You see all of the exotic dress shoes and boot in awe, admiring their sleek and sophisticated look. Then you read the names of the skins, and you start to wonder: What is the difference between ostrich quill and ostrich leg? How do you tell alligator tail from belly? And what the heck is caiman skin anyway?

For anyone who has a taste for exotic skins, it is crucial that he know how to tell them all apart. Since some of these skins are harder to come by than others, you will know why the price tags are what they are.

Los Altos Alligator belly loafers

Alligator Belly Loafer

The patterns of Alligator skins vary, depending on what part of the body the skin comes from. The belly is smooth and features rows of orderly squares that can vary in width. As the skin gets closer to the legs, the pattern gets smaller and more circular.

Eel Skin Ankle Boot

Eel skin is noted for its extremely glossy finish and smooth texture. The skins are very narrow — just imagine what an eel looks like slithering through the ocean — so they need to be pieced together. There will almost always be seam-lines on any eel skin product. 


Python Ankle Boot

PMens Biker Bootsython skin is very recognizable for its compact diamond patterned scales and its dual-toned markings. You can tell the difference between genuine python the fake stuff by how it feels: just run your hand along real skins and you feel the delicate scales lift off the surface.


Ostrich Quill Ankle Boot

Ostrich Leg Dress Shoe (with eel on the sides)

There are two different skins that you’ll see labeled Ostrich. One is Ostrich Quill which is characterized by small evenly spaced bumps on the surface. Ostrich Leg is smoother and has a long, narrow stripe of horizontal indentations book-ended by tiny, pebbly textured sections on either side.


Stingray Derby (with ostrich on the sides)

Los Altos Ostrich Stingay DerbyA Stingray is a large fish with wing-like fins and a barbed tail. Its hide is soft and covered in pearl-like pattern that has a slight texture to it.  Many stingray products feature a white diamond or stripe, referred to as row-stone. These spots are created by calcium deposits in the water in which the stingray lived.


Teju Penny Loafer

Teju (also called tegu) is a large, speedy lizard from South America. Its skin is characterized by small, square-shaped scales arranged in straight, even rows.

Caiman Dress Shoe

Caiman is a reptile related to the alligator that is found in Central and South America. Their skins have similar patterns to their alligator cousin and can be identified by blocks of large, textured squares (the belly and back) accompanied by smaller sections of tightly grouped rounded shapes. Caiman tends to be more affordable than genuine alligator.