Rare Moment: Pigskin Shoes

“Oh wow!” the lady exclaimed. She was looking through a rack of shoes on sale in a quiet and floral-carpeted ‘olde worlde’ shoe shop, with a mezzotint of George V next to the gilt mirror and an incongruous animal head looming over the cash register. But for the smell of new leather, a thick staleness pervaded the air, and the assistant – a man of advanced years – looked on wistfully through gold-chained spectacles as the shoppers, unfamiliar with his strange emporium, wandered in as though entering a living museum.

The assistant made his way over to the lady and delivered his expected line: “Can I help at all?” She had in her hands a pair of pigskin leather shoes. “What ARE these?” she asked, her eyes flashing with intrigue. “Pigskin Oxfords. What size were you looking for?” The lady explained that she was not looking for a size in particular but was rather taken by the texture. “PIG skin? Wow, that is…different.” The world-weary assistant looked on silently as she fondled the toe of the shoe, running her fingertips over the crackled surface.

The lady’s reaction, though somewhat theatrical, is appropriate. Pigskin is different. Produced from the skins of domestic pigs and hogs, the characteristic of the leather is the rough grain surface.

Due to this being considered ‘unappealing’ by many, much pigskin leather is sueded to improve the appearance. However, a number of shoemakers use pigskin – scars, crackles and all. It is this use of the material that is so unusual. Like calf leather, pigskin is very porous and durable. However, it is also flexible and lightweight, belying its rough-and-heavy appearance. Obviously, unlike calf leather, pigskin does not have a smooth grain surface that takes a shine to a mirror finish. Those with a fetish for seeing their faces in their shoes might not enjoy the mottled, pockmarked texture.

Being different, and something of a specialist product, warts-and-all pigskin is rare. Instead of Google shopping results, you’re much more likely to be recommended discussion points on religious forums with tips on which brands use pigskin – for obvious reasons. Smaller and artisan shoemakers are the best places to go as they will provide you with information on where to get them if they do not make them. The best bets are Gaziano & Girling, Carreducker (shown above), Cleverley, Saint Crispins. Unfortunately, that is likely to mean that, when you find a pair, they will not be inexpensive.