Exotic leather, such as alligator and ostrich, represents the pinnacle of luxury. Genuine Caiman alligator shoes and American alligator shoes are beautiful pieces of art–a blend of nature’s beauty and man’s ability. Lace-ups, cap toes, loafers: they’re a lifelong investment and often end up becoming family heirlooms, passed on from father to son. When taken care of, they can last for decades.
That all sounds wonderful, but most people are aware that there is a hefty amount of trade in fake shoes. Fake Gucci purses are sold on eBay that are more Goo than Gucci. There’s the always fabulous “genuine man-made leather,” which is about as contrasting as you can get.
If you’re going to invest in a pair of genuine alligator shoes, you want to make sure they really are genuine–before you buy. The last thing you want to happen after you’ve paid a hefty sum is having your “real” alligator shoes fall apart three months after you buy them.
But how do you tell whether a shoe is genuine alligator or not?
Genuine Alligator Shoes? Not Even Close.
Some fakes, you can see the manufacturers weren’t trying very hard, even when you’re looking to buy online. These shoes are made for men who don’t dress up very much–the cheap, disposable version of a very expensive shoe. Let’s get these out of the way.
They’re made of plastic or vinyl. The leather texture is often badly done. No way, no how.
Fake alligator or crocodile shoes are often light weight, thanks to a cheap (and cheap looking) synthetic, plastic sole/heel combination. Never mind stitching, these soles have been entirely glued on and wouldn’t last a walk down the aisle, much less the decades that genuine alligator shoes last.
Quality Fakes? Here Are Five Attributes to Look For.
From the plastic to the printed leather and “almost genuine,” fake alligator shoes start at very fake and just get better. Enough so, that some of the higher-quality imitations take looking at the physical shoe (rather than a picture) to be able to tell the difference.
Here are a few attributes to look for in genuine alligator leather that you won’t find in the fake stuff:
Check the price tag.
Belvedere, Balenciago, Los Altos, Mezlan–it doesn’t matter who’s manufacturing the genuine article, there is no such thing as a low-price tag on these shoes if they’re new. You aren’t going to see $90 Los Altos, or $50 Belvedere’s. They don’t exist, because you’re paying for very high-quality, lovingly crafted accessories. If you see a price tag for less than $200, it’s probably attached to an imitation.
Check the interior.
Genuine exotic leather shoes have leather lining all the way around the inside of the shoe. Many imitation shoe manufacturers cut costs in the lining. Some use inferior grade pigskin while others use vinyl. Even others use a cloth fabric. This is one of the fastest ways to tell a genuine alligator shoe from a fake one; the manufacturer of the real thing never cuts costs. The entire goal is a high-quality piece of art.
Check the grain of the leather.
Crocodiles and alligators are large reptiles–bigger, leggy versions of their smaller snake cousins. When you touch genuine alligator skin it has a natural grain to it. Quality imitations, where the manufacturer uses a high pressure press on cow leather, may look a lot like the real thing, but they can’t imitate that natural reptilian grain. When in doubt, run your finger one way and then the other. One way will feel different than the other.
Look at the sole.
The sole of a genuine alligator shoe is made of real leather and highly-polished. The heels are real leather heels, stacked and shaped before being nailed into the soles. In addition, genuine alligator has either a “genuine alligator” stamp or a small brass notice nailed into the sole. If you have a sales person telling you it’s genuine but there’s no stamp, you might want to look elsewhere.
Try them on.
American alligator or Caiman, there is nothing like a genuine alligator shoe. They’re high-quality from the nails and stitching to the lace holes and lining. Pressed calf leather has a stiffness to it. When you put on a pressed leather shoe, it takes a few wearings to break down the leather enough for the shoe to become comfortable. Genuine alligator, on the other hand, is comfortable and supple from the first wearing to the last.
Comfort and Quality Can’t Really Be Faked.
Those imitation manufacturers, they try. They really do. But there’s just nothing like genuine alligator shoes. Once you’ve stepped into a pair, held a pair, experienced the scent of real alligator, you’ll know what makes the difference. It’s the feel of stepping into a high-quality, purposeful piece of art.