We’re Calling It: Snakeskin Print Is the New Cheetah Print

In the world of fashion, how do we know that an item/style/print is “cool”? Well, if it gets a cosign from coveted skate brand Supreme — you know, the once-underground label known for its bright red box logo and last year’s hugely successful, super-exclusive Louis Vuitton x Supreme collab — that’s a pretty solid start.

Back in November, the luxury streetwear label — which recently signed a 500 million dollar deal with The Carlyle Group — let loose another quick-to-sell-out collaboration, this one with Levi’s, featuring multiple snakeskin print styles. Downtown It girl Mellany Sanchez — formerly of KITH and Vogue, now stylist to Drake — nabbed the python-on-white overalls, pairing them with mismatched Maison Margiela boots for a head-turning yet streamlined look. (Sanchez isn’t the first to employ this technique. See: Balmain’s Spring 2017 runway show.)

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That same month, Rihanna paid homage to Queen Nefertiti on the cover of Vogue Arabia. The singer, style icon, designer and beauty mogul wore a replica of the Egyptian ruler’s iconic blue headpiece, a coordinating snakeskin jacket and heavy teal eye makeup.

And in case a Supreme, Rihanna and Vogue endorsement isn’t enough to convince you that snakeskin print is having a fashion moment, allow us to direct your attention to the recent Milanese runways. At Tod’s, we saw snakeskin-effect button-downs teamed with python-trimmed natural linen sets. Natacha Ramsay-Levi filled Chloé’s lineup with trophy items, among them python booties, pants, skirts, dresses and half-zip shirts. She even took her bow in the latter. (View the full collection here. It’s full of brilliant Westernwear-inspired styling ideas.)

Snakeskin print on the Spring 2018 runways Tod's Spring 2018, Chloé Spring 2018, Bottega Veneta Spring 2018

Snakeskin prints at Tod’s Spring 2018, Chloé Spring 2018, Bottega Veneta Spring 2018; Images: Imaxtree

Bottega Veneta gave us 60s-style skirt suits done, unexpectedly, in suede (up top) and yellow snakeskin (down below). Python (and python-mimicking) prints also showed up at Salvatore Ferragamo, Fendi, Roberto Cavalli, Fendi and Gucci —and not just in accessories form. Ferragamo dressed Bella Hadid in a slithery halter neck dress; Karl Lagerfeld put Adwoa Aboah in a boa-inspired cutout-sleeve coat. Across the pond, Baja East, makers of luxe-but-attainable clothes, showed a snakeskin-inspired knit jumper that had everyone talking.

True python is, of course, an exotic skin, and thus surrounded by a whole lot of controversy. As with the fur trade, the python trade raises concerns about wildlife conservation, sustainability, supply chain transparency and animal welfare issues. Luxury brands like Gucci, Hermes, Dior, Prada and so forth source their python from Southeast Asia, where captive-bred pythons are hung on hooks and skinned alive and poor people are able to make a living by illegally hunting wild pythons and selling the skins to fashion industry vendors. (Fashionista did a deep dive into the true cost of a python bags back in 2014. It’s definitely worth a read.) So you can see why we’re championing python print.

But back to the fun stuff. How does one wear snakeskin IRL? Well, there’s the mismatching colors option demonstrated by Balmain and Sanchez. Generally speaking, though, you want to wear your faux snakeskin with neutral (or pastel) pieces and contrasting textures. For instance, observe how Dylana Suarez teamed teal-tinged boa bellbottoms with a creamy woven cardigan and vintage fur jacket.

Dylana Suarez wears snakeskin pants

Dylana Suarez in a 70s-inspired snakeskin lewk; Image: Timur Emek/Getty Images

…Or how Margaret Zhang (of Shine by Three) styled her outsize snakeskin rain jacket with heavily fringed, basic black denim, black statement heels, a ladylike pearl headband and giant gold circle earrings.

Margaret Zhang wears snakeskin print jacket

Margaret Zhang in a snakeskin and fringe getup outside Valentino’s Spring 2018 show; Image: Edward Berthelot/Getty Images

Isn’t it odd — and wonderful — how snakeskin can be so loud and yet so minimalist? Ahead, our favorite python-inspired pieces to shop right now.