I assume if is redundant o mention: this post is not written for people with sensitive stomach. Told ya.. Anyway: shoemaking is not for sensitive people. Shoemaking, like it or not, use animal hides, which come from animals. The good news, the hides are usually side products, as animals are killed for their meat. Not the alligators – in this case meat is the side product. Well… still a beautiful leather, hmm? I might have to make myself an alligator shoe eventually…
Alligator leather is one of the most expensive, most luxurious looking leather type for a good reason. It looks fabulous with the texture, the deep colors what you can achieve with the cheap printed cow, but somewhere deep inside every human being there is a string, which start to resonate the sound of the danger when you see those shapes.
Alligator is not of the endangered species – moreover there are over a million only in Florida, but still has a special status, which lets the government to control the hunting. There is a strict regulation for hunting them – the CITES ((the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora). The CITES is an international agreement between governments, making sure that endangered species are not threatened by hunters and after all us – craftsmen and customers. Long story short: your exotic skins, or at least most of them, should be tagged with a plastic band. Without that you shouldn’t buy them and the seller shouldn’t sell it. There is only a limited amount of those every year, available for alligator farmers and hunters.
Let see how it happens in the farms. Alligator is a cold blooded animal, which means farmers have to keep them in a constantly warm temperature, otherwise they practically hibernate – one heartbeat per minute and as they can’t digest the food, they wouldn’t eat neither. On the other hand, warm environment makes them eat very day, growing faster.
These are the homes for the farm alligators. The smell can’t be described with words, or at least not those words I know. Let’s just say it sticked into my nose for days.
Surprisingly they are afraid from humans. By the way in the wild the survival statistics is not that great. Alligators lay eggs in nests, but only one third of those nest will actually the birthplace of the little ones. The other two third will be destroyed by floods and predators (mainly raccoons). Farmers also collect the eggs from the nests, which is regulated b the government – so even if it seems like a great business to farm alligators, you might have some problems to put your hands on eggs.
This is what happens, when they reach the required length. In the background you can see – they not just use the skin, but the meat as well. Tastes like chicken.
A freshly skinned hide. Any hide, including the alligator – in this phase is not ready for tanning. The first step of tanning is taking the water out – the best way is the ancient way: salt.
Alligator skins are tanned with chromium tanning, which results a stretchable, soft hide, great for shoes and bags, moreover garments as well.
Wet blue skins, ready for coloring, finishing.
This old machine will remove the unnecessary flesh from the skin.
to be continued…