Exotics: Is Snakeskin Really Worth It?

You love the look of snakeskin boots, but are they really worth it in the long run?

There’s nothing like the look of a good pair of python boots. I bought my first pair in Texas while on a business trip many years ago. They were without question the most comfortable boots I ever owned at that time. But I was woefully ignorant as to how to care for them.

Know, right off the bat, that snakeskin is thin. Python skins, for instance, are mounted to leather before being made into the boot itself. While the skin is tough for its thinness, it’s not strong enough to be made into a boot on it’s own standing. When a Python or any other snake boot dries out, it can de-laminate from the leather mount and split where your foot/boot bends. Conditioning is ever important, and so is regular cleaning. Dust and dirt of any kind are snakeskin’s worst enemy. So, what’s the care rundown? Here’s mine:

Every time I wear the pythons, when I take them off at the end of the day, cedar boot trees immediately go in. Then they get wiped down with a dry, soft cotton cloth. You must wipe with the scales, not against them. Wiping against can cause the scales to lift and later on, fall off altogether. Be careful because some manufacturers run the front of the boot scales one way and the sides and heel a different way. Examine and determine which way the scales are running on each cut of skin.

Next, take a soft, clean makeup brush, and brush away any dirt or dust between scales and along the sole edge. If there is any remaining dirt, you can use a very slightly damp cloth. Snake scales are waterproof, but the membranes around them are not. Any extra water will soak into those surrounding tissues and can cause scales to lift.

Yes, this basic wipe down should be done every time you wear them.

As mentioned, conditioning is very important. There are so many brands to choose from, but you want one made for snakeskin/reptile skin only. Whatever you choose, make sure it’s lanolin based and not oil based. Oil based can clog the pores of the snakeskin and ultimately make it even drier—we’re trying to avoid that. Make sure to test the conditioner on a small area first to ensure no ill effects. Wipe the conditioner on, again with the direction of the scales in thin layers. Snakeskin doesn’t take in conditioner easily. Several thin layers will allow it to penetrate much better. Make sure you get that conditioner into the crevices along the sole edge where it meets the skin.

If your snakeskin boots are laminated to leather inside, make sure to use cowhide conditioner on the inside of the boot. This need not be done with every wear, maybe once a month is all I do.

Note: Some older boots were made by a process called ‘salt tanning’. If conditioned, these older boots will block moisture absorbed in the air. This will cause the snakeskin to dry out and shorten the life of your boots. If you don’t know about your older snakeskin boots manufacture, it’s probably best not to condition them.

I like Bickmore Exotic, available on Amazon and here directly from Bickmore. It’s a spray, which to me is advantageous because it gets all the nooks and crannies. I have even gotten very dry pythons to soften using this stuff. It allows a thin coat with no guesswork, and makes your scales absolutely glisten.

If you take these short easy steps, these boots can last a lifetime.

I can safely say in the end…snakeskin boots are in fact, worth the extra effort. There is no other boot that makes the statement that snakeskin does—nor that have that very comfortable feel. Finally, if you’re opposed to using reptile skin for clothing, or just not ready for the commitment to care, no problem. There are plenty of leather boots with embossed snakeskin print that look every bit the part.