A Tale of Two Wallets

From billfolds to pocket secretaries to slim card cases, a wallet is one of the most personal items a man carries. In addition to credit cards and cash, IDs and licenses, your wallet is often home to those personal scraps of memory and nostalgia unique to you. Unlike your bag, your shoes or even the clothes on your back, a wallet tends to a long-term investment, a personal relationship. It’s so personal that for some guys it never crosses their mind to get a new one unless prompted by sheer necessity.

The wallet I have carried for more than a decade is from R. Horns, in Vienna – a maker of wonderful leather goods. It is a classic international billfold with two currency sections and eight credit card slots. The rich nutty brown leather, darkened with age and quite thick is still soft. I love it. But it’s not always what I need; sometimes I just want to carry a few cards and other times I want a sort of portable home base to capture all the ephemera of my life.

Over the past couple of months, I’ve been testing a few outstanding options – here are two standouts.

From Billykirk, the New York-based leather goods company I have my home base; the No. 217. It’s a big, beautiful zip card/coin wallet that features 12 card slots, 2 interior main compartments and 1 zipped coin pouch. At first stiff and solid, it quickly softened molded to my hand, and to whatever was inside.

Founded by brothers and business partners Kirkland and Christopher Bray, Billykirk makes elegantly functional leather products that combine the best of substance and style.  Most of the manufacturing takes place in Lancaster Country, PA, by Amish craftsman whose attention to detail is genuinely outstanding.

The No. 217 holds all of my cards, receipts, notes, slips of papers and on occasion, my iPhone. Although not dissimilar to a women’s clutch (my wife has tried to adopt it a few times) it is very much a man’s wallet. I’ve found it to be a perfect travel wallet, great for keeping track of all my loose stuff.

It’s also just plain beautiful and something that will likely be passed down at some point (no time soon however).

When I do not need to have access to all my cards, change and cash I now switch gears and pull out a handy, trim and equally outstanding little wallet. The three-pocket Astoria from Waskerd is another great example of a renewed interest in low-impact craftsmanship.

Similar to the production methods of bag maker Will Lisak of ETWAS, all the wallets are handmade by founder Derek Shaw, a self-taught leatherman.

“I was born and raised in Texas and my grandfather raised cattle for a living. I remember waking up with him before the sun came up to help him feed the cows. I have had a fondness of cows and leather ever since. I love leather in its natural state – imperfections and all. I love the smell of leather. I love the feel of it, and more than anything, I love how quality leather patines and forms from handling and use. When I began making wallets I wanted to incorporate some my grandfather and his love for cattle in my work.”

Says Shaw, “almost all of the names of my products have very personal meaning. I’ve lived in Astoria, NY, Bloomfield, PA, and Newport News, VA. Each city and stage in my life has brought me to where I am now and influenced who I am.”

Depending on your needs any one of these gets the job done. Whatever type of wallet you choose, in whichever configuration best matches your needs, choose something you really like. A wallet, like all your personal effects should be an investment. Invest wisely.

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7 Responses to “A Tale of Two Wallets”

  1. sam says:

    Thank you for this post. I had my wallet of 14 years snatched Halloween weekend and I have been looking for an adequate replacement. Done.

  2. OTC says:

    Sam – Sorry to hear about your lost wallet, but glad that we could help you find something new!

  3. Kristen MacKenzie says:

    check out Sweet Trade, they are handmade leather wallets and belts, etc. with a nautical influence. all hand crafted!!!

    you can find them on facebook under Sweet Trade (bags and luggage)



  4. Brian says:

    As usual, you provide a level of detail to the discussion that takes this beyond a write-up to a highly informative read. I recently retired my billfold for a card holder and a money clip. Since I never put cash in my wallet–hold over from the restaurant industry–it didn’t make since to have a full-fledged wallet. My Cole-Haan card holder with room for 6 credit cards, a windowed slot for my license is perfect.

  5. OTC says:

    Kristen – Thanks for the head’s up. Great stuff – really unique! I’ll be contacting you guys soon.

  6. OTC says:

    Brian – Thanks for the kind words. You guys at BBG know your stuff too!

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