Snakeskin Strikes S-s-s-s-seriously Stylish Trend

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Snakes are beautiful to look at, with their skins of myriad colors and patterns. You might even be someone who enjoys handling these exotic creatures. But for many, the most comfortable way to look at a snake is in a book or through a sturdy glass enclosure. And the only way to consider holding a snake is over your shoulder, around your waist or in the palm of your hand in the form of a designer purse, belt or wallet.

High-end designers have been using snakeskin leather to create unique clothing pieces and alluring head-to-toe accessories for more than a century. From hair pieces and handbags to bracelets and shoes, snakeskin adornments are in demand. The leather also is used to create eye-catching covers for journals, datebooks, Bibles and checkbooks. While animal prints never go out of style or season, you can be sure to see exotic snakeskin prints slithering among the leopard spots and zebra stripes this spring and summer.

Louis Vuitton was one of the first designers to see the potential of snakeskin in fashion. He introduced snakeskin travel bags into the market in 1892. The fabric became popular in America in the 1970s in Western apparel. Cowboy boots and belts were among the first snakeskin products available in the United States.
Genuine snakeskin leather pieces are unique, exquisite, rich and earthy. For these reasons, designers command a commensurate price. Giorgio Armani’s snakeskin jacquard topper, made in Italy, sells for $4,595. A small tote bag designed by Michael Kors that can be worn over the shoulder is priced at $2,495. In general, and depending on the designer, prices for purses and totes range from about $200 to $7,000. Snakeskin jackets created by Mexican designer José Sánchez start at around $2,000. The well-known fashion designers and brands such as Gucci, Prada and Jimmy Choo are featured in upscale shops and their collections also can be purchased online.

In addition to the real thing, designer brands are offering gorgeous snakeskin prints that will add style and statement to your professional and playful wardrobe this spring and summer. These fashions include classic pencil skirts, blouses and skinny jeans as well as high heeled sandals and shimmery flats that can be worn in the office or to dress up jeans and a tee. The price points make them accessible for most wardrobes; Victoria’s Secret Siren Skinny Jeans, for example, retail for $63 and a Juicy Couture sequin snake jacket sells for $164. It can be worn with a skirt or slacks, over a dress or with a pair of jeans and sleek heels.

Celebrities such as pop singer and American Idol judge Jennifer Lopez easily make a statement as trendsetters with their clothing choices. Last fall she wore a bright blue snakeskin mini dress with matching pumps and a clutch, all made by Dsquared, to an American Idol XIV photo call. Lopez’s own clothing line features a snake print sheath dress that sells for $36 at Kohl’s.

Today, the largest snakeskin markets are in India, where trappers harvest skins for the fabric makers in Europe, Spain and Italy. Because of their beautiful markings, python skins are the most popular. Other skins, however, such as boa constrictor, anaconda, rattlesnake and cobra also are used. Craftsmen love the heart-shaped patterns of a rattlesnake skin and the rich, jet black skin of a cobra.

A report on Florida craftsmen in Fort Lauderdale’s Sun Sentinel revealed the growing number of Burmese pythons in South Florida’s Everglades over the last decade. Due to the rapid reproduction rate of these invasive reptiles, trappers have benefited from the need to thin the snake population. Burmese pythons are native to Southeast Asia and have been released into the wild by pet owners or have escaped their enclosures. U.S. snake trappers are approached regularly by overseas markets seeking the exotic skins.

When snakeskin is treated by a tanning process, it becomes soft and pliable. Inside a sealable jar, tanners create a solution of denatured alcohol and pure glycerin in equal parts. The skin is rolled loosely and submerged in the liquid for two to three days. The solution is gently stirred with a wooden spoon once per day and the skin is rinsed well with lukewarm water at the end of the soaking time.

Celebrities, professional women and playful personalities alike are attracted to the one-of-a-kind patterns snakeskin offers. While they are popular in Europe, India and Asia, many snakeskin products are made in America. Designers such as Cynthia Desser and Nanette Lepore, for example, create and manufacture some clothing and accessory lines in the United States. These and many other designers have created collections for every woman this season. So, it’s time to get poised and ready to strike out into the city for a day of style searching that is sure to rattle.

Sources:,, and Note: it is illegal for a retailer to sell a genuine python bag in California.