Road Tests

Road Tests :: Barrett Alley Revelation Wallet in Shell Cordovan No 8

by , August 6, 2013

Barrett Alley produces some of the finest uber-premium-quality handmade wallets in the US. Maybe on the planet. There, I said it. And we were lucky enough to Road Test one of these functional artworks, the Revelation Wallet in Horween Shell Cordovan No 8. Ever since my shop visit to the workspace last year, I’ve felt this way, and still do today. The focus and attention to detail is unmatched. Watching Barrett and his wife, the only two employees, meticulously use a needle and thread is a silent performance…inspiring, you might say.

Barrett Alley Revelation Wallet Road Test 3

Every individual hand-sewn saddle stitch in this sewing machine-less workspace is done with a razor sharp focus. It’s like each pass of the needle through the leather is as, or more, important than a surgeon performing a brain surgery. Though Barrett and Camélia are both a pleasure to chat and hang out with, easy going with good humor, their work is as serious as a German film festival (or poutine shortage in Canada).

Barrett Alley Revelation Wallet Road Test 11(Above: Camélia saddle stitching a Sierra leather Revelation Wallet from when I visited the Barrett Alley shop in December of 2012)

If you want to hear me wax more about how impressed I am with Barrett Alley’s handmade process(es), the workshop, and/or materials go check out our previous coverage in the Barrett Alley Shop Visit article. Plenty there to drool over. I don’t want to ramble on and on too much about this. And just for the record, I have no affiliation with the brand. I write passionately about quality brands who are making great products that I’m personally impressed with, just to get that out of the way. So let’s focus on the Road Test of Barrett Alley’s Revelation Wallet in Shell Cordovan No 8 ($195), which has firmly planted itself as a staple in my everyday carry (EDC) setup.

Barrett Alley Revelation Wallet Road Test 8

Touching back on Barrett’s precision quality…yeah, yeah, I know I said I was done…all of the products that come out of there are equally amazing in this respect. The Revelation Wallet is no different, beautifully made down to the last minute detail. All that aside, it is the clever design of this wallet that really stands out for me. I’ve been a fan of front-pocket-carry thin wallets for almost a decade now, refusing to use anything else that resembles a Costanza. I regularly rotate slim wallets; Bellroy Card Sleeve, to the MAKR Angle wallet, Bellroy Passport Sleeve for international travel, and some others, depending on my mood and needs. However, most slim wallets don’t really accommodate cash carry or business card carry.

Barrett Alley Revelation Wallet Road Test 6Wallet contents: ID, credit/debit card, grocery store card, Car2Go card, 3 business cards, one bill, and a baby photo with my contact info written on the back. (To clarify…no, I’m not a parent. Yes, this is just a random baby photo. And no, I’m not creepy. A recent study by Scottish psychologists in Edinburgh has shown that wallets containing a baby photo have an 88% chance of being returned. Something to think about!)

Carrying cash with slim wallets usually requires you to fold up your bills and then put them in the same pants pocket as the wallet, laying flat against it. This works pretty well, unless you’re biking or need to reach into your pocket for something. End result, you have a crumpled wad of cash after a few hours. Not necessarily the classiest or most efficient. So slim wallets aren’t always perfect. I’ve also learned over the years that having one or two business cards on hand, not 15, is really helpful. Though I think the practice of business card exchange is kind of silly, it is necessary and convenient in some circumstances. Other slim wallets “can” physically carry business cards, but the corners and edges stick up and out so high that the cards get destroyed after a few days of use. Handing a potential client a mangled up card isn’t so ideal and definitely not professional.

Barrett Alley Revelation Wallet Road Test 5

The individually hand-numbered Revelation Wallet (#2462 in this case) addresses both of these problems. The clever origami style construction creates a protected center section for business cards and folded cash. This keeps items in your pocket from wearing on the edges of business cards, keeping them fresh and crisp, especially when they’re wrapped in a few folded bills. Two additional “features” wrapped into one, most slim wallets don’t offer either. And even though the photos look as if there is room for the cards, cash and business cards to fall out when inverted, the compartment is deceptively snug.

Barrett Alley Revelation Wallet Road Test 10

Barrett explains his design trials with this wallet’s design to me, and this deceptively snug fit isn’t by accident. Every detail is considered here. Prototype after prototype was constructed, tested, then refined. This process was repeated until everything was dialed in to a glove-like fit. The slots are just tight enough so you can furiously shake the wallet upside down and nothing slides out (I’ve tried this several times). Yet, you can still slip a card out with zero effort when you need one quickly. This wallet has that perfect balance of snug and accessible.

