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Wallet Formats

by , November 12, 2010

Wallet Formats

A wallet is essentially a pocket organiser. It needs to store, and then provide access to, the cards and notes we keep in our pockets (we’ll cover large format organizers and ladies purses in another post). Yet with that wonderful diversity that human nature manages, there are tons of wallet types and formats.

In the spirit of carry geekdom, we thought we’d go through a few of those formats, outlining when we think each of them is most effective…

Background (because we’re geeks)
We like to think of wallets as arranged on a spectrum from storage optimized (they keep your cards really close together), through to access optimized (they allow you to grab any card in an instant).

We’ll start with the storage optimized wallets, because they don’t bulge in your pocket (leaving you to look sexy).

Single Sleeves/Cases

You can’t get any smaller than stacking your cards against each other. A good case or single sleeve should then wrap your cards in a thin layer for protection, and give you some way of spreading your cards to sort through them.
Notes usually require a separate money clip, or a spot where you can fold and tuck them in near your cards. It’s this note folding that is the biggest turn off for most potential sleeve users, as it does require some practise.
Lots of solutions in this area have a few external slots, giving some ready access while still keeping bulk low. We find these generally destroy cards faster, unless they have been really clever in sheltering the cards.
So if you’re into reducing bulk, reducing cards, and don’t mind folding notes, you should find love with these.

Wallet image on the left is a Max & Unicorn Wallet
Wallet image on the right is a Masakage Tanno Wood Buisness Card Case

Bifold Wallets

Most of the men’s wallet world lives in this space. A clean bifold can be a great compromise between storage efficiency and easy access. A good bifold helps you prioritise between frequently used cards (like your main credit card and ID which need fast access slots), and your infrequently used cards (which should be stored more efficiently and out of the way). When you start adding additional flaps and sections, they start to loose any elegance.

The biggest flaw with most bifolds is the amount of leather they put into them. You can sometimes end up with 10 layers of leather in depth, which adds crazy bulk and ugly pocket bulges. Less is definitely more here.

Wallet image on the left is a Alice Park
Wallet image on the right is a Barret Alley

Trifold Wallets

Generally speaking, trifolds are crap. You just end up with too much leather, too many layers, and too much fold complexity (for no real gain). There are some trifolds that do a better job of it, but we think you can almost always get a better end solution with another format.
If you’re using a trifold with additional card flaps, ummm… wow. There’s probably not a less efficient wallet out there.

Wallet image on the left is a Bavelli Leather
Wallet image on the right is a Meridan

Defying convention

“All models are wrong, but some are useful” (George Box)
No matter how you try to segment an area, there will always be some that don’t fit your categories. Here you’ll find any number of concertina, origami or moulded solution, most of which are more about originality than better solving our carrying problems.

If you like to carry a weird mix of items together, or feel like convention needs to be defied, you might well find a great solution in this broad category.

Extra bit at the bottom:
The credit card has actually revolutionized wallets. Let me explain…

Previously, having no standard size to base decisions from, institutions would make their identification all kinds of dimensions. Drivers licenses, medical papers and membership documents could vary from a small dog tag to a business letter size behemoths. Somehow, your wallet had to fit all these.

With the mass proliferation of the credit card, identification has slowly moved towards this standard size (known in the ISO/IEC 7810 standard as ID-1 size). There are other larger standard ID sizes (like the ID-3 Passport size), but only big and annoying government organizations specify those (especially in Europe).

So while we normally all diss the credit card contagion, your wallet is secretly blessing it, as we now know what a wallet needs to hold. Oh, other than currency sizes, where some nations are very slow to catch up. If you have to haul huge GBP or Euro around, perhaps ask your national mint to get with the times.

  • James

    Hey, I found your site through googling new wallets and I’ve really been enjoying it. I’m thinking I’m going to ask my girlfriend to get me that Maxx & Unicorn folded leather wallet for my birthday.

    But as far as the bags are concerned on the site, you seem to always be searching for the perfect messenger bag. Have you looked at Tom Bihn? I don’t know how widely-known they are; you may know their stuff & prefer to look at lesser-known companies. I’ve never seen one of their messenger bags up close, but I have their small Synapse backpack and it’s been great for me. The company isn’t perfect, as everything’s fairly expensive and not really appropriate for business use (nothing looks much more impressive than the Patagonia or North Face stuff you review). Still, they have really well-made and practical stuff.

    Anyways, you have a new fan. I just wish I had found this site sooner! I’ve been obsessing for the past few years trying to cut back on the stuff in my pockets, but I do get a lot of satisfaction from carrying a few quality items. I’m down to a small wallet (3 credit cards, insurance, student ID, & driver’s license), my great-uncle’s old zippo, a handkerchief, a Case small Texas jack pocketknife, and a black Sharpie pen. I’ll be going back over your post on slimming down your keys this evening!

  • http://bookboy.net jonathan

    I’m currently using a Waterfield wallet. It’s basically a flat pouch with a zip that runs across the top and down one end. Inside there are small credit card size pockets on each side and folded bills plus receipts etc sit in the middle. Sometimes a few coins too.

  • Brett


    I’ve been using a handmade leather trifold wallet for 10 years. Before that I had a trifold wallet for 5 years. I disagree they are crap. They are slim, small and hold everything I need them to hold (credit cards, license and money). They don’t beef up my pants in the back (fat arse) or make things look bigger in the front pocket (not that I need it).

    Small change I shove in my pocket or put into my coin jar at home for a splurge when it is full.

    I haven’t found a wallet that is as good as a trifold yet.

    Am I the only one?

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  • http://carryology.com Phil Landry

    I’ve seen some ads for credit card protection from hackers intending to capture a signal from these new credit cards. Is this worth worrying about? Do your wallets protect against this?
    Thanks in advance.

  • qmarket

    I never seen these types of models ever before… But its really having something in it… making me to buy like this one….



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