Words and photo by Will Boehlke
It is probably a sign that he has too many shoes, but the earnest collector eventually turns to exotic skins in one form or another (exotic being another word for skins offered at price premiums over ordinary shoe leather that range from the merely to the horribly expensive). One reaches this point along either of two unrelated avenues, the more common being wealth beyond most dreams of avarice and the less a relentless pursuit of clothing perfection whether within one's means or not (usually not - as a friend replied when I suggested that he needed a maildrop to keep his wife from complaining about his spending, a maildrop would be admitting that his wife was correct and that he had a problem).
Having travelled down either of those avenues there are also two principal reasons to choose exotically skinned shoes. The public one is the distinctive look that can be achieved in no other way. The recognizable pattern of alligator and the variegated color of pigskin make for a shoe considerably different from every day calfskin but with less obvious "look at me" shouting than the bright green and purple dyes used by some cordwainers as a change from black and brown. But, as in so much of life, the story told for public consumption differs from reality. And in the case of exotic skinned shoes, the private reality is the psychological benefit the owner gains from the subconscious feeling that he is a man apart from other men, a wearer of footwear so rare that the man on the street hardly knows it exists let alone where to obtain it.
Of the two available options, the distinctive look is of course the rationale for Cleverley's shoes of Russian calf. The leather was hand stamped during its 18th century tanning with a varied cross-hatching (no-one has ever bothered to make a machine to do the stamping with the required irregularities) that needs to stand on its own, with minimal brogueing or other distractions. A captoe like the shoe in the photograph, for example, or RJ's banded slipons, add interest to a pair of flannel trousers (and, summer or no, today's temperatures call for flannel).
That one is wearing shoes so rare that alligator is common by comparison has nothing to do with it.