on the conditioner’s packaging.
Leather conditioner for crocodile hide should be easy to find at any exotic leather goods retailer. However, if you are having difficulty finding the right crocodile leather conditioner for treating the specific finish of your crocodile skin, contacting the manufacturer can prove helpful for finding the right crocodile leather care products.
For removing dirt, dust, and other contaminants, the process from above remains largely the same, possibly minus the time spent drying the leather. First, remove the contaminant with a dry cloth. For fine particulates such as sand, using a slightly damp cloth to remove the dirt can make the initial cleaning process easier, but the leather will need to be dried and treated with conditioner afterward to reduce the risk of damage to the finish.
Whenever trying a new leather care product on a crocodile leather item (or any other exotic leather item), first test it on an inconspicuous part of the item first to see if it affects the finish adversely. For example, the inside sleeve or cuff of a jacket. This way, if the new product does cause some discoloration, it won’t be in a place where everyone can see it right away.
With proper care, crocodile skin products should remain beautiful and ready for use for years to come. Sharing general care tips such as these, and tips that are more specific to the crocodile leather products you make, can help prolong the useful life of exotic leather goods and keep the clients who purchase your goods satisfied and coming back for more.
In recent posts, we’ve discussed the use of the crocodilian skins in the manufacture of high-fashion footwear. So far, we’ve covered tips for both caiman crocodile skin and American alligator skin, respectively the lowest and highest end crocodilian hides that are commonly used.
In between these two extremes lies another type of crocodile skin, one that isn’t quite as expensive as American alligator, but is more flexible and of a generally higher quality than caiman skin: Nile crocodile skin.
About Nile Crocodile Hides
Although it is considered the “middle of the road” option between caiman skin and American alligator hide, Nile crocodile skin is a high-end material that is perfect for a number of applications in the fashion industry, including footwear.
Many people, when they think of crocodile leather footwear, their first thought is of cowboy-style boots. While Nile croc hides are certainly useful for boots, their improved flexibility over caiman hides means that they can be useful for other types of footwear as well.
For example, you could use crocodile hide to make athletic footwear, sneakers, or even dress shoes with the right type of finish.
Tips for Buying Nile Crocodile Skins
When buying Nile crocodile hides, keep in mind that the measurement standard for these skins is to measure the center portion of the innermost bones on both sides of the widest point of the crocodile’s belly. Because of this, a 25 to 29 cm size skin is best for smaller pieces of footwear, and a 30 to 34 cm size skin should be used for larger footwear.
As with any crocodilian skin, when planning to make footwear out of Nile crocodile hide, you should plan around making multiple pairs of footwear. One reason for this is that if you were to try to make a single pair of shoes or boots from a single crocodile hide, you would end up using belly or back skin for one part of the pair, and tail skin for the other. This would create an uneven look for that pair of boots or shoes.
Instead, buy skins in pairs so that you can use two bellies or backs for one pair, and two tails for the other. Even if your original plan was only to produce one pair of footwear for a test or demonstration, get two skins so that your final product can have an even look.
For most footwear applications, you don’t need to purchase flawless, grade 1 skins. Instead, you can use grade 2 Nile croc skins if the defects are located in places where they won’t be an issue, such as the top or bottom of the belly or tail. Defects in these areas can be worked around or even trimmed off, so you may be able to save some money by acquiring less expensive, lower-grade skin.
When making your purchase, keeping the unique advantages of the three different kinds of exotic skin sellers can be beneficial:
Tanneries- For large, custom orders, tanneries are almost unbeatable. By ordering direct from a tannery, you have the freedom to choose almost any color and finish combination that the hide can take. However, tannery orders take considerable time to process, and on smaller orders, the initial setup costs can lead to a high surcharge.
Distributors- When making a small order of commonly-available colors for a short-notice order, distributors are your go-to resource for hides. Since they already have the hides in stock, you typically only have to wait for shipping. However, in order to make money, distributors have to charge a markup, which can quickly outpace tannery setup surcharges on large orders.