Barrett Alley Revelation Wallet Road Test 4

Material-wise, I’m blown away. This wallet is constructed from 100% Horween Shell Cordovan. For those not familiar with the stuff, this is the Rolls Royce of leathers, usually set aside for extremely high-end shoemaking applications (like these $650 Alden wingtips). Unlike most stuff out there which comes from the bovine (cow) family, this is actually of the equine (horse) variety, specifically from the rear upper thigh of the animal. The fact that they can only get two small oval-shaped pieces (roughly the size of a 13″ laptop) from each horse makes this stuff even more precious. Shell Cordovan is “the art of tanning at its finest”. Chicago’s Horween would know, as they’re the only tannery in North America producing Shell Cordovan, and they’ve been doing it for over 100 years, since 1905.

Barrett Alley Revelation Wallet Road Test 7

Each piece is slowly steeped in vegetable liquors, hot stuffed with a proprietary blend of waxes (the formulas date back to Horween’s founder, Isador Horween), then put onto glass frames to dry. Once dry, each shell is individually curried, shaved, and finally hand-rubbed with dyes, polished and glazed by highly skilled artisans to expose the glossy finish. Among other processes not listed. This tanning process requires patience, as it takes at least six months from raw material to finished product. And for those concerned with the animal’s well-being, Horween only use horses which have passed away from natural causes, a plus in my book. The stuff is magic to the fingertips. It will last a lifetime and only get better with use. This is easily a legacy wallet that can be passed down for several generations, long after we’re gone. Brilliant selection of materials by Barrett. The Revelation Wallet also comes in a variety of other cow-leathers, which are just as easy on the eye, will last just as long and are more affordable at $120.

Barrett Alley Revelation Wallet Road Test 1

The Revelation Wallet in Shell Cordovan No 8 (“No 8” referring to the rich red/brown color – this wallet is also available in Black Shell Cordovan) fits perfectly into my front right pocket, sitting comfortably deep and low a few inches away from my keys, hanging onto my jeans pocket via the Mega Dangler. It takes up a very minimal amount of space in height (4”), width (2.75”), and thickness (about 0.3”-0.4”).

Barrett Alley Revelation Wallet Road Test 12My current EDC. Front Right Pocket: Barrett Alley Revelation Wallet and keys w/ Munroe Mega Dangler (note the Good Worth “Best Wishes” key). Front Left Pocket: iPhone 5 w/Monolith wood back. Back Right Pocket: Vintage 1950′s-60′s Elephant Brand bandana (addiction thanks to Jonathan at Bandanna Almanac). Back Left Pocket: Koozie.

This wallet delivers on four counts; it is expertly handmade by passionate artisans in the USA (Texas, to be specific), made from the finest Shell Cordovan leather available to man, boasting a clever and functional design (that allows for card, cash and business card carry), all while being minimal and slim for front pocket carry. This Barrett Alley Revelation Wallet is one of the nicest pieces of carry I’ve come across. If you’re in the market for a classic, classy, well-made, functional slim wallet, this should be on your radar.

Barrett Alley Revelation Wallet Road Test 2

  • Mike

    The images in the wallet section are having some serious problems. All of them are erroring out.

    • http://www.coroflot.com/TaylorWelden Taylor Welden

      Good catch Mike. I just sent them an email to let them know about the issue.

  • Smith

    Haha was this the wallet you couldn’t tell me you were road testing Taylor?

    It’s a mighty fine looking wallet! Do you think it’s worth the extra $70+ over the Bellroy Card Sleeve? Sometimes it is a pain getting cash in and out of the card sleeve and sometimes I do wish the leather was thicker. I actually looked at this wallet earlier and couldn’t decide if I liked it or not. A lot of great products coming outta Texas. I gotta visit one day! Thanks!

    • http://www.coroflot.com/TaylorWelden Taylor Welden

      This is the one ;)

      Well, you don’t necessarily need to go with the Cordovan option, as there are plenty of cool bovine leather choices (but clearly, I’d choose the Cordovan).

      I can’t necessarily say if it is “better” than the Bellroy Card Sleeve, just different. I use my Card Sleeve regularly… used it the whole time up at Outdoor Retailer. I think there can be different wallets for different scenarios, which may sound ridiculous to some, haha.

