Starting on the left side and traveling front to back, 1) a pair of real alligator Palter de Lisa sling back pumps circa 1950s, 2) a pair of real alligator Springolators by Beth & Herbert Levine – 1951, 3) a pair of embossed faux alligator pumps by Anne Klein II , late 1990s; moving to the right side and traveling back to front 4) a pair of real mid-century alligator pumps by Foot Flairs. 5) a pair of embossed faux alligator pumps from Via Spiga, late 1990s, 6) a pair of real “baby alligator” pumps by Andrew Seller, circa 1950s.
Yesterday I posted photos of real alligator purses and shoes so you see what real alligator looks like. Today I want to show you what faux alligator looks like so you can learn to recognize the difference. Faux alligator is usually created by embossing cowhide or calfskin with a repetitive scale pattern designed to look like real alligator. The reasons people do this are economic. Real alligator skin is the most prestigious and expensive actual animal leather on the market because it is relatively rare and it is tricky to work with. Thus, if you can fool people into thinking they are getting it when they aren’t you can conceivably profit from it.
Due to the high midcentury demand for real alligator accessories the American alligator was so heavily hunted that it decimated their population, and it was listed as an endangered species in 1973 by the Endangered Species Act. Subsequent conservation efforts have allowed their numbers to increase and they were removed from endangered status in 1987. Now alligators are farmed in order to produce hides for luxury goods and for their meat which is considered a Southern delicacy in Florida and Louisiana. In case you are curious, it tastes like tender chicken, in my opinion.
Some people will buy faux alligator or embossed alligator because they actually like the look of it and they cannot afford the real thing. Some faux alligator is actually quite pretty and has earned its own prestige position in the fashion world and the luxury goods marketplace.
Let’s take a look at what some faux alligator look like.
Faux Alligator shoes by Via Spiga are embossed cow leather. Look closely and you will see that all patterning on the skin is repetitive and exactly the same over and over. On real alligator skin these patterns will change size and shape all over the skin just the way they do when the alligator skin in on the alligator’s body.
Faux Alligator shoes by Anne Klien II. Note, again, how even sized the design is all over the shoes. It is also obviously embossed onto the surface of the cow leather only, whereas real alligator skin patterning is obviously in the entire depth of the alligator skin.
These are labeled Genuine Alligator! They are from the 1940’s. You can that the patterning is different sizes and shapes on the different parts of the shoes. Note how it changes in size and shape for example on the three straps over the front of the shoe. and yet again on the heals and the ankle straps. Also note how the designs are deep in the skin not just embossed on the very top. there is also subtle natural variation of the skin whereas fake alligator is too even in this way to be real.
A beautiful pair of classic alligator pumps from the 1950s. Note the variation is size of the scales larger on the toes, smaller on the heels. This is obviously real!
Beautiful Petite Black Alligator Bag from Bellestone circa 1960. Again, note the difference of size in the natural scales from small to large on the front of the purse. And compare the front to the back side as well.
The backside of the little Black Bellestone Bag: note that the size of the scales differs greatly on each side of the purse. It is not uniform. This is a clear indication that this is a real skin.
This is the Bellestone label which is always stamped discreetly inside the bag on the lining! Bellestone only used real skins so that is a good way to tell too!
A label such as this one is a great help in identifying
what type of skin this is! Many vintage items are labeled inside because saying they really were alligator helped the seller get a higher price for then. Alligator was a real luxury item in the 1920’s – 60’s. A pair of real alligator pumps sold for $1500 in 1960 at Henri Bendel’s! Of course, new alligator items are still very expensive. You can fid better prices if you find vintage items but you should be sure they are in good condition and this is quite rare!