Manufacturers- Here’s the option that is best for when you don’t want to worry about having to manage the actual production of your footwear. Using the services of a manufacturer not only leaves you free to concentrate on other things, it can help you regulate your expenses by giving you a single invoice to pay as opposed to overseeing labor costs, production facility leasing, and other associated bills yourself. Just take care to make sure that the manufacturer is only ordering skins that they need to complete your order and not wasting your money.
Working with Nile Crocodile Hide
Generally speaking, Nile crocodile hide is easier to work with than caiman hide, but not quite as supple as American alligator hide. With some calcium in the Nile croc hide, however, it can be beneficial to take extra precautions when crafting with Nile hide, such as preparing sewing lines with a dremel or other tool to thin out the skin and make it easier to sew so as not to place too much stress on your sewing equipment.
As mentioned earlier, using two sets of skins to make two pairs of footwear can be beneficial, as it allows you to have matching scale patterns on each individual pair.
When planning for a particular footwear piece, consider the finish of the skin you’ll be using. For cowboy boots and dress shoes, finish processes that leave the hide stiff are great. For sneakers, athletic shoes, and other “everyday” wear items, the skin should be processed using a finish that leaves the hide softer and more flexible. This is one reason why it may be best to order from a tannery, as you can ask the tannery for specific finishes and get advice on what finishes would be best for your footwear application.
Nile crocodile hide is a luxurious, bold material that is perfect for many different types of footwear. Check out our selection of crocodile hides today!
The footwear manufacturing industry continues to be an economic powerhouse, even through the events of the recent depression. According to the statistics site Statisticbrain.com, the annual revenue of the footwear industry as a whole (including suppliers of the material to make footwear) topped $48 billion, with U.S. consumers spending $20 billion.
Of the revenue recorded on the Statistic Brain site, 13% of the market share for footwear was directly tied to women’s dress shoes, 6% was attributed to men’s dress shoes, and fully 25% of the market share was listed as “other styles.” That means, according to these percentages, U.S. consumers spent $2.6 billion on women’s dress shoes, $1.2 billion on men’s dress shoes, and $5 billion on specialty footwear that did not fit into the other categories of casual or athletic footwear.
Leather footwear products are a significant part of that multi-billion dollar industry. Within the leather footwear industry, however, there are traditional cowhide leather items, which can go for $200 a pair, and then there are items made from exotic leather, which can go for thousands of dollars per pair.
Crocodilian skins remain one of the most popular alternatives to plain cow hide when it comes to making high-fashion footwear. While there are 23 distinct species of crocodile, there are three which are most often used for their skins: the American alligator, the Nile crocodile, and the caiman crocodile.
Today, we’ll talk about how to make footwear from caiman skins.
Acquiring Caiman Leather for Footwear
For fashion designers who want to have an authentic, exotic material with a look that will be markedly different from standard leather, but don’t want to spend too much on acquiring a more expensive crocodile hide, caiman skin is the way to go.
With caiman skin, ordering from distributors is usually a very simple process, as many distributors who carry caiman skin will have a wide variety of colors and finishes in stock at any given time. Caiman skin is more often stocked in colors than alligator skin and Nile crocodile skin because it costs a lot less.
When making an order for caiman skin, keep in mind that the hide’s measurements will be based on the outer edges at the widest point of the belly. Because of this, when you order caiman skins, the ideal size for a caiman skin to be used in smaller shoes and boots would be 30 to 34 cm, while larger shoe sizes typically require skins that measure 35+ cm. You usually don’t have to spring for grade I skins for shoes as long as the defects on the grade II skins are at the top, bottom or outer edges of the belly. The key is that the defects are not on the panel of the skin where you will cut your vamp.
