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Eelskin Wallets - What Are They Really Made Of?

Updated on August 8, 2013

"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.

Your reaction?

See results

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?

Yes! (Although I can see why they would)

Yes! (Although I can see why they would)

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    • anonymous 3 years ago

      The eelskin comes from Korea where people eat the hagfish, no other countries.

      Skin or leather is commonly used after their meat is eaten. Otherwise they are very expensive.

      I think the misleading name is not because of any purpose but just cultural difference.

      The hagfish have very similar name with the eel in Korean and Korean exporters was not very excellent in English at the time.

    • anonymous 4 years ago


    • anonymous 4 years ago

      I have had many 'eelskin' wallets and purses and just love the feel and lasting quality of the material. Are you saying I should not buy tese products as they may be unethical and illegal?

    • Spiderlily321 4 years ago

      I think it's pretty misleading

    • Mary Norton 6 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      What's new? Advertisers often do this.

    • anonymous 6 years ago

      so how can i know if i buy true eel skin or hag fish?

    • FlynntheCat1 7 years ago

      Well as a biologist, who gets hung up on phylogeny (where it's reasonably certain) I now have the urge to correct everything that says 'eel with an 'actually... it's not Anguilla it's Agnatha or Myxini.

    No - most people would think hagfish are eels anyway

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      • anonymous 3 years ago

        Potatoes potatoes... I want one or maybe a couple shoes or belts.

      • anonymous 4 years ago

        a common name for hagfish is slime eel so they are eelskin.

      • anonymous 4 years ago

        Most people would say that they are eels anyway.

      • Vilja 4 years ago from Helsinki

        Well, one of the names for the hagfish is "eel"... Oh, I guess I'm just picking "no" to be different, since it is a bit of a lie. I don't think it's a big deal, though. If it's a good product, it's a good product, and whether hagfish or eel, it's still dead fish skin, which, if you're inclined to think about it, is already kind of disgusting. Oh, what beastly creatures we all are.

        Lampreys, though. Those terrify me. Nightmare creatures.

      This is what a REAL Eel-skin Purse looks like - A non-hagfish purse

      100% Genuine Eel Skin Large Coin Purse
      100% Genuine Eel Skin Large Coin Purse


      This purse actually IS eel-skin - from a Conger eel, to be specific.


      Let's Ask It A Different Way - Does it Put You Off? - Do you still want an eelskin wallet, now you know it's made of hagfish?

      Did learning about the hagfish put you off 'eelskin' products?

      Yes! EW!

      Yes! EW!

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        • Spiderlily321 4 years ago

          I don't like the idea of purchasing any animal skin products

        • anonymous 5 years ago

          I'd prefer to buy cloth products than anything containing animal skin. It's especially hard with shoes not to have leather in them, but I abstain from buying those products where-ever necessary.

          I say it doesn't matter what animal it came from, I don't think it's ok to buy it

        No - it's still worth buying, who cares what it originally came from?

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          • anonymous 3 years ago

            Not at all... Now I can't wait to buy some! Thanks for the explanation.

          • anonymous 4 years ago

            These seem great-going to buy one.

          • anonymous 4 years ago

            In the UK we don't really hear of them. But I want one now. Found a few on ebay as well.

          • anonymous 4 years ago

            Not at all.

          • FlynntheCat1 7 years ago

            Actually, now I want to buy one MORE! I always felt a bit wary of them - I figured they were probably fake or something, the way they were usually advertised - but now I know where the catch is, I want to own one. Also so I can say 'oh, it's in my hagfish wallet' or 'do you like my hagfish [something]' or 'I bought these hagfish shoes especially for you dear, they bring out your eyes so well!'.

          Some Eelskin Products - Shoes and Wallets and Handbags in spring - thes are a few of my favourite things!

          Guestbook - Heard any other stories about eelskin?

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            • myraggededge profile image

              myraggededge 7 years ago

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

            • FlynntheCat1 profile image

              FlynntheCat1 7 years ago

              @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'

            • nickupton lm profile image

              nickupton lm 7 years ago

              Yes, just the lens I was looking for.

            • oztoo lm profile image

              oztoo lm 7 years ago

              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.

            • WildFacesGallery profile image

              Mona 7 years ago from Iowa

              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. :)

            • aesta1 profile image

              Mary Norton 6 years ago from Ontario, Canada

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

            • Spiderlily321 profile image

              Spiderlily321 4 years ago

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

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