Recently an interesting pair of loafers came on my radar. They’re made by TB Phelps of deer hide. I reached out to the company to find out more, and here’s what they said.
The loafer model is called the Ventura and comes in chestnut, black and tan in sizes 8-13 including half sizes. It also comes with a special cream “to bring the leathers back to original finish after heavy wearing,” according to director of sales John Bracewell. Suggested retail price is $275. The shoes are made in Mexico.
As for the sourcing of the hides, Bracewell says the following: “We define our American exotic leathers by virtue of their being from wild animals, which are by and large found only in America. We work with four exotic leathers: bison, wapiti elk, alligator and deer. One major defining difference in these wild animals is their habitats. Deer are not in managed habitats and totally fend for themselves in the wild. The other American exotics have blended habitats that involve some farming, pasturing, or wild habitats. Deer are very plentiful in the wild and, as many of us know, quickly overpopulate a local habitat. While reintroducing the coyote and wolf back into those habitats is helping control the population growth, there are still more animals than can be balanced in nature. Managing their populations becomes necessary through traditional hunting methods, an authentic, ethical and natural endeavor as old as humankind itself. Most of our deer and elk leather comes from the upper Midwest.”
The wearing benefits of deer and elk are that they are breathable, with an open-pore structure that wicks out air and moisture, is especially soft, and both strong and stretchable. “While cowhide will eventually dry out and possibly tear,” says Bracewell, “deer and elk leathers can get repeatedly wet and will remain pliable and soft, even when soaked with perspiration. Our deerskin is hand-finished on the shoe last to create a beautiful two-tone look. We use special hand-finishing techniques to nourish and color the leather, retaining the soft elasticity and butter-soft feel. We often hear that our deerskin shoes are broken in even when new. Then after repeated wearing the soft leather will take on a worn-in look. Some folks like to keep the worn appearance, while others chose to use our special reconditioning cream.”
Finally, the cost of the shoe is kept down as TB Phelps uses the entire hide to make smaller items, such as belts and wallets.
As always, Ivy Style reports the news, but doesn’t tell you what to think about it. Only you can decide if deer hide shoes are right for you — and bit loafers, Belgian shoes, and saddle shoes, for that matter. — CC