Whenever you’re planning to make footwear from caiman skin, make sure to order at least two skins to make two pairs of footwear. You’ll want to avoid ordering a single skin because if you do that, then you’ll have to use the belly for one shoe or boot and the tail for the other. Because the scale patterns are different on the belly and the tail, the left and right pieces of the pair would not match properly. By using two skins, you can make two pairs, one from the bellies and one from the tails.
For smaller orders, you are better off buying from the stock of a distributor. If you’re planning to make a large custom order that is not stocked, try to buy directly from a tannery. It should cost less than buying from a distributor and it helps to communicate directly with the tannery so nothing is lost in translation via middleman.
Working with Caiman Leather for Footwear
Now that you know a few tricks to acquiring caiman leather footwear, how about a few tips for working with these skins.
The number one piece of advice for working with caiman skin is to keep in mind that it is very bony when compared to the other crocodilian skins. This boniness makes caiman skin more difficult to work with than Nile crocodile or American alligator skin, which is a part of the reason why it is less expensive.
However, this very boniness makes for a tougher, more rigid toe and heel than the other skins, which can be an advantage.
When preparing to sew a caiman skin onto a shoe or boot sole, prepare a sewing line using a dremel or other tool to thin out the bony parts of the hide where you’ll be sewing. This will save your sewing machine’s needles a lot of wear and tear that would otherwise ruin them.
Because of its rigidity, caiman leather is much more prone to showing creases than alligator skin or Nile crocodile hide. If you’re worried about the rigidity of caiman skin in your footwear product, consider using strips of other materials for parts of the shoe or boot that are meant to flex. Alternatively, using special leather chemical treatments on the final product and leaving detailed care instructions can help end users keep their leather footwear looking like new for longer.
If you’re looking for a reasonably-priced exotic skin and aren’t afraid of a little extra work getting it made, caiman skin can be a great material for your next high-fashion footwear project. For more tips and tricks to acquiring and making items from this and other exotic leathers, contact Pan American Leathers today!
Things are heating up in the exotic leather industry, especially where handbags are concerned. In recent years, top-end fashion houses have been working to acquire crocodile farms and tanneries that specialize in the production of crocodile leathers.
Why are Fashion Houses Buying up Crocodile Skin Production?
The short answer is because demand for handbags and other accessories made from exotic hides is up.
In fact, according to a Bloomberg.com article, “Exotic animal skins make up almost 10 percent of total revenue from handbag sales for luxury brands, at least double their share a few years ago.” In 2012, the luxury accessories market (handbags, etc.) was worth an estimated $77 billion. With crocodile handbags selling for dozens of times as much as simple cow leather products, it is little wonder that the big fashion houses want to gain control of crocodile skin production for themselves to ensure a steady supply.
Take into account the fact that many top-of-the-line fashion houses have a waiting list for their exotic leather products that is several years long, and the potential value of crocodile handbag sales could be even higher than originally estimated.
Even used, these handbags can go for tens or even hundreds of thousands of dollars.
What’s the Difficulty in Getting the Skins Needed?
The top luxury fashion houses have reputations to maintain. With products such as handbags, large panels of skin have to be used to ensure a top-quality appearance. This means using the skin of more mature animals, as younger crocs may not be large enough to use for handbags.
However, this presents another problem, as these large skins also need to be in pristine (Grade I) condition in order to be useful for handbags. What makes getting large Grade I skins difficult is the fact that crocodiles are aggressive animals. In the wild, finding an adult crocodile with no scratches or scars in its hide would be nothing short of a miracle, so the primary source for these animals is from special crocodile farms.
Even in a crocodile farm, producing a large, pristine hide can be very difficult. Crocodiles need to be kept separated from one another to prevent fights that could cause damage to their skins, and crocodiles have to be placed on a strict feeding routine to ensure that their skin is top-quality. Pools require frequent cleaning and maintenance to prevent infections and disease from causing harm to the animals. As Stefan van As says in his interview with Bloomberg, “one cannot expect to harvest a first-grade skin from an animal which has been abused.”
