Chronicles of Crocodile Leather
BY ADELINE J. WELLS
April 1, 2022
Luxury goods are crafted from a wide variety of leathers; skins are harvested from both land and sea to create the high-end pieces we love, including Ostrich, Eel, and Snake leather. Taken from the hides of the world’s largest reptile, crocodile leather is another valuable medium used by designer brands. One of the most sought-after around the globe, this leather is hailed for its high quality, rarity and beauty. At Belvedere, we thoughtfully, sustainably, and proudly utilize crocodile leather in designing our own brand of fashionable, classic shoes.
Crocodile leather began to truly emerge in the fashion industry in the mid-1800’s, largely due to the American Civil War. A high need for boots, belts, and saddles led to the widespread hunting of American Alligators; this harvest eventually broadened to other crocodile species native to Central America and the Caribbean. The rise of commercial tanning in the early 1900’s led to higher demands for leather by the fashion industry; this resulted in the trading network of crocodiles, specifically Caimans, expanding to South America, Asia, Africa and Australia, greatly reducing wild populations around the world. Threatened with extinction in the 1960’s and ‘70’s, crocodile farming began to gain popularity as a more sustainable method of sourcing the highly-sought skin.
In 1975, the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species in Wild Flora and Fauna (CITES) entered into force. Regulating the trade of crocodiles and crocodile products, this convention aims to ensure that business is conducted in a way that is sustainable, for the animals as well as for the environment. Crocodile farms are not only relied upon for production of crocodile skin and meat, but they are also now used as an entity to help manage and supplement natural populations. In a variety of regions around the world, crocodile eggs or youths are harvested in farms and reintroduced to the wild when natural populations have depleted. Revenues from these procedures can provide incentives for communities to protect their local wetlands, rather than pursuing development of these ecosystems.
Accounting for less than one percent of the leather industry, crocodile is the most expensive leather in the world, which is why it is often utilized by top designer brands to make their luxury items. This is largely due to the animals’ scarcity, as well as the high level of expertise required throughout tanning and tailoring processes. As aggressive animals who often get into confrontations with others, it is rare for crocodiles to reach adulthood without aging signs or other scars, which is why unmarred crocodile skin is placed at such a high price point. There are two main cuts of crocodile skin; with pronounced scales and a very rough texture, the Back Cut is often used in trimmings. The more common cut is the Belly Cut, which is popular due to its small, fine scale structure and smooth texture; both of these factors make it much more pliable for craftsmanship of goods such as shoes, luggage, and clothing.
At Belvedere, we use Genuine Hornback Caiman Crocodile leather in crafting the Chapo Shoe, one of our most popular styles. An elevated take on the classic oxford, this shoe was designed using leather from the Back Cut of the animal; due to this, the Chapo has a more richly textured, detailed appearance than other leather products. Featuring tieless laces, a cushion insole, and available in a variety of sleek neutral hues, this shoe is the perfect style to wear for comfort while still portraying elegance and class. For the gentleman’s surprise, the Chapo’s leather sole features the caricature of a crocodile sporting a wide-toothed grin. “Never smile at a crocodile,” but when donning this favorite style of Belvedere Shoes, we can ensure that it will be difficult to keep one off your face.