      Plenty of really cool stuff coming out of Texas, which I personally wasn’t aware of until relatively recently. I just discovered THREE new brands that are making killer carry here. Doing a shop visit with one of them down in Houston on Thursday. Another one is right here in Austin (knew about them before, but learned that they were in Austin when I met the owners up at Outdoor Retailer), and another one I randomly came across. There are plenty of really cool hubs that are producing great carry (SF as one example), and I never thought Texas would be on that list… but it is proving to chisel out a solid spot on the list.

      • Smith

        Haha I didn’t realize cordovan was a different option and I saw the price, yowzas! I’m glad you’re enjoying the wallet as it does look mighty snazzy! I’m probably going to use the card sleeve wallet until it falls apart because wallets are one thing I don’t switch between.

        • Ian

          I’ve had the Bellroy Card Sleeve for awhile now and love it, but hate the cash folded into thirds thing. I got a wallet a couple of weeks ago called the Capsule Minimalist wallet. It has 2 card pockets plus what they call a cash strap on the back which lets you carry cash folded in half. You should check it out. Their prices are comparable to Bellroy’s. The Barrett Alley wallet looks awesome, by the way, just a tad out of my price range.

  • Scott

    A cool new wallet on kickstarter, in the same vein as this wallet and the card sleeve (well it is different). I think its an insanely good price:http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/189943599/machine-era-wallet

    The only problem is that many people agree… so im skeptical i am going to be getting mine in october. This thing blew up really fast. You guys should check it out!

    • http://mindgraphy.tumblr.com M.S

      That brass one looks cool and definitely nice design, but for me I would still choose the leather style card wallet. The also have some nice key chains/ bottle openers on their website I checked, thanks for the link!

    • Sterling Silver

      At the risk of opening a can of Spam, what vein do you mean? If you mean both are “front-pocket” wallets that require a bit of a minimalist mindset to work, I suppose you’ve got a point. If you’re coming at it from the “artisanal” perspective, I guess both are/will be manufactured in small workshops. For me, it kind of ends there.

      There’s something simply excellent about hand-stitching shell cordovan into a product as meticulously well-finished as the Barrett Alley piece (which, maybe surprisingly, I’m not a huge fan of) that you just can’t machine. Not to say the Machine Era piece doesn’t look well made and finely detailed. I just don’t feel the soul.

      As for the Revelation Wallet, I can never understand the need to fit the notes in with the cards. Solving this non-problem adds complexity to a piece whose beauty is otherwise its simplicity. If you absolutely must, get a sterling silver money clip and rock it like Sinatra.

      • Scott

        Your first paragraph nails it…. wasn’t trying to compare the products, just showing other people options that to me, achieve the same goal: a small package with a cool design. I never intended this post to be a “look at this one its better” more of a “Oh look, here is another cool wallet”. No soul searching required.

  • Al (in Oz)

    Taylor, it’s not clear in the pics, so can you confirm that the bills are folded in half to fit, or do they need to be folded into thirds?

    A.

    • http://www.coroflot.com/TaylorWelden Taylor Welden

      Heya Al,

      Good eye! The bills are are folded into thirds here.

      Thanks for the catch,

  • SK

    Barrett Alley makes some amazing stuff – shell cordovan is beautiful for just about any type of leathergood since it ages so nicely. Friday & River has a couple of really cool options for minimal type wallets as well.

    • http://www.coroflot.com/TaylorWelden Taylor Welden

      Hey SK, thanks much for the suggestion, we’ll take a look into F&R!

      Take care,

  • Luke Rosen

    Great article. Even more beautiful wallet!! Is there a possibility of you giving us an update on your deer split devilish wallet? I want to see if it gained any patina… that sure was a beautiful wallet.

    • Richard Young

      Taylor, is this the one you have as Luke mentioned? Thinking about getting one…

      http://barrettalley.com/devilish-wallet-deerskin-no-7

      OT – are you located in Austin?

      Thanks – Rich

      • Luke Rosen

        Nope, I was talking about this one: http://barrettalley.com/devilish-wallet-deer-split

        The deer split, it’s a double sided suede wallet that Taylor picked up during his shop visit to BA last year: http://www.carryology.com/2012/12/04/barrett-alley-shop-visit-dallas-tx/

        I actually just purchased a devilish wallet in Deerskin No.7 and it is a beauty. I took it out of the box and didn’t want to use it –that’s how good it looks.

        Sorry for the miscommunication.

