The Definitive Guide To Wallets

The Definitive Guide to Wallets

Wallets are a convenient way to carry around cash, credit cards and your important identification. It fits nicely into a pocket and keeps us organized every day. But what did they do before this invention, before man finally got tired of losing his stuff, or had the smarts to figure it out?

The History of Wallets

The "wallet," in the historical sense of the word, isn't at all what we picture today. Wallet was derived from the 14th century Greek word, kibisis, meaning knapsack. This term was used to describe the sack that Hermes the god had, and also the one Perseus carried the decapitated head of Medusa in. It's only been since 1834 that the wallet took on its more conventional meaning.

As we move through history, the wallet gained popularity and was used in Ancient Greece as a poor man's survival pack. It was stocked with provisions and used more like a knapsack.

The Renaissance period found the wallet moving closer to what we see today. It was larger and referred to as a 'bowgett' (or budget). It was made from leather and would carry cash, books of accounts and small necessary items. This time period also saw the use of metals being made into coins, so the wallet could have been used to handle this as well.

When the 19th century came the wallet was playing a more important role. It was used to carry dried meat and things people tried to keep hidden from the passersby. It was considered good manners to carry your wallet on your belt, not in your pocket.

At this same time in Spain, the wallet made of leather was used to carry smoking paraphernalia; flint, steel and a dried vegetable fibre called, yesca.

Today's wallet started being standardized in the 1950's with the invention of the first credit cards. Velcro also made its leap into the wallet world in the 1970s. This served as a safe way to keep your wallet closed and secure.

Types of Wallets

Thank goodness we no longer need a wallet to be big enough to carry a severed head in; however it does need to be stylish. The market offers a wide variety of wallets to suit every personality. If you're shopping for a wallet, either as a gift or for yourself, you must first determine what function it will serve and to what degree.
  • The Breast Wallet; Also called a 'secretary's' wallet. This was intended to carry banknotes and other documents. It is too large for a pant's pocket and was made to be carried in a purse or breast pocket of a jacket.
  • Bi-Fold Wallet; this is the most popular and standard of all wallets. The banknotes are folded over once and it has a place for credit and identification cards.
  • Tri-Fold Wallet; folded twice this wallet stores plastic cards vertically.
  • Front Pocket Wallet; (aka the money clip) this item stores paper cash with a clip and has few, if any, storage for cards.
  • Long Wallet; has a chain and is usually worn with jeans. Bills are held flat and it may also come with a coin compartment. This style is popular with bikers as well as some fashion movements throughout the years; punk rockers, grunge, heavy metal etc.
  • Wallet Band; as the name suggests this is just a continuous elastic band made of fabric or rubber. The style reduces the bulk of the traditional wallet.
Along with these traditional wallets there has also been some convenient yet, not-so-common, wallets made;

  • Wrist Wallet; a small wallet worn on the wrist to keep the hands free.
  • Travel Wallet; this is used by travellers to keep their essential documents, (passports, tickets, itinerary, traveller checks etc) safe and all in one convenient location.
  • ID Holder; usually worn around the neck, this wallet has a see-through compartment to carry identification.
  • Shoe Wallet; small wallet worn on the shoe made for the exercise trade as a convenient way to stash some cash while on the run.

What to Look For in a Wallet

Now that you know what types of wallets are available, you just need to narrow it down to what you need. If you're buying a wallet for yourself you most likely know what works and what doesn't work for your own personal style. However, when you're making the decision to purchase a wallet as a gift it may become more tricky. If the recipient already has a wallet that's worn out, then mostly likely the style of this wallet is what they prefer, so replacing it with a newer version is sure to be a hit. If the gift is for a young man then keeping it simple is probably best. If you want to give a going-away present, then purchasing a traveler's wallet will be appreciated and practical.

Putting thought into any wallet purchase is key to making a great choice. It makes an ideal gift that's sure to make a lasting impression and will be appreciated for years to come.

Frequently Asked Questions
  • What is a front pocket wallet?
    A front pocket wallet is a compact, streamlined wallet. It is built smaller and thinner so that it can easily fit in your front pocket. Often called weekend wallets, these will usually hold just a few credit cards and often have a money clip or narrow bill slot for your folded bills
  • What is the difference between a bifold and trifold wallet?
    A bifold wallet has just one crease and folds in half. A trifold wallet has two creases and folds in three. Generally, a bifold wallet has a larger surface area and is more narrow, a trifold has a smaller surface area but is thicker.