It can take several years to raise a crocodile from an egg to a full adult. This is a hefty investment and can yield a poor return for the farmers if the skins can’t be sold in top condition. For many would-be farmers, the costs and challenges of raising the animals for several years may not be equal to the reward of the final sale. This leads to fewer farmers producing crocodile hides, making finding a reliable source of skins more difficult.
Buyers of high-end fashion products demand nothing less than the best, so the fashion houses themselves will only take the best quality hides from farms. This makes getting the skins needed to produce high-fashion items even more difficult.
Between the inherent danger of raising a crocodile, the difficulty in keeping the animals from fighting each other, and all of the special care involving water, food, diet, and general health , it is easy to see why finding a pristine, grade I crocodile skin is as rare and difficult as finding a flawless diamond.
Providing Top Quality
The top fashion houses only accept the best quality, and Pan American Leathers has been serving the needs of major fashion houses for decades. However, we have maintained our independence, allowing us to provide the same top-quality hides that fashion houses demand to everyone because we aren’t owned by any fashion house.
Learn how you can get your own top-quality exotic leather today!
When working with any of the crocodilian leathers (e.g., American alligator skin, caiman skin, Nile crocodile skin, etc.), it is important to know how to work each skin in order to get the best results.
We’ve talked about the unique characteristics of each of the crocodilian leathers before, but today we’ll share a few tips about designing and making boots out of these exotic leathers:
Tip #1: Selecting Your Material
Naturally, before you can begin to craft a top-quality leather boot or shoe, you need to pick the right material for the job first. Consider the following when choosing a crocodilian skin for your project:
- Budget. Caiman skin is the most budget friendly option, and may be easier to afford when you’re planning to release a large line of footwear or a custom job. Nile crocodile leather is the midrange option in terms of price, being a little less expensive than alligator skin.
- Flexibility. Caiman hide is bony, rigid, and less flexible. Nile crocodile hide is a bit softer, but American alligator hide is the most supple and flexible material.
- Ease of Care/Durability. While caiman skin is the least expensive material, its general inflexibility causes it to be more susceptible to showing stretch marks and crease lines than the other two materials. Alligator and Nile crocodile skin, being more flexible, will withstand bending more easily, making footwear crafted from such material a bit easier to maintain without causing crease marks. Purveyors of high-fashion goods often appreciate ease of care.
- Grade of the Skin. With footwear items, you may be able to get away with Grade II skins, assuming the defects are near the top of the tail or otherwise in an out of the way spot that won’t be on display in the final product. You may even be able to get away with grade 3 skins if your footwear is made from several small panels as opposed to larger ones.
- Color. For any designer, color is one of the basic elements of a complete design. However, there are unique challenges for getting the color right for each of the crocodilian hides. For example, the bony hide of the caiman is the most difficult to dye, but is frequently stocked by suppliers in a variety of colors. Meanwhile, American alligator skin colors up very evenly, but it can be difficult to find finished hides stocked in the exact color you want because of how expensive they are. It may require custom work if you aren’t looking for a basic color.
These are just a few of the primary concerns that you have to consider when choosing which exotic leather to use for footwear. Once you know which of these exotic leathers you want for your project, it’s time to acquire it…
Tip #2: Buying the Material
When purchasing any exotic leather for any project, there are generally three sources that you can go to:
- Tanneries. Basically, this is the straight from the manufacturer option. Purchasing from a tannery gives you the greatest amount of options for color, finish, and grade of the skin. The caveat is that with a tannery, you are better off purchasing in bulk, because a tannery will have some basic setup costs that they incur whether they tan a single hide or 100 hides for you, which will often show up as a surcharge on your bill. If you’re only ordering one or two hides, you may wish to consider a different buying option.
- Distributors. Instead of buying from a tannery, you can order a skin from the distributor. The advantage here is that distributors keep a variety of skins in stock for immediate purchase. This provides a time advantage over tanneries, who prepare skins to order (which can cause long delays). However, distributors do charge a markup to cover their costs, and they may not have the exact color or finish of skin you want in stock. For small orders, the distributor markup is often less than the surcharge a tannery may have for operational costs.
