Welcome back guys! Today we are exploring exotics, the last part of this three part series, in The Language of Leather. Exotics are always a fun topic for us because there is such a wide range these days, particularly in respect to color and texture. Many believe that exotics are strictly for formal wear, but the truth is, they can be "dressed down" as well, allowing your custom boots to go from the office to a night on the town with ease.
To begin, let's define the exotic leather options. The most popular are alligator, ostrich, and lizard. However, today we expand this category to include stingray, elephant, shark, and snake/python.
Alligator is considered the premiere option in the exotic class, as well as the most expensive. In the past, alligator custom made boots would be worn solely on formal occasions. However, today they can be
"dressed down," utilizing horned back or even the oily tanned versions. To be clear, I use the term "dressed down" lightly, as alligator is and will always be statement handmade cowboy boots. Paul always said that "no finer boot can be made," than the spectacular Las Vegas. I would have to agree!
Ostrich on the other hand, is considered the most comfortable of the exotics for custom cowboy boots. It molds to your foot overtime like a sock. Additionally, it is lighter and airier than its alligator counterpart due to its quill pattern. In terms of price, full quill is the most expensive. However, you can get a similar look at a more affordable price point if you opt for half quill or smooth ostrich instead. Like alligator, ostrich is great with a suit, or a nice pair of blue jeans. The choice is yours!
Lizard is ideal for providing an exotic, elegant feel, yet at a more affordable price point than gator or ostrich. It is known for its scuff resistant tendencies and high gloss finish. However, in my opinion, it is more difficult to dress down lizard due to its glossy texture. Therefore, if you are looking for great dress custom made boots at a super affordable price point, lizard is the skin for you! An added bonus is the wide variety of colors it is available in.
Now moving on to the less discussed exotics like stingray, elephant, snake, and shark. Custom cowboy boots with stingray vamps run right in the middle in terms of price point. They are slightly more expensive than lizard, but less expensive than gator and ostrich. Stingray is the most scratch and abrasion resistant of all leathers. As many of you know, here at Paul Bond Custom Boots, our leathers are "pre-stretched" in order to have that "broken in" feel the first time you wear them. However, stingray has very little give in it. Because of this factor, it has a tendency to feel snug particularly in the ball and instep. Over time, it will give and mold to your foot. My recommendation is to start with basic handmade cowboy boots if you are considering stingray, in order to get your fit perfect. Once your fit is spot on, move onto stingray as a second pair of custom made boots. The great thing about this leather is the uniqueness of it's pattern, its durability, as well as a wide variety of color options.
Elephant has been a really popular choice in custom boots as of late and runs the same price as stingray. It is known for its durability and unique tanning options. In my opinion, elephant is more casual on the spectrum in terms of exotics. You can opt for a matte version, which most people are accustomed to, or now, you can go for the suede version, which is softer to the touch; less rugged.
NOTE: I want to assure you that all of our leathers, including elephant, are sourced in an ethical way. The only country that legally exports elephant is Zimbabwe. These elephants are raised for years in national parks. As their numbers multiply in the area, the elephants begin to destroy the vegetation and the ecosystem of the land. This is when they must control the population. Not only is this monitored by their government, but by the US government as well.These are the only elephants we are sourcing - like you, we would not be comfortable using elephants that were poached or illegally attained.
As mentioned previously, shark is very difficult to source at the moment due to certain fishing methods that are taking place. However, when shark is accessible it is a great exotic, particularly for a working cowboy boot due to its durability and scuff resistant texture.
And lastly, snake custom cowboy boots are beautiful exotics with a wide range of pattern and color variations. With this leather, it is important to note that it takes a considerable amount of maintenance. The scales need to be conditioned on a regular basis. You must clean under the scales where dust can accumulate and harm the leather. However, if you don't mind that, this leather makes for beautiful handmade cowboy boots with a lot of shine and pizazz!
NOTE: Keep in mind, in terms of all leathers, particularly exotics, you must clean and condition them on a regular basis in order to keep their luster and lengthen their lifespan. Our custom made boots get better with age, if taken care of.
As you can see, there are a lot of aspects to consider when choosing leathers, many of which we have discussed in length throughout this series. Exotics can be a tough choice, particularly because of the added expense. My goal is for you to be educated on each leather so you know exactly what you are getting into when you decide to purchase your custom boots! As we move forward, I would love to hear about any topics you might be interested in. For instance, the importance of handmade cowboy boots maintenance, or even a deeper dive into the production process.