How to Know It's Pigskin?

One of the most frequently asked question by the reader and also people 'offline' to me is how to identify whether the leather used for shoes or some bags are made of pigskin? This is because being a Muslim the type of material being utilized to make a product is very crucial. Leather especially, coz it's being stated in the Quran that pig/swine and all its derivatives can't be used/worn once and for all. Period. (You can check the verses that relate to that actually). For men, to add to that - we can't wear silk no matter whether it directly touches the skin or not.

So, back to the pigskin - in fashion industry typically in the form of accessories like shoes, belts and bags, many brands (especially highstreet) uses a lot of leather/suede that is sourced from pig due to its cheap way to reduce its production cost. I dunno whether it got to do with the less complication during the tanning process or whether the supply itself is very easy to get (since pig can produce many offspring in one litter!).

This post could be controversial to some, but I hope it could educate the Muslims so that they are aware about their purchase of leatherwear so that what they're buying would not be of pigskin leather. Being an avid consumer myself and a self-proclaimed shopanisto, my encounter with pigskin has been tremendous. In real life I can simply identify the type of the skin just by looking at the features and texture of the leather. But when it comes to buying online, there are easy identification on how to spot whether the leather is actually of pigskin.

1. The physical features.

The one most important factor about pigskin leather is the existence of the three-dotted features in the entire layout of the leather/skin. Look closer, they can be in so many various forms but they share one common traits - the three dots are so close together as if they form their own grouping. I'd call this the Mickey Mouse feature - coz hey, it does look like the Mickey silhouette, huh?

Another one is the way the pores exist on its entirety. A typical pigskin has the pores very visibly separated that you can view. Some manufacturers might've tried very best to mask the visibility of the pores, but God is full of mercy coz He'll ensure that whatever is 'wrong' would not be hidden away. 

Anyway, how to identify pigskin just by looking at the photos of the product? Easy. You can basically spotted it right away. 

For example, this is the confirmed pigskin 'sole' lining.

This one looks very clear coz the three-dots are visible!

This is another version of pigskin lining. Thru 'microscopic' view you can see the three-dotted spot and the visible pores.

a neutral tone version of pigskin lining...

can you spot the pores? yup....this is pigskin!

this is what I call the suede version of pigskin. When in the form of suede, the pores are very clearly seen, and most of the times you can spot the three-dotted spots.

this one is what I call the 'depressed' version of pigskin. I think this happen when they're using the aged pig (pig pencen) coz the texture is unlike before. I found it in my previous shoes before such as the hideous Opening Ceremony shoe-boot and the Cheap Monday chukka, which I have given away, fortunately...

pigskin? yup...

another version of 'depressed' pigskin lining. the 'depressed' feature of the pores are visible...

this one by Sandro might fools you to think it's a typical calfskin from bovine. But God has mercy, baby... see the dotted feature?

The lining is a 'brushed' version of pigskin leather. The Asos label is fortunately not, coz that's a sheepskin leather.

In case you saw a pix of the shoes that confirmed it is not of a pigskin, please also confirmed by looking at the side lining too. Coz sometimes, to keep the cost down some brands have their own way to cut cost and uses pigskin lining on the sides of the shoes. Some examples...

So, how to know whether its NOT a pigskin? One easy way is to notice the smooth, uniform look of the leather in its entirety. 
  • typical calfskin from the young cow has a better smooth feature and texture than an aged bovine. And the grain of the leather is also much non-existence and looks very plain smooth.
  • sheepskin leather has tiny visible pores but are uniformly distributed without any grouping of 'three-dotted' unlike pigskin. Just like in the pix of Asos label as I mentioned above.
  • buffalo leather is similar to aged calfskin, but have much coarser leather grain and is quite heavy when it comes to making it as bags. Similar to calfskin, you won't see any visible pores whatsoever unlike sheepskin or pigskin.
  • deer leather is a bit like the young calfskin leather, i.e. there is no visible pores (so far what I've encountered) and there's is no visible leather grain unlike buffalo. Upon touch, its has the ultimate smooth texture like no other. One example is Prada gloves.
  • An ostrich leather is very easy to spot. It has the very visible pores that is somewhat 'embossed' which you can view clearly. It may look like pigskin but ostrich leather has only one big dot, not three-dotted like pigskin.

Some of the example of calfskin leather linings...

this is not pigskin, coz it's a perforated pattern sole...

Apart than that, there's always a big maybe which inclined to yes to pigskin. Like this McQ shoes which somehow to me is very ambiguous coz looking at its grain I can straight away tell it comes across as 'depressed' pigskin and typical calfskin. But upon checking closer, i can confirmed that this IS of pigskin leather. 

2. The smell.

The smell is very hard to explain through this text coz it has to be smelt by the individuals. But what I can share is that, pigskin leather has a slight pungent scent that comes across as burnt leather a bit, as compared to the intoxicating luscious calfskin leather. That's all I can put it.

One big example is my recent online purchase of KG Kurt Geiger studded boots. When I look at its sole lining, I can confirm that it was not pigskin. Since I am very unlucky coz I can't view the side lining, I just take a gamble to just buy the boots without any doubt. When it arrives two weeks ago, I opened the package and right away could smell something that is quite familiar - quite pungent. The smell of a pigskin?! No way. Where on earth on the shoes does it has pigskin, anyway? The side lining. Bingo! My guess is right!

3. The price tag.

One easy thing to recognize about the use of pigskin leather (especially when purchasing from overseas websites) is the price tag. Most of the cheap shoes, they might've been using the pigskin lining coz that is one easy way to keep any cost down. 

Mentioning the brand, as far as my experience is concerned, there are many brands that I would not buy coz they're using pigskin lining. I can confirmed coz I check 'em out in real life - at their flagship stores around London, as well as at big department stores like Selfridges, Harrods, and Harvey Nicks, as well as at some other shoe stores in the capital:
  • Kurt Geiger (especially the cheaper ones. One exception though is my gladiator shoe, thankfully)
  • Hudson.
  • Swear. 
  • Most of the highstreet shoes, such as Topman, River Island, New Look. And some shoes at H&M, whereby some they like to use synthetic lining.
  • Most shoes by Asos own brand.
  • Most nubuck by Nike.

As for brands like Gucci, Prada, Fendi... I normally can confirm they're using calfskin, that's why the price is so way up there, so pricey. Maybe it does gotta do with the tanning process the leather gone through, perhaps?

But, whatever it is - the most important is : CHECK IT OUT FIRST. It's all about subjectivity, so you have to take the preventive steps to confirm whether it is pigskin or not. Some Gucci and Fendi might use pigskin, you'll never know (actually Gucci did use pigskin for some of their ladies' bags in previous seasons, which they did mention in the press).

In case of syubhah, don't buy it. And in case you've already bought it, there's always that 'RETURN' delivery you can apply. It's up to you. But as a Muslim, I won't be using anything pigskin. Period.