- Manufacturers. This is the option that designers who want to simplify their logistics as much as possible will often choose. Instead of ordering skins and turning them into products, you can place an order with a manufacturer who can handle everything for you. This does tend to be a more expensive option than the other two, as the manufacturer may have a markup on top of the charges for the basic order. However, this is a great way to make the total production costs of your crocodile footwear highly predictable.
For large custom-manufactured orders, tanneries are usually your best bet. For a small order, such as a trial run of a new line of footwear, buying a small handful of skins from a distributor can be a great option. If you want to make production easier on yourself, ordering from a manufacturer is a good way to simplify the manufacturing process (just make sure they’re only buying the skins they need to complete your order).
One other important note for purchasing crocodilian leathers for footwear: always buy at least two skins. Otherwise, you’ll end up having to use belly/back skin for one boot, and tail skin for the other, creating a mismatched pair. By buying two skins, you can still make two pairs of boots, one from the belly/back skin, and one from the tails.
Tip #3: Working the Skins
With the bonier crocodilian hides (caiman and Nile crocodile), you can prevent unnecessary wear and tear on your sewing needles by thinning out a sewing line using a dremel or other tool. This can minimize the chances of a needle having to pass through a thick calcium deposit in the hide and bending or breaking upon it.
Also, when working with exotic leather, consider applying conditioning agents to the finished product to help repel dirt, dust, and other contaminants. This will help keep the boots looking like new when they’re on display.
Learn More from Pan American Leathers
Of course, these are just a few things that you may want to think about when you’re preparing to make exotic leather footwear. For more information, tips and advice, contact Pan American Leathers directly. We have years of experience in helping our customers handle the challenges of working with exotic leather, and the know-how to answer your questions.
Here at Pan American Leathers, when we talk about stingrays, it is usually about how durable and versatile their hides are as a material for making a wide variety of leather goods. As an exotic hide, stingray skin is tough, being resistant to moisture damage, puncturing and scuffing.
Today, however, we’re here to discuss a problem with the stingray population itself. Namely, how they’ve invaded the U.S. coastline in recent years, becoming a serious nuisance to beach-goers on both ends of the continental U.S.
Last year around August, more than 40 beach-goers in the state of California were harmed by toxic stingrays. Meanwhile, another school of rays encroached on the coast of Alabama, causing coastal authorities to fly purple warning flags up and down the coastline. According to an article featured on the Epoch Times, there were more than 20 complaints of close contact with the stingrays in Alabama alone.
What Drew the Rays?
According to experts cited by The Daily Mail, the large school of stingrays may have been attracted to the California coastline by “warm water temperatures and lots of organisms to feed on.” No reason for the stingray incursion into the USA’s eastern coast was given in the article, but it is likely that the combination of warm water and plentiful food was a factor there as well.
With August coming soon, it may be time to be on the lookout for another major stingray incursion, especially if the waters are as warm or warmer than they were last year. According to the National Oceanographic Data Center (NODC), the average temperature of the water along the Florida coast in the month of August last year was 88 °F, and as of July 1, the water temperature is 86 °F.
If the temperature of the water stays high, we may see another major stingray incursion before long.
What Can Be Done About This?
Typically, stingrays are not aggressive; they don’t go out of their way to chase and attack humans. Instead, they merely defend themselves when they feel threatened. Last year, the animals happened to be on the coast in such great numbers that people kept accidentally stepping on the rays, causing the rays to reflexively defend themselves using their toxic stings.
If the rays are present on the beach in such numbers again, the best way to avoid harm would be to use caution around the water. Instead of diving in blindly, it is advised that you shuffle your feet along the bottom of the water so as to warn stingrays of your presence and avoid surprising them.
