Snake leather is one of the most exotic types of leather in the fashion industry. In addition to the unique markings, and surface texture, snakeskin remains a rare leather type that holds a symbolic meaning for many fashion enthusiasts.
What is snake leather, and how is this material sourced? Various leather enthusiasts out there often ask these and many similar questions. I have explored the inner workings of this leather manufacturing industry and found out everything you should know about snake leather.
So, you will discover how snake leather is produced and how to care for snake leather pieces, and learn about the pros and cons of snake leather, alongside ethical concerns surrounding this animal hide.
What is Snake Leather?
Snake leather is the finished leather obtained from snakeskin. It is a rare and exotic leather type known for its unique surface texture and patterns. Cobras, pythons, boa constrictors, and anacondas are the most common snakes used to produce snake leather.
Each snake species carries unique markings on its skin and provides designers with a variety of options to choose from. The exotic appearance of snake skin also puts it in high demand by many fashion designers. In addition, finished snake leather is lightweight and very durable.
One common question that curious fashion enthusiasts ask is, “Is snakeskin leather durable?” Yes, snakeskin is one of the most durable types of shoe leather. The tightly packed fibers of snakeskin also give it excellent resistance against wear and make it suitable for a wide range of finished leather products.
If you are wondering where leather manufacturers source or take this leather from, you should know that snakes are captured or reared for their skins. They are then killed before their skins are processed into finished leather. Due to this, sourcing snake skins raises many ethical concerns about the treatment of snakes and the survival of endangered snake species.
Read Also: Crocodile Leather
How is Snakeskin Leather Made?
Snakeskin stands apart from other leathers due to its distinctive scale patterns, which vary across different species. From the mesmerizing diamond patterns of pythons to the intricate hexagonal scales of rattlesnakes, each snake species presents a unique and alluring piece for artisans to work with.
But how is snakeskin leather made? This animal hide often undergoes various processes, and here is a glimpse of snakeskin manufacturing processes.
Sourcing and Prepping
Sourcing high-quality snake skins is an essential first step in the tanning process. They are often acquired through various means, including farming, hunting, and salvaging. However, ethical practices must be followed, ensuring the skins are obtained legally and sustainably.
If you need to transport the raw skins, it would help to salt them a bit, roll them on small sticks to prevent wrinkling and wrap them in a paper towel. Some also store this reptile skin in their freezers if they are not ready to get it tanned immediately. When you are ready to tan your snakeskin, you must first subject them to meticulous cleaning in water to ensure optimal tanning results.
Leather tanning is the primary process of converting raw hide into finished leather. And snakeskin tanning has a rich history, rooted in traditional methods passed down through generations. I have seen many of these tanning methods for some years now; however, here is an effective traditional technique that you should try:
- Get the cleaned snakeskin to begin the process – if you have yours in the freezer, unroll it and let it sit for a while to thaw out.
- In an airtight container, mix glycerin and rubbing alcohol in equal amounts and throw in the snakeskin. Be sure to cover the container tight once done to prevent the alcohol from evaporating.
- Let the animal skin sit in this tanning solution for seven days – this would stabilize the fibers in the snake skin, protecting them from putrefaction. Be sure to shake the container several times daily to prevent the rubbing alcohol from separating from the glycerin.
- Once done, remove your soaked snakeskin and wipe out the excess solution using a clean, dry cloth.
Note: Following this tanning procedure correctly, you shouldn’t perceive any rotting smell.
Now, get the animal skin and dry it in a well-ventilated area. I always place mine on a clean cloth and dry them with a fan, away from heat or sunlight. Allow the snakeskin to sit for several hours or even days to allow it to dry properly.
The snakeskin may be impregnated with pigments; this process alters the appearance of the snake leather and allows manufacturers to customize and add intricate details to existing patterns on the snakeskin. However, most manufacturers skip the dyeing stage for snake skins with exotic patterns.
Manufacturers treat snake leather with various coatings to increase its durability. The most common finish is an acrylic coating that improves the leather’s water resistance and gives it a shiny appearance.
