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What makes a great wallet?

by , December 8, 2009

great wallet

And are we actually asking enough of them?

Want a bigger version of the poster? click [HERE]

Most of us don’t ask much of the wallet we carry. So long as it hasn’t yet exploded, we’re kinda content.

But I was kinda content with my mobile phone, until the iPhone came along. And I’m now kinda content with my iPhone, until one that actually works well as a phone comes along.

So here’s our stab at what a great wallet should do. We’ve even tried to make a little poster of it. If we can get this sorted, there will hopefully be a lot of discontented wallet owners…

More discussion after the jump…

1. It disappears until you need it: Small size, soft corners, and all the things that mean it won’t bulge out, get in the way, or create steady employment for your chiropractor.

2. Access vs Storage: Quick access to the things you need frequently. Compact and efficient storage for the rest.

3. The right level of protection
: If you cycle to work, the thing should be water resistant. If hang at the coast, the thing should keep sand away from your cards. The wallet should have enough protection that your lifestyle won’t destroy the things inside.

4. It should support your personality: If you go to shout the boss lunch with a velcro surf wallet, it’s a pretty hard act to pull off. Just like socks, wallets don’t often get flashed around, yet you don’t want to be busting out the Mickey Mouse numbers too often.

5. Accommodating: There’s always going to be an impromptu hitch-hiker or two (a new SIM card, a borrowed key, or an urgent shopping list). There should be spaces to deal with these.

What are we missing? In what priority do these elements fall for you?

Go on, inspire and educate us in the comments…

PS: If this is really your thing, here’s some more articles relating to it:
A great post over at Techno Theory.

And a not as insightful post at Life Clever.

  • Soccer Mom

    Thinking about wallets from a mom’s perspective probably doubles how long your lists should be:
    6. Deals with baby puke (maybe that’s part of protection?)
    7. Fits well in any number of different bags, yet can be found real quick in all of them
    8. Can be used one handed (or even better would be used with just teeth)
    9. Makes your butt look smaller (mine still hasn’t returned to pre-pregnancy)
    10. Can hold my cell phone, car keys, and even a latte
    I’d like to see the poster for those!

    • Ando

      I think this is the greatest comment in the history of all comments.

      Thanks for your contribution Soccer Mum – amazing!

  • Lina

    I’m going to go with Access vs Storage it’s the element I think about the most
    – where do I put the tram ticket .. in case I need to get it out
    – where do I keep receipts vs vouchers
    – how do I organise high and low priority cards…

    (hope that helps with your design and BTW, your graphic on this post is lovely)

  • http://www.bellroy.com ando

    Awesome comments guys – thanks for chipping in (I’m still laughing at the baby puke call… every maker should go through that check!).

    And I hear Lina on the temp access stuff like tram/train/bus tickets. It’s like a bag having external pockets for when you are on the move (in public), and internal pockets for when you are stationary (more private). A wallet should have a similar split.

  • Dave


    Loving this site. 1st comment, long listener etc. Going with Lina on the above. Lots of behavioral issues that wallets need to overcome. Much like how crew have simplified picking a good wine, can you turn using a wallet into a poki-yoki no brainer?

    Speed. Sick of acting like a nimrod, trying to find my ticket.

    – An obvious section for the public transit crew, do they all have little holes in the tickets? (perhaps a simple attachment system the keeps the ticket in focus for the day?)
    – towel rack for receipts. Makes it easier to collect & remove for filing

    – Wallets designed for crew that sit on them, left cheek / right cheek – orthepedic approved? Access areas, slighly different – according to biomechanics of removal.
    – Wallets for crew that only wear in front pants pocket.
    -Consider ways that they make the jeans / pants look better, ie, through the indent (embossing / just of clothes etc)
    – Wallets for crew that are always shouting chicks at the bar, you can work that one out.

    Device overload – the parasite issue
    Can the wallet wrap around my iPhone? and protect it at the same time?

    The magic wallet is fun, it’s unexpected quick and easy. Can it be fun to use your wallet?

    • http://www.bellroy.com ando

      Nice thoughts Dave, there’s some gold in there.

      We have an idea for the crew always shouting a hotty at the bar, but it’s a bit of work to get an LED lit note section working… either that or we print the lining to look like it’s a wad of $100 bills 🙂 We’ll work on them.

      Love the ortho approved angle too. You could even get correction thicknesses, like the blocks that chiropractors lie you on to correct alignment (ahhh, chuckle). Or have fun with the whole natural vs goofy that you get in skating and surfing – which side do you play to sort of thing.

      Now you’ve got us thinking about enhancement wallets too… if you front pocket carry, we can add some apparent volume (sorry).

      And we are definitely working on pocket synergies like iPhone piggy-backing and pocket organisation for other contents.

      The fun one is the hardest. It can be like novelty tees that are a crack for the first wear, then become an old joke. If we can nail a bit of poetry instead, hopefully that will last the life of the wallet.

      Stay posted and we’ll let you know when we have some stuff that might please you.

  • Kevin

    unsolicited fan mail here — the Mighty Wallet (http://www.dynomighty.com) is golden. Recycled / recyclable Tyvek so it’s pratcially indestructractable, inexpensive, hip without trying too hard, can still pull it out in front of the boss just because it’s so funky, enough dividers but slim and soft cornered and succeeds one criteria no one else mentioned yet —

    let’s all your swipe cards for home / office / mass transit be read right through the wallet since its thin enough for everything to communicate without drama!

    • Ando

      Thanks Kevin, good pick-up on the swipe-ability aspect. And having opened my fair share of FedEx parcels, I can vouch for the toughness of that stuff too.

  • http://iflipwallet.com/ iPhone Wallet

    Nice topic! sometimes we don’t give an extra care for our wallet, but when you really think deep, we “must” protect it. Like my precious iPhone, i invest on a reliable case for it’s protection.