Should you be stung, seek help right away. Even though a single ray sting is not normally fatal, the ray does inject its victims with a poison that can be very painful. Experts cited by The Daily Mail say that dousing the affected area in hot water “helps break up the protein toxin injected by the stingray.” If you see wildlife warning flags indicating the presence of stingrays, make a note of where the lifeguards and any medical facilities are located.
For most people, the above represents all that can be done about stingray-infested beaches. More active forms of stingray population control, such as allowing fishermen to harvest the animals for meat and hides, are a matter for the legislative body to consider.
However, if the fishing of stingrays were to be allowed as a way to control the risk of harm to American beach-goers and vacationers up and down the coast, it would benefit more than just those who want to enjoy a good swim.
In Southeast Asia, fishermen have harvested stingrays for centuries. The meat of these animals has been a key source of food for people living on the coast of Asia, and the skins are sold to tanneries to turn into high-value exotic leather goods. If such harvesting were to be used here, it could prove to be a boon to local businesses along the coastline.
Stingray skin, as we mentioned earlier, is a very durable and useful material. Water, fire, puncture and even abrasion-resistant, the skin of a stingray is very tough, making it ideally suited for use in items that are expected to survive hardship, such as motorcycle saddlebags and luggage cases.
For years, alligator products have been a cornerstone of the high fashion industry. Stores in areas such as California’s Beverly Hills are touted as featuring some of America’s most comprehensive luxury and high-fashion offerings.
So, when lawmakers were presented with a choice to either pass or reject a bill that would allow stores in the Golden State to continue selling products made of alligator skins, it was kind of a big deal.
The History of the Bill
You might be wondering why it would be necessary to pass a bill to allow stores to continue selling a product they’ve carried for years. The reason is because in 1967, the American alligator was considered to be “at risk” of going extinct, so laws were passed to protect these creatures so that they would not die out. One provision of these laws in California was that endangered animals and products derived from them could not be imported or distributed within the state.
Over time, however, conservation efforts proved to be wildly successful and the American alligator went from having a population that was estimated to be only a few thousand to having a population in the millions. In 1987, twenty years after being listed as an endangered animal, the American alligator was removed from the endangered species list. Now, this animal is listed as being a “least concern” species when it comes to extinction risk.
Despite the recovery of the alligator as a species, many of the protection laws that prohibited the sale of alligator skins remained in place in California. To allow retailers in that state to sell these high-value products, a bill had to be passed in order to provide an exemption for alligators.
However, each bill that has been passed has taken the form of a temporary exemption rather than a repeal of the older law. For this reason, it is necessary for lawmakers in California to periodically assess the state of the alligator population and pass a new exemption.
The exemption for alligators was previously renewed in 2010, for a period of five years.
A Victory for the Industry
With the exemption set to expire at the end of the year, it was time for the Assembly Water, Parks and Wildlife Committee to debate whether or not to renew the bill.
If the bill failed to pass, stores would have to cease and desist the sale of any product that contained the least piece of alligator byproduct. The sheer loss of capital invested in the acquisition of these products alone would be a severe blow to the industry, and the state would lose a lot of its high-fashion business to other states which had repealed the laws decades ago when it became apparent that the alligator population made a comeback.
According to a Los Angeles Times article covering the events surrounding the bill, the testimony of alligator population experts from Louisiana proved to be especially impactful on the committee’s decision. In his testimony before the committee, Don Ashley, a consultant to the Louisiana Alligator Advisory Council, stated that “There are alligators everywhere, on golf courses and in people’s pools” in the state of Louisiana.
With the testimony and documentation provided by the alligator experts present at the committee hearing, and with the financial well-being of the state’s booming fashion industry at stake, the committee passed the bill unanimously, allowing retailers to keep selling their alligator-based products until 2020.
The decision to continue the sale of alligator based products is a victory for the fashion industry and for the exotic leather trade. It allows for the properly regulated, legal trade of alligator products and keeps high-fashion stores in business.
