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Eelskin Wallets - What Are They Really Made Of?


"Silk of the Seas..." What's really in your Eel-Skin Wallet?

Eelskin is a popular leather replacement - soft and durable, and a by-product of fishing, it is used mainly for wallets and handbags, but can also be found as shoes and clothing! However... there is a great and terrible secret. Eel skin wallets are not eel skin at all! That picture on the left is an eelskin wallet in waiting - but it's not the eel you're thinking of.

This page is here to debunk the myths and expose the truth around eel skin wallets - what are they really? Do they really destroy your credit card? And is that much of a discount legal?

They're very successful, rather unpleasant scavengers, who live on the sea floor and eat dead and dying fish - by any orifice necessary. They haven't evolved for a very long time and are quite primitive - one of the only jawless (Agnathan) fish left - another is the lamprey.

They're most renowned for the huge volumes of slime they ooze out of their pores - probably as a defence mechanism (one undersea video shows them swarming bait, and another fish that tries to butt in and grab something to eat swims off choking with a mouth full of slime). It turns from clear to... well, snotty, on reaction with the water around it.

Eelskin Wallets - The Silk of the Seas - Or should that be the 'slime' of the seas?

Hagfish skin is soft and strong, and is sold worldwide as 'Eel-skin'. It's become a popular ethical alternative to leather for shoes, handbags, belts and wallets. Even better, as it is eaten in Asia, it's a culinary by-product. Eel skin is suppler and stronger than normal leather, and the fact that no two skins are the same means that every item made is truly unique.

So most of your fashion accessories - mostly wallets, credit card holders and purses, but also including some oddities such as boxes and shoes - come from the Pacific Hagfish (the slime eel). Some species are now endangered due to the eel-skin trade.

Is calling them eelskin misleading advertising? - Or are hagfish eels to everyone anyway?

It's pretty obvious why eelskin is marketed as eelskin - no one really wants a slime eel purse! And while the Hagfish isn't actually an eel, it's close enough in appearance that most people wouldn't know or care about the difference.

Is it misleading to label eelskin wallets as eel, not hagfish?

Guestbook - Heard any other stories about eelskin?

Spiderlily321 on July 28, 2012:

This is very interesting. Great job sharing all of this info!

Mary Norton from Ontario, Canada on March 13, 2011:

Sort of like eel skin but these points are interesting. Often, I just stay away from animal skin excluding really good leather.

Mona from Iowa on April 20, 2010:

slime fish and snot eel have pretty much no marketability. :) Eel skin sounds way better though it still kinda gives me an eew moment. No idea why I wear leather. Fickle I guess. :)

oztoo lm on April 19, 2010:

I can see why the name "hagfish" isn't used. Interesting and yes - quite random. Could be a useful one for trivia quiz night. Who'd have known an eelskin wallet isn't eelskin.

nickupton lm on April 19, 2010:

Yes, just the lens I was looking for.

FlynntheCat1 (author) on April 19, 2010:

@myraggededge: Haha, oh yes :D My randomness increases in proportion to the presure of my assignments >.>

And thank you oh holy eel. ...bwahaha. My captcha is 'gagsnog'

myraggededge on April 19, 2010:

You are so random - lol! Blessed by an Ang-eel :-)