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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.

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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.

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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.

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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

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