Functionality not lost, designers like Paul Smith, Simon Carter, and Richard James have brought wallets out of the dark and into the light. Vivid colours embossed on their covers and linings with depictions of comic cartoon strips started appearing, even bikini clad women and mini minors.
Men’s wallets have recently been elevated to "fashion accessory" status, originally created to perform a specific function, to carry paper money; we’ve just given it a much needed face lift.
Richard James a Savile Row tailor uses vibrant pinks, purples and burgundy on the inside flaps to create individuality for his brand. Top stitching is also widely used to create some interest.
Then Simon Carter came up with a real winner, the Jeans wallet, made from ultra fine, calf hide, slim and thin, with just enough compartments for cards and cash. It slips nicely into the back pocket of even the tightest jeans with ease and it feels so good in the hand.
Vivienne Westwood range of men’s wallets and leather goods are simply sublime, just a brief handle enough to satisfy the senses. And if you want to complete and compliment then have a look at her cufflinks.
Originally their purpose was purely functional; developed almost immediately after the introduction of paper currency to the West in the 1600s. (The first paper currency was introduced in the New World by the Massachusetts Bay Colony in 1690.) Prior to the introduction of paper currency, purses (resembling simple drawstring leather pouches) were used for storing coins. Early wallets were made primarily of cow or horse leather and included a small pouch for printed calling cards.
No matter how functional they’ll never achieve the same status as the more decorative men’s fashion accessories, like silk ties, lapel badges and the everlasting silver cufflink.
The modern bi-fold wallet with multiple "card slots" achieved its uniform standard size in the early 1950s with the introduction of the first credit cards in 1951. Wallet design remained mostly unchanged throughout most of the late 20th century, while today wallet design has exploded into myriad shapes, designs, and colours from dozens of designers.
Now days, it’s not uncommon for men to posses a collection of wallets. They have become more central to fashion accessories and make ideal gifts. If you’re a frequent traveller, there’s the passport wallet. For the everyday businessman on the busses or subway, then the coin wallet makes a good companion.
Although cold hard cash has given way to the credit card, it still "pays" to carry some coin and paper money, just in case you need to spend a penny.
Finally "how to care for a wallet" First of all don’t be sold that expensive little container of magic ingredients, being the only type of polish suitable for your new wallet. It’ll cost you a third of the price of the wallet. The truth is most leather care products contain pretty much the same ingredients, so a good quality shoe polish will suffice. All you need is a tin of appropriately coloured shoe polish, one soft brush to apply the polish, another for buffing, a piece of chamois and a tidy bag to store everything in. Once a month take out your wallets, empty its contents and get to work. After a while this will seem less of a chore and more of an enjoyable exercise, the feel and smell of freshly polished leather is most rewarding.
And when you’re ready to discard your old faithful "recycle" after one last buff pass it on to charity and let someone else derive pleasure from a piece of well worn leather.
Perpetuating traditional values of English made clothing and accessories is part of our ethos.