Snob Essentials

Obsessive Lesson on Crocodiles


Adriana Castro Saiph Clutch, Caiman fuscus crocodile, $1550; Chanel Matte Alligator $39,450

So it turns out that croc bags are extremely environmentally friendly. Crocodile farms are required to release 10% of their population back in to the wild. This is significant because in the wild only 5-10% of crocodile eggs reach maturity (they lay about 50 eggs at a time so this isn’t a lot) but on a farm the percentage goes way up to 85%. So in effect, we are contributing to their repopulation croc_vs_alligator.jpg with each bag we buy. In Colombia, the government is allowed to go to a farm and hand pick which crocodiles gets released. Mature adults have a higher survival rate in the wild so of course those are the ones they pick. Not that we really needed any more encouragement for our obsession but after the story of me wearing an exotic Adriana Castro bag to an eco-friendly fashion event, this fact was pointed out to me. Of course, I couldn’t keep this little tid-bit to myself!

I of course had to ask my source the question everyone has, what is the difference between crocodiles and alligators? The easiest way to tell is by their snout. Alligators have a “U” shaped snout and crocodiles have a pointier “V” shaped noses. In the picture C is the alligator and D is the crocodile (photos courtesy of: Wise Geek).  Generally speaking, alligators are bigger, they can grow to 14-15 feet but the saltwater crocodile, the largest specie, can get to 17-18 feet.  The more affordable crocodile bags are made from animals that are 2 years old, obviously the bigger the scale, the bigger the price tag.  Crocs are lighter in color, a nice olive brown and alligators are almost black. Alligators live in fresh water while crocodiles like brackish salt water and also live in the ocean.


Left: Alligator, Right: Crocodile

But the most important difference is the integumentary sense organs on crocodiles that alligators do not have. It is unclear why crocs have them and alligators do not but these organs are easily detected on the edges of each scale. They appear as dots or dimples and you know what that means for us. Alligators have a pristine scale while crocodiles are literally rougher around the edge. This is how you can tell if a bag is crocodile or alligator and this is why Chanel only uses alligator. The skin always looks perfect, almost fake, on a Chanel. If you think about a crocodile bag, you notice that it is a bit rough and rustic, but never a Chanel. But a well made young crocodile bag still a damn good bag and seriously, the decision is never between a $40,000 bag vs a $2200 bag. For me, this Chanel is not even something I spend time fantasizing about.



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  1. Thank you Kelly for the information. The Chanel bag is divine,I must admit,but the price makes it unreachable. So it means that we will settle on crocodile,which is fantastic too.

  2. Kelly, do you know which croc is better? The croc bag I got is Neil croc made in South Africa, and its scale seems a little different from the Caiman croc bag.

  3. Kelly, great post. So educational! For the Saiph Clutch we used the belly part of the skin and we also used the tail (hornback) for the middle piece.

  4. Great information, I love learing about differences in exotic skins and how to know a good quality from a bad one. Give us more!

  5. Hi Kelly, with regards to Hermes exotic bags, I’m just wondering how come I always hear croc skin & very seldom alligator skin. Does that mean that croc skin is more expensive? with regards to quality? which is really the best?

  6. I found this site that talk about crocodile and alligators.

    After my extense research, I conclude that croc is not better than alligator and alligator is not better than croc. It all depends in your taste. If both skins are well treated, both of them will make excellent quality products. KELLY, I found Chanel, BV, Hermes and Ferragamo Crocodile Bags. It seems they use both types of skins, so they should have the customers that buy alligator and the customers that buy crocodile. At the end, all belong to the crocodile species! The list is endless: Caiman, Nile Crocodile, Indo-Pacific Crocodile, American Alligator, Chinese Alligator etc..HOPE THIS INFO HELPS!

  7. Awesome post and information, Kelly. Thanks much. I do drool after the Chanel bag though, I can’t help it. Price has never stopped my fantasies and imagination!!! Not that I could ever afford that bag…

  8. I agree! Thanks for the link. And Kelly, thanks for the great post! Maybe you guys should do one on anaconda vs. python like some said!

  9. There are generally 3 species of crocodile used for handbag, Nile, Porosus and Caiman. Buyers should know what they are buying as Porosus costs many times more than Caiman.