    • Ando

      Thanks iPhone Wallet person – good call on the iPhone analogy.

      It’s funny that we just accept our credit cards will become scratched, our business cards frayed, and our kid’s photo develop a nice scum layer that slowly hides their smiles.

      Pockets are pretty amazing collectors of lint, sand, and UPO’s. It would be nice if our wallets at least added a little protection against these things.

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  • http://meltedpop.com gabro is meltedpop

    hey there!
    after lookin around, i think i found the perfect wallet for me.
    since i used a small neoprene wallet from stussy, which eventually fell apart, i finally found a digicamera sleeve from lowepro. It makes the perfect card n money keeper for me, as it fits in my pants front pocket. it’s also small enough not to fill it up with too much crap but wide enough for coins keys etc, perfect and not too tight for cards, sligthly waterproof, it has a loop that can be attached to a carabiner and its overall solid and durable.
    Oh btw it’s not ‘traditionally’ elegant but to me it is.
    Just wanted to share my experience!

    • Ando

      Nice. It makes sense and would even have a little padding if you fall on your hip 🙂

      • http://meltedpop.com gabro

        yep most of all if you’re biking…

  • v

    More unsolicited fan mail for a different product. After seeing the surf-brand travel wallet you guys highlighted I went looking for something similar. The one I found I absolutely love. The website is a little 1995, but I’m very happy with the product. Professional-looking (no nylon or weird branding), super thin carrying everything I need, cars never fall out, fits in my pants, and big enough for receipts and currency not to stick out.

    Anyhoo, keep them in business so I can buy some more when i wear this one out…

    • Ando

      Yeah right, we’d never seen that one. Thanks for unearthing it v.
      The same guys that did the Rip Curl travel wallet have now refined the idea with Bellroy, and just released an updated version. So finally travel wallets seem to be moving in the right direction!

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  • http://www.sidonieyang.com Shawn @SIDONIEYANG

    I apologize up front if this seems like a plug for the handmade wallet that my wife makes (but, it kinda is!).

    Her wallet is made of washable kraft paper… which is 100% BABY-PUKE-PROOF!

    Yes, after baby pukes on your wallet, you can empty it out and toss it into your washing machine. Come back when the spin cycle’s over, take it out and let it air dry. Good as new! Washing by hand is also a good method.

    Check it out here: Washable Kraft Paper Wallet

    Of course, it also has many of the other features that we all want; such as aesthetic beauty, thinness, etc.

  • Faiz Hakim

    Hey there! Stumbled upon carryology.com while looking for an upgrade from my Chrome Citizen! I’m liking what I’m seeing here =D
    I’m interested in getting a new wallet. Has to be thin and a coin pocket. Any ideas?

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

      I personally love my Bellroy wallet. Vegetable tanned leather, lots of trick/clever features. Looks, feels, and works really nicely for me. They have lots of options for different wallets to fit your needs. Lastly, they’re all about thinning your wallet, which I’m a huge fan of.

      Full discretion, some of the guys here on Carryology run Bellroy (from down in Australia). Myself, I have no affiliation (based out of Austin, TX), other than I love their products.

      • http://researchteacher.com/ Nick

        How is your Bellroy holding up? I’ve read about their wallets wearing out very quickly.

  • James

    I still wish I could find a wallet like the very basic Amity calfskin trifold I used to have, made in the 80s or 90s I think. None of the wallets I’ve seen since, Amity or otherwise, are anything like it. It was just soft calfskin (the kind you can scratch), a bill pocket, and three simple card sleeves (one on each “fold”). The wallet was just large enough for USD notes. No external logos, though there was some nylon inside with “amity” faintly patterned on it.

  • http://mens-health-tips.com kevin

    I want just the opposite of what that other (probably younger) Kevin wants, so no Tyvek for me.
    I want to protect my various chipped, and RFID’d, and NFC’d cards from being surreptitiously read by unscrupulous #@$%^&! identity thieves.

    The other thing that interests me – and there’s no reason why the two requirements should be mutually exclusive – is eelskin.
    My wife had an eelskin wallet … ok, more like a mini-purse with a couple of zippers and all sorts of compartments, that she kept stuffed to nearly the point of bursting… yet it survived more than fifteen years. And that while being bounced and battered inside her purse purse… the one with the handle, that (according to the weight of the thing) doubled as a brick hod.

    Eelskin – the real thing – is as tough as nails, and retains its good looks and scuff resistance many times longer than anything that formerly covered a mammal. But it’s hard to find. I mean, I’ve seen eelskin wallets (as well as belts and other accessories), but they never seem to have good, thoughtful, SLIM design. And now that I have the RF-screening requirement, too, they’re doubly hard to find.

    Anyway, I think people should give a little more thought to how easy it is to grab the info from your chipped cards, without you ever knowing. For NFC, the scanner can be a cell phone with an app, in the hands of somebody innocuous in line behind you at the checkout. For RFID, it can be an equally svelte device (just not a cellphone, because they don’t have RFID transceivers, mostly) that’s carried in a thief’s coat pocket, or purse, or briefcase, or shopping bag, or in that stroller/pram that bumped into your butt a few seconds ago.

    This all takes place through clothing, and often with an air gap of a few feet.

    Now, if they capture your card info and send it to somebody on the other side of the planet, chances are VISA or your bank will see something wrong, and question the charges. But if the perpetrator grabs your info, mocks up a bogus “you” card in a few seconds, and spends a few thousand at the higher-end stores in the same mall where you are shopping, you’ll have a much tougher time convincing MasterCard, VISA, American Express, etc. that it was somebody else and not you.

    Never mind the tin-foil hat; it’s your wallet that wants to be a Faraday cage.


    (in Canada, eh?)

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