Read Also: Fish Leather
What is Snake Leather Used For?
Snake leather has a wide range of applications in the fashion industry and even beyond. It’s unique skin markings and tensile strength make snake leather one of the most sought-after leather types across several industries. Some of the most common applications of snake leather include:
Fashion Accessories: Snake leather is widely employed in the production of fashion pieces. Its lightweight and durability make snake leather suitable for accessories like snake leather wallets, belts, bracelets, watch straps, and purses.
This animal hide also produces different leather boots, jackets, hats, and bags. The unique texture of snake leather gives these fashion pieces a classy, high-end feel that is visually appealing to fashion enthusiasts.
Craft Works: Artisans widely employ snake leather for crafting many decorative pieces. In addition to wallpapers and furniture covers, snakeskin is also employed in producing book covers, knife sheaths, and jewelry.
Furniture Design: Snake leather is also used in the production of upholstery. Its exotic texture adds a touch of sophistication to interior spaces. Snake leather produces seat covers, chairs, sofas, and cushions.
Musical Instruments: Snake leather is used to decorate several musical instruments. It enhances the aesthetic appeal of these items. Manufacturers commonly employ snake skin in crafting guitar covers, drum heads, and saxophone pads.
Read: What is Bovine Leather?
How to Take Care of Snake Leather?
Like other exotic leather types, snake leather requires special care to keep it in great shape and ensure its durability. Here’s how to properly care for snake leather pieces.
Regular Cleaning: Clean the surface of snake leather pieces with a dry soft cloth. Move the cloth gently over the snake leather and in the same direction as the scales. You can use a soft-bristled leather brush to get the dirt out of tough spots.
Do not clean snake leather with excess water or harsh cleaning chemicals. Excess moisture will cause snake leather to dry up and shrink. Harsh chemicals could also discolor the fabric and cause it to fade.
Frequent Conditioning: Like regular hide, snake leather needs constant conditioning to moisturize. Use a soft cloth to rub a suitable leather conditioner into the leather. Snake leather dries out without adequate conditioning, and the scales start to rise.
You can find a suitable leather conditioner at most retail stores around you. However, ensure that you read the manufacturer’s instructions carefully before using any conditioner on snake leather.
Avoid Moisture and Heat: Protect snake leather pieces from moisture and extreme heat. Snake leather is water resistant but not completely waterproof. Excessive moisture penetration will weaken snake leather and cause it to disintegrate.
High temperatures will make snake leather brittle and start to crack. In extreme cases, it could permanently char the exotic fabric.
Storage: You should store snake leather in a cool, well-ventilated, dry place. This way, you prevent mildew growth on the fabric’s surface. Also, keep snake leather away from direct sunlight to prevent it from bleaching.
Snake Skin Tanning and Preserving YouTube
Pros of Snake Leather
There are several benefits of working with snake leather. The most notable pros of snake leather include the following:
Exotic Appearance: Snakeskin carries a unique texture that carries a natural aesthetic appeal. Besides the natural shades and coloring of most snake skins, the scales on the skin create exotic patterns that appeal to fashion lovers and designers. Many manufacturers use snakeskin for various leather jackets and other fashion pieces.
Sustainability: Many manufacturers source snake leather as a byproduct of the meat industry, which appears environmentally sustainable. Besides reducing waste, it reduces the need to hunt snakes just for their skin.
Strength: Despite its delicate nature, snake leather is quite tough. Snake leather pieces of the same thickness as calfskin have greater tensile strength. Therefore, snake leather suits various fashion accessories like boots, belts, bags, and hats.
Water Resistant: Snake leather offers significant resistance against water penetration. The tightly-packed fiber structure of snake leather ensures that it withstands light rain and water spills without damaging the fabric.
Lightweight: Snake leather is relatively light; this feature makes it comfortable to wear and carry about. Snake leather’s lightweight is perfect for making small fashion accessories like bracelets, purses, and key holders.
