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July 24, 2019 5 min read

We offer a pretty wide variety of products made from a variety of exotic leathers. You might find wallets, belts and other products crafted from alligator, elephant, python and even some zebra leathers which are all spectacular for their own reasons. I thought I'd take a moment to describe the top 7 for folks out there who may not be familiar with the different qualities our most common exotic leathers have.

1. American Alligator Leather

Easily our most accessible exotic leather, alligator provides a slightly tougher than cowhide strength paired with that iconic scaly pattern. We almost exclusively use leather from the belly of the alligator, because it looks great and is more flexible. The softest sections are those made from under the gullet of the alligator. You can tell a gullet cut by the scaling pattern, as each scale section is smaller and begins to form a sort of tight diamond pattern. Alligator is available to us in a wide variety of colors and finishes, so we typically make some of our more vibrant wallets using those.

2. Elephant Leather

Sometimes we get elephant leather. Usually not in any great quantity but nonetheless if we find a good section we're quick to snatch it up. People sometimes question how its legal to get elephant hides and its a fair question. But actually CITES allows for the legal sale of the hides. Its poaching endangered elephants for the illegal ivory trade that gives people this confusion, but for now the sale of hides is perfectly legal. Its a good thing too, because elephant hide is some of the toughest and most supple hide you can buy. The texture is dense and slightly bumpy. Typically you can see remnants of large wrinkles across the hide too. Leather from the ears is a little more soft and velvet-like. Colors are generally in the neutral spectrum, consisting of earth-tones and mottled black accents that emphasize the pores and wrinkles on the hide. This leather really is some of the toughest you can purchase too. Barring some freak accident, stuff made from elephant leather is bound to last a couple generations at least.

3. Hippo Leather

No other leather surprises people the way that hippo leather does. You wouldn't think, looking at a hippo, that the hide would be as soft as it is. It's adjacent to elephant in all the ways you might expect but with one key difference: a dense subtle peach fuzz like texture sits on top of the skin. Hippos spend a significant amount of time in the water though, so it makes sense that they've evolved a sort-of natural scotch-guard that helps repel water. I wouldn't say that products made from hippo are water-proof, but they do repel liquids easier than cowhide does. Hippos are actually one of the most violent creatures in the wild too. Hides from hippo typically feature long, interesting scars that the animal acquired during its life. Colors are generally neutral in nature as well, but generally are more even and less speckled than an elephant leather would be. We find the straight black and brown options to be quite luxurious.

4. Ostrich Leather

Ostrich leather is really some of the most uniquely textured hide you can find. The iconic quill bumps evenly spaced across the bulk of the hide are very satisfying to run your hands over. Occasionally we find unique colors like pure white or blue, but typically we make things out of the standard tan, brown, and black options. Interestingly, the knees of the ostrich have an equally unique but completely different texture that is probably one of the most under-rated sections of leather we make things out of here at Anvil Customs. Ostrich legs are about the closest thing to a dinosaur leather you can find. The folds of the knee skin create an incredible lizard-like scaling pattern along the length. We get a variety of colors and textures to make wallets out of ostrich legs too.

5. Python Leather

We have two types of snakes that we use for products typically. The first is the reticulated python, which we simplify to just "python." The second is Karung snake or "Elephant Snake." Both have elements that you might expect from a snake leather. They have scales, and are somewhat slick to the touch. The python has a more noticeable scale pattern, and depending on weather its a belly or a back split, features a weaving diamond pattern of darker scales. Additionally we get this hide most commonly in white or coffee, but brighter, more eccentric colors are possible. The karung snake has a finer scale pattern, and typically features a more organic two-tone beige color. Karung is generally a shinier leather, especially before any sort of wear occurs. Both types of snake leather offer superior flexibility.

6. Giraffe Leather 

No it doesn't look like what you want it to look like naturally. Those large blocky brown patches sit on the fur, and are effectively removed during the tanning process. That being said, giraffe leather has a marvelous look and feel. Somewhat spongy, this durable and dense leather is great especially once its broken in. The pattern on the skin looks practically topographical, which is completely unique. There really is no mistaking giraffe leather once you're familiar with it. We generally get tan and gray variants which make for some truly classy, stylish products.

7. Stingray Leather

This is the type of leather that is absolutely unmistakable. Populated by thousands of tiny glass-like beads, the surface of stingray hide is really incredible. That material, which is similar to the material our fingernails are made of, is naturally translucent. The skin underneath is dyed a stunning array of colors and we frequently make some of our brighter products using stingray. But don't skip over the flat black stingray, there's something really wonderful about the way light reflects off the texture on the black stingray leather. Additionally almost all stingray hide features a contrast dyed diamond that highlights the exact center of the back where the beads are largest. As you can imagine, the hardened material makes stingray leather weigh more than any other type of leather, but it also makes it one of the strongest too. Their is still plenty of floppiness to it though. The small beads allow the leather room to flex.

Final Words

And that's it for our most common exotic leathers. You're likely to find a couple of odd specimens on the shop (keep your eyes open) but we pretty much always have something available made from those 7 exotic animals. Colors and finishes like nubuck or glazed are constantly in rotation, and you can imagine that once you begin mixing and matching the variations are endless. Ultimately our goal is to come up with the highest caliber leather wallets, belts, and accessories we can imagine and using the highest quality materials we can find is a crucial part of that. Hopefully if you've managed to read this far you'll have gleaned a new appreciation for the wonderful hides we get to work with on a daily basis. And when you're ready, take a look at the exotic collection to see what we've been able to come up with!