Everybody comes to veganism in their own way, for their own reasons. Usually it's based on personal health/weight concerns, environmental issues, or animal rights considerations. I think eventually many of us embrace all of these things, and at that point, being vegan is more than a diet, it's a lifestyle. What we eat remains central, but what we wear and buy and support also plays a big role.
At first I was all about the food, and didn't give things like leather much thought. The poor cow was already dead, and there was nothing I could do about it. I was mistaken though, because every time we buy something, we say to the maker of that thing, "Please make more."
My stance on leather these days is this: I do not buy anything made of leather anymore. Not shoes, not purses, not belts, not anything. There are plenty of good alternatives out there now, so it's really very easy. The leather items I still own, from my pre-vegan days, are used and cherished, or passed on to someone else. I won't throw them away, out of respect for the creature they came from.
The one leather item I did buy after going vegan is a doozy - a green leather couch. Before you throw rocks at me, or turn me in to PETA, let me tell you the story behind this purchase. We had been renting our house to tenants who, unknown to us, had over 30 cats and dogs living inside. When we came back to reclaim our home, it was one big stinky mess, and almost everything, from furniture to drapes to carpets had to be thrown out. Not in any position to afford new furniture, I went to Craigslist, and found this beautiful leather couch, here in Taos (not hours away in another town), for only $75. I struggled with deciding what to do, but ended up buying it because we were desperate, and because I knew we were at least the third owners of the couch. I felt we were rescuing it, rather than sending any encouragement to the leather industry. Ideally, I'd have something else, but for now I feel like the Keeper of the Sacred Cowch. I've let go of the guilt, because I didn't cause any harm in buying it. And I say nice things to it every day.
Back to shoes - my favorite thing to buy in genuine not-leather. Check out Alternative Outfitters, Moo Shoes, and Planet Shoes. A quick Google search will turn up even more. Even Zappos has a vegan shoes section. So cool. I just got these beauties from LuLu's.com. Totally vegan, red faux suede, super cute, and cheap - only $32. I can't walk in them, but I can cook!