To learn more about exotic leathers, or to order your own alligator hides, contact us today! Pan American Leathers is here to help you with your questions and concerns.
When it comes to making footwear out of exotic leathers such as crocodile skin, you want to make sure that whatever you make is as perfect as possible. From the size and shape of the shoe to the coloration of the scales, everything has to be just so for your final product to meet your vision.
In all, there are 23 different species of crocodile. However, less than half of these species are used commercially for their skins. Currently, three of the most popular crocodile skins are the caiman crocodile, Nile crocodile, and the American alligator.
Each of these three skins differs from the others in terms of cost, softness, coloration, available sizes and even country of origin. It is these factors that should ultimately determine which type of skin you order.
That being said, here are some quick details about each of the three crocodile hides:
Of the three most popular crocodile skins, the caiman is the least expensive by far. This relative cost can be attributed to the fact that caiman skin is the boniest of the three, making it more difficult and time-consuming to work with than Nile crocodile or American alligator skin. Because the hide of the caiman is bony, the scales retain some calcium markings and are firmer than the scales of the other crocodilian species.
For the most part, caiman skins are measured between the outer edges at the widest point of the belly. For smaller size shoes or boots, a skin that is between 30 and 34 centimeters wide is fine. However, for larger sizes, you will probably need a skin of more than 35 cm.
Tanneries and distributors typically have somewhere between 10 to 20 different colors of caiman skin available.
The Nile Crocodile
Nile crocodile hides are the median option on this list when it comes to price. On average, Nile crocodile skin for footwear will cost three times as much as a comparable caiman hide, but will still be approximately 15 percent less expensive than a similar alligator hide.
Overall, the skin of a Nile crocodile is much less bony than the skin of a caiman, making it easier to work with. Where the caiman’s hide is measured only at the widest point of the belly, a Nile crocodile skin is measured between the center portion of the innermost bones on each side of the widest point of the belly. Given this measurement method, the best size of skin to use is roughly 25 to 29 cm for small shoes and boots, and 30 to 34 cm for larger pieces of footwear.
Being more expensive to acquire than caiman, Nile hides are usually stocked in fewer colors by tanneries and distributors. At best, you’ll find 5-10 colors of these hides in stock at any given time.
The American Alligator
The hide of the American alligator is one of the most prized exotic leathers there is. As such, it is the most expensive of the skins on this list. Unlike the caiman and the Nile crocodiles (which hail from Central America and Africa, respectively), the American alligator is an animal that is born and bred in the USA. Collected largely from specialized farms in the southern USA, alligator is a supple and luxurious material.
Of the three crocodilians, alligators have the least bony skin of all, making dyeing the hide and sewing it a breeze by comparison to the other two. This makes alligator hide ideal for a number of uses, including footwear.
Alligator hides are measured in the same way as Nile croc hides, between the center of the innermost bones on each side of the widest point of the belly. As such, the same sizes of alligator skin are used for footwear as the Nile croc skins.
Being the most expensive skin, alligator is also one of the hardest skins to keep in stock. The investment required to stock alligator skin prevents most distributors from stocking more than one or two colors at a time. If you want a particular color/finish, you may need to go straight to a tannery with a production order.
Quick Tips for Making Footwear out of Any Crocodilian Hide:
If you are making shoes or any other paired item out of crocodile hides, be sure to order your hides in pairs. This is because if you order just one skin, you would end up using the belly of the animal for one shoe/boot and the tail for the other. These two parts of the animal have very different scale patterns, which would create an uneven look. To combat this problem, order two hides and create two pairs of shoes, one from the matching bellies and one from the matching tails.
Also, to save some money, you can utilize grade 2 skins if the defects are located towards the tops or bottoms of the bellies and tails of the hide. On any of these exotic materials, grade 2 skins are cheaper and easier to find.
