Why a wallet is the one accessory every man should own

I have a mate who is particularly focused on trends and prides himself on his sartorial good judgement. When he saw me fish my battered wallet out of my jacket on a recent evening, he scoffed.

"Apple Pay has made wallets totally pointless," he told me. "What are they even for these days? Your driver's license?" (He catches Ubers.)

Admittedly, I was paying for our drinks with a credit card. In fact, I haven't used cash for weeks. Meanwhile, most of my other cards (Medicare etc.) live in a bowl on the kitchen counter. 

So, why carry a wallet at all?

Calling card

It's simple: a wallet is an effective way to signal your style priorities and even to say something about your personality. 

Are wallets strictly necessary in the era of smartphones and cardless cash? No. But then again, neither are wristwatches.

Wallets are wonderfully expressive. Whether you're on a first date or buying your  boss a coffee, flashing your wallet can say a great deal.

Hidden depths

Take my current Shinola wallet, for example. From a distance, it looks like a relatively standard bifold specimen in medium brown leather. 

But look closer and you can see a rich, painterly patina that has developed over the past five years of daily use. Up close, the quality of the leather is undeniable.

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The wallet's corners are subtly curved, and the stitching remains crisp despite heavy wear. Inside, each of the six card pockets is lined with faille, a type of fabric which is woven with a faintly ribbed pattern, creating a distinctive textured feel. 

Tales it could tell

My wallet has a story attached, too: it was made before my eyes when I visited Detroit about five years ago to research a story on the city. I still remember the no-fuss Detroiter who handed it to me at the end of the day.

Shinola's aren't the most expensive wallets you can buy by a long shot, and there's no obvious branding or other decoration. 

But that suits me fine. I'm not a showy guy, and I value craftsmanship. The textured brown of my tough-as-guts wallet tells a story about the thousands of the miles I have travelled in the past five years.

Meet the competition

When my Shinola wallet finally gives out, there are a few replacements I have my eye on.

All the major luxury houses sell wallets, of course. Personally, the idea of a big fat logo doesn't appeal.

But I'm attracted to Bottega Veneta's wallets, which are constructed using the house's signature intrecciato weave and are free of branding. They're fiendishly expensive, but only people with impeccable taste will realise.

For the young at heart, there's a nifty collaboration between the artist Kaws and Dior which reimagines the house's signature bee motif. Not recommended for those aged 30 or over, however.

And for the nostalgic, R.M. Williams makes some surprisingly sophisticated and minimally decorated wallets that reportedly can take a beating.

Doubling down

Although I'm tempted by these other options, chances are I will replace my current wallet with another Shinola when the time comes. I've developed an affection for the brand and feel it represents me well.

And, as I realised when I was in New York City last month, rumours of the death of cash have been greatly exaggerated. Over there, carrying a wallet containing a few crisp bills for tipping remains essential.

For that reason, amongst others, the wallet remains a symbol of the refined gentleman.

Dan's writing on style, travel and more has appeared in The New York Times, the Australian Financial Review, Condé Nast Traveller and others. He is based in Sydney.

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Check out the gallery above to see what you should have swinging on your arm this season.