        Luke

      • Luke Rosen

        Nope, I was actually talking about the double sided suede devilish wallet in deer split:
        http://barrettalley.com/devilish-wallet-deer-split

        Taylor picked it up during his shop visit to BA last year:
        http://www.carryology.com/2012/12/04/barrett-alley-shop-visit-dallas-tx/

        I actually just bought the Deerskin No. 7 devilish wallet and let me tell you… it is a beauty. So much so that I decided to put it away and keep it safe.

        Sorry for the miscommunication.

        Luke

      • http://www.coroflot.com/TaylorWelden Taylor Welden

        Very similar to that one actually. The one Barrett made me was “deer split”, which is like a deer suede.

        Unfortunately Barrett isn’t making the Devilish out of deerskin any longer. But he is making them out of bovine and equine (Cordovan) leather!

        I’m here in Austin… you as well?

        • Luke Rosen

          Well then I’m very glad I picked up a devilish in Deerskin No. 7!!

          And yes, it’d be awesome to get a pic of that deer split devilish wallet you’ve got! I do want to see how it’s aged.

          Luke

        • http://barrettalley.com Barrett Alley

          The deerskin is tough to keep in stock, especially the individually tanned hides. I hope to have some more Devilish Wallets in the full grain as well as the Deer Split in Fall / Winter 2013. If you see it, snag it – it goes quick!

          Sign up for product announcements here: http://www.barrettalley.com/newsletter

          - Barrett Alley

    • http://www.coroflot.com/TaylorWelden Taylor Welden

      Heya Luke, sure thing, no prob. Want me to email you over a photo?

  • Richard Young

    Taylor, I’d like to see how it has aged as well.

    Yeah I saw yesterday where his Barrett’s LE of 6 devilish in Deerskin No. 7 was sold out:(

    I live in McAllen but have you heard of Paleo Denim in Austin? It’s just 1 guy, Richard Cole. and his Kickstarter ends tonight!

    He’s local; might be worth a look-see.

    http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/paleodenim/paleo-denim-handmade-jeans-and-leather-goods

    OT – my current wallet is by Ashland Leather out of Chicago; it;s a natural Hoeween Shell Cordovan Fat Herbie with denim stitching. Only had it a couple of months; love it, especially the smell!

    http://ashlandleather.bigcartel.com/product/fat-herbie-natural-shell-cordovan-with-denim-thread

    • http://www.coroflot.com/TaylorWelden Taylor Welden

      Hey Richard,

      Funny… I just visited Paleo Denim’s workshop about 2 weeks ago. He’s doing great stuff. Looking forward to picking up a pair in the future.

      I’m personally digging Traveller Denim (Austin, TX)… they’re doing stuff with denim that I haven’t seen anyone doing. Get ready for a shop visit article on them coming up here in the next few days. It should knock your socks off.

      Loving your wallet there! Very trick, especially with the denim stitching. Classic design. And so much Cordovan!

      I’ll email you over a photo of the Barrett Alley deer split Devilish tomorrow… off to bed finally.

      • Smith

        Just took a look at Traveller Denims website, those jeans look really nice! Why are there so many awesome stores in Texas! Haha

      • http://www.coroflot.com/TaylorWelden Taylor Welden

        Hey Richard,

        Here is a shot (poorly taken and poorly lit… sorry!)
        http://imgur.com/HosZbFg

        Though this deer split Devilish was bit of a material experiment for Barrett, I must say, it is aging beautifully. You can see how it picked up some indigo coloring from the raw denim I’ve been wearing. The interior looks mint. You’ll see there are no cards, as I swap out my wallets usually every 7 days or so.

        • Richard Young

          Taylor, thanks for the pic; I take it the blue seepage is indigo from your jeans?

          • http://www.coroflot.com/TaylorWelden Taylor Welden

            Yep- indigo from the raw denim I’ve been wearing. This shouldn’t happen with your average pair of jeans. I think it looks cool though.

  • Richard Young

    Thanks, Taylor for the comments about my wallet and turning me on to Traveller; I’ll definitely check them out. The last pair of jeans I bought were imogene+Willie @ Stag; luv the jeans and luvvvvvvv that store!!!!!

    Plus I’m looking for a new belt since I lost mine when I went to Houston:(

  • http://coolwallets.net Daniel Fletcher

    Those wallets look amazing, i can’t believe they are hand crafted. A little smallish for my tastes though but perhaps it’s just the pictures…

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