Alexander Noel: The Many Choices of Leathers to Create your shoes and caring for them

History of Shoe Making

Man started making leather shoes over five thousand years ago  out of deer and bearskin to combat the snow in the Italian alps, but we’ve come a long ways since then. Even though the medium and purpose hasn’t changed, the way we treat and style hides to cover our feet has.

Leather is just a catchall term – there’s an array of skins, tanning methods, and treatments that distinguish all sorts of types of leather for every occasion. Here’s our breakdown of the most common men’s shoe leathers, ranging from casual to formal

Now Alexander Noel provides from a unique design which includes the combination of various fabric textures and leather. This is becoming a unique style that we will  continue to offer. So as you go through the various leathers, consider the combination styles which include fabric and leather or just fabric using our Design Lab

I found a great website called Kirby Allisons, Hanger project that provided some good information on shoe care for the different types of leathers.

Where do you wear Leathers

A high quality, all leather, shoe uses leather in the following places:

  • The outsole of the shoe (the part that touches the ground)
  • The insole of the shoe (the part your foot rests on)
  • The lining of the shoe (between your foot and the upper)
  • The heel of the shoe (as in stacked layers of leather to create the heel)
  • The shoe upper (the rest of the shoe, excluding the items above)

 Lets take a look at a few of the different leathers and try to understand some unique features of the texture and caring for them.

Calfskin Leather 

Calfskin or calf leather is a leather or membrane produced from the hide of a calf, or juvenile domestic cattle. Calfskin is particularly valuable because of its softness and fine grain, as well as durability. ... In these contexts, just "calf" is commonly used. Being the finest calfskin shoes require proper care to prevent them from drying and cracking. It is essential that the leather be fed with high-quality, natural nutrients. With proper care, a pair of smooth calfskin shoes can remain soft and supple for decades.

The Kickabout is by far the most beautiful streetwear with an amazing Calfskin Texture

The Kickabout is by far the most beautiful streetwear with an amazing Calfskin Texture

Pebble Grain Calfskin 

Pebble refers to the grain/texture, on the surface of the leather. It is not necessarily better or worse than any other leather finish, it's just a different look. What makes a leather more expensive/desirable is the type of skin the leather is and how the texture/grain came about on the skin. Pebble grain calfskin is pressed or embossed to create a textured, grain pattern in the leather. Pebble grain leather is regarded as less formal than smooth calfskin. The texture of the grain requires light polish to prevent wax buildup inside the grooves of the grain, which can leave an unattractive white residue, especially when exposed to water.


Nappa Leather

Nappa leather is a leather, typically dyed, made from goat-, cow-, calf-, lamb- or other skin by a tanning process. It is noted for its soft hand. It is a generic term in the leather field and has no distinct test for characterization. It is an incredibly delicate, soft material and is never waxed. Nappa demands special attention when cleaning to prevent damage to the skin.

Nappa is very porous. One way to test if leather is nappa is to place a wet finger directly on the leather; if the leather quickly absorbs the leather and produces a water stain, then the leather is nappa. Nappa is not often used for shoes because it’s such a fragile skin.

Suede Shoes

Suede is the reverse side of smooth calfskin. It is a fantastic and often under-appreciated material for shoes. Suede is perfect for more casual shoes and boots, is durable, does not scuff, and easily cleaned with the proper cleaning products. When cared for correctly, a fine pair of suede shoes can last years.

Integral to the proper care of suede shoes is the regular brushing of the nap using a suede brush. Just like vacuuming carpet, a suede brush helps remove any embedded dirt and keeps the nap fluffy


Nubuck Leather

Nubuck is like suede but features a much finer texture. Nubuck is top-grain cattle leather that has been sanded or buffed on the grain side, or outside, to give a slight nap of short It is created by sanding the smooth side of calfskin to produce a very fine, suede-like texture. It is much more delicate than suede.

Because of the delicate nature of the nap, a suede brush with their stiff bristles will damage nubuck. Instead a Crepe Brush should be used for brushing.  

Patent Leather 

Patent leather is characterized by its high-gloss, almost glassy finish. To obtain patent leather’s hard, glossy surface, a varnish or lacquer is applied in the final steps of the tanning process. Patent leather is most commonly reserved for formal evening shoes.

The care of patent leather is quite easy.

patent leather.jpg

Exotic Shoes

We are not stepping out of normal shoes into another unique and interesting level. These shoes are expensive with rare leathers that you don’t wear a lot or buy often. You be the judge

Crocodile and Alligator

Crocodile and Alligator are two of the most expensive materials used to make shoes. The smaller the scales of the crocodile and the fewer pieces used, the more expensive the shoe.

Because these animals live in water, these skins are not very porous and are prone to drying, which will cause the skin to crack. A well cared for pair of crocodile shoes can last decades. It is essential, though, to keep the skin fed with essential nutrients to prevent drying and cracking


Crocodile shoes

Lizard and Snake

Lizard and Snake are most commonly used for cowboy boots than leather dress shoes. These exotic skins are incredibly unique and require special care. The Reptan Reptile Milk is a total care solution that can be used to clean, condition, and polish these skins.



Your style your choice. I am not sure if I would purchase a Lizard or Nappa shoe, but everyone has their choice of what drives their preferred style.                                                             

Take care

Alexander Noel

Alexander Noel