If budget is a major issue, caiman skin might be your best bet. For value, Nile crocodile skin is your best bet. If money isn’t an issue, and you want the greatest luxury as well as the ability to say “made in America” all the way, American alligator skin will certainly turn heads.
Here at Pan American Leathers, when we talk about alligator harvesting, we’re usually concerned with the skins of the animal. While the meat of the American alligator has been a prized delicacy for years, especially among the inhabitants of the American South, the fat of these animals often goes to waste.
That may be about to change, however. In a recent article featured on Science Daily, researchers from the University of Louisiana at Lafayette have announced that the animal fat from chicken, pork, beef and even alligators can be converted to biodiesel fuel for use as a renewable fuel source, similar to the corn-based biodiesel currently in use.
What separates the new animal-fat biodiesel from previous forms of biodiesel?
For starters, researchers are suggesting that the new fuel production from animal fat would be more efficient and produce less solid waste than previous biofuel production methods.
What this Means for Alligator Harvesting
By finding a use for parts of the alligator that would otherwise go to waste, the practice of alligator harvesting becomes more efficient. Turning alligator fat (and the fat of other animals) into a viable alternative fuel source, scientists can create a truly renewable fuel source that will help to alleviate the woes of the energy sector.
If this research turns into a dedicated effort to gather spare animal fat for use as fuel, major biodiesel producing companies could turn into an extra source of income for alligator farmers, improving the profitability of gator farms on the whole. Such a circumstance would be a welcome boost for gator ranches.
Alligator farming is a complex and expensive task. With the added income from the biodiesel industry, alligator farms would have more capital to invest in improving their operations, providing larger enclosures for gators and better safety training and equipment for handlers.
Potential Benefits for the Fashion Industry
In the fashion industry, large, pristine alligator hides are hard to come by, which renders them very expensive. Part of the reason for this is that gators become more aggressive as they get older, which poses a challenge for humans and the other animals on the farm.
However, with larger enclosures and more incentive to raise these animals to full size, larger skins could become easier to acquire from farms.
Naturally, these are just preliminary observations, as the research is still ongoing. The larger impact of the use of alligator fat on the biofuel industry as a whole is impossible to predict until we actually start seeing how it’s used.
That being said, we look forward to seeing how research like this can reduce waste and improve the exotic leather industry as a whole.
When it comes to creating high-fashion items, it is often a struggle to find the right material to use in your project. Exotic leathers are a great way to differentiate your work from the work of others who might be imitating your designs, but which exotic leather should you use for your next project?
We’ve talked at length about the benefits of using reptilian leathers such alligator, caiman and python skin, but what about lizard skin? Surprisingly flexible and suited for a number of uses, Pan American Leathers’ lizard skins are a great material for many different items.
Before we continue, it is important to note that we actually supply TWO different kinds of lizard skin:
- Varanus Niloticus (Nile Lizard).
- Varanus Salvator (Ring Lizard).
Both of these skins share many common characteristics, such as their flexibility and what dye colors and finishes they can take. Both animals are gathered from wild sources.
The primary differences are in the cuts that are typically used for each and in the natural skin patterns and colorations they possess. Our Nile lizard skins are front cuts while our ring lizard skins are available in both back and front cut. Also, the ring lizard’s skin has an intricate ring pattern on its back which the Nile lizard lacks. Although both species of lizards are close in size, the Nile lizard’s skin is slightly larger on average.
Which Lizard Skin is Best for What?
Ring lizard skins are smaller and have a distinct natural design featuring a series of intricate rings. This makes them ideal for ladies’ footwear, clutches and other small or medium accessories.
Nile lizards are much larger and the pattern is bleached out. This makes them better for larger handbags, upholstery and belts.
Basically, either lizard skin is useful in any project where you need flexible material. However, the ring lizard skin is often better for getting attention with its natural patterns, while Nile lizard skin is ideal for making items that need a consistent, uniform appearance.
If you need more information about these two types of skin, or any other exotic leathers, contact Pan American Leathers today!