Natural Insulation: Snakeskin possesses natural insulation qualities, which help snakes regulate their body temperatures and protect them from harsh weather conditions. So, snake leather is excellent for keeping people warm in harsh weather conditions.
Cons of Snake Leather
While snake leather is attractive and durable, working with this leather hide has a few downsides. Here are a few cons of snake leather.
Rarity: Compared to regular animal hides, snakeskin is rare. Rearing them like cows and other mammalian livestock is capital intensive, and it might take up to years before a snake is mature enough to be skinned for leather.
Furthermore, several laws prohibit the hunting of select snake species. All these factors combine to make this exotic leather type scarce and expensive.
Ethical Concerns: There are many ethical concerns surrounding the rearing and capture of snakes for the sole purpose of their skins. Many snake species are endangered. There is also the moral concern about these reptiles being harvested and killed.
Besides the frequent hounding by local authorities, many snake leather manufacturers are constant targets of animal rights groups. Also, snake leather enthusiasts are not immune to such attacks.
Environmental Impact: Snake leather pieces are costly. Their pricey nature often pushes local dwellers to overhunt snakes. Snakes are vital components of their local ecosystems. When they are hunted indiscriminately for their skins, it poses a severe risk to the biodiversity of such ecosystems.
Additionally, the treatment process of snake leather involves lots of toxic chemicals that pollute the environment. The indiscriminate disposal of the byproducts of the tanning and dyeing process threatens the survival of local marine ecosystems.
Is snake leather expensive?
Snake leather is one of the exotic leather types in the fashion industry. Unlike regular animal hide, snakeskin is rare and requires special treatment; therefore, snake leather products are pretty expensive. Even faux snake leather pieces can be quite pricey. It is common to find snake leather boots for women for around $50,000.
Is snakeskin leather good?
Snakeskin leather is perfect for making lots of finished leather products. Finished snakeskin leather is similar to regular cowskin and very durable. In addition, snakeskin leather is quite water resistant and can serve as a good insulator against harsh weather conditions.
Is Python leather legal?
There is a lot of local legislation governing the production and trade of python leather. These laws help protect threatened python species and prevent their extinction. Therefore, python leather might be illegal within certain jurisdictions. However, purchasing python leather from licensed stores can protect you from criminal litigation.
Is snake leather legal?
Dealing with snake leather is legal in most places. However, certain snake species are designated as “endangered” by different wildlife conservation agencies. Therefore, using their skin for leather is illegal. But you can check with local authorities before buying any “exotic snake skins for sale” you find online.
How can you tell if snake leather is genuine?
Snake leather skin is so rare that most snake leather products you see are likely faux snake leather. However, you can recognize real leather by feeling the fabric’s surface for natural snakeskin’s rough, flaky texture.
Again, real snakeskin is usually small, and manufacturers must attach smaller snake leather pieces to get sizeable portions. Therefore, actual snake leather products have seams or joints across the surface.
Does Gucci use snakeskin?
As a big name in the fashion industry, Gucci prides itself on staying ahead of fashion trends. Therefore, it has used snakeskin and other exotic leather types to design and produce many of its fashion pieces.
Snakeskin Gucci bags and belts are trendy among high-end fashion lovers. Since Gucci items are made to be very durable, you should expect their snake leather products to last for an extended period. This brand also has its own python farm where snakes are reared for their skin.
What is the price of snake leather?
Snakeskin’s price depends on several factors, such as the type of snake, how it is sourced, and the kind of treatment the manufacturers employ. However, it is common to find snake leather belts for around $2,000 to $5,000 and snake leather bags for up to $15,000.
Snake leather is an attractive material, and its rarity and durability place it among other exotic leather types. The natural colors and textures of snakeskin evoke a sense of intrigue, making it a sought-after material for creating one-of-a-kind fashion statements.
However, many ethical concerns surround the trade and production of snake leather. But, most of these challenges can be addressed by creating more awareness. Thus, this article exposes everything you should know about snake leather.