As co-owner of Billykirk, a leather goods brand based in New Jersey, Chris Bray has devoted 20 years to hand-crafting wallets, among other accessories. He can wax philosophical about how “your oils, your skin, your travels” affect the wallet that you carry.
But when Bray goes out at night, he takes just his ID, one credit card and a few business cards, tucked into a slim card case.
“Simplify your life,” he said. “Nine out of 10 times, if you have a bifold wallet, you’ve got crap in there you don’t need. You’ve got a ticket stub from three years ago.”
This from a man who sells bifold wallets. But in recent years, the physical wallet’s central role in our lives has been greatly reduced, as have the size of wallets themselves.
As tech companies have introduced mobile apps like Apple Pay and Google Pay in an effort to make the smartphone into a digital wallet, “real” ones are shrinking — or disappearing altogether. Some are becoming gizmos themselves, popping out cards with the press of a button and offering benefits like locating services or radio-frequency identification blocking, intended to protect against credit-card or identity theft.
For men, the classic multipocketed model is losing popularity to card cases like the one Bray carries. They aren’t much bigger than a credit card and slip easily into a pocket.
Bernard Capulong, the co-founder and editor-in-chief of Everyday Carry, a men’s gear website, called them “minimalist wallets,” adding, “What’s popular now is as minimal as you can get.”
Shinola, a Detroit-based watch and accessories brand, sells the Slim Bifold and the Slim Bifold 2.0 for “pared-down simplicity.” The Slimwallet and Miniwallet by the Dutch company Secrid are leather-wrapped metal cases that can hold only around four cards. Brands like Ridge, Dango and Trayvax sell similar styles.
Capulong carries a leather card case with only two pockets.
“The seams are bonded, not stitched,” he said. “So it’s durable and minimalist. I keep maybe eight cards total and a $20 bill folded twice so it takes no space.”
Augusto Gomez, who was behind the Prada counter in the men’s arcade inside Bloomingdale’s flagship New York City store on a recent afternoon, said that as fewer men carry money, there is less demand for something to carry that money in.
“I’d say 65 percent of men don’t carry cash anymore,” he said. “But some still do.”
Women following suit
In women’s fashion, leather and nylon belt bags by brands like Gucci, Balenciaga and Supreme, which leave hands free, are also reducing the need for bulky purses and long wallets.
“As bags get smaller, the easiest thing to take space away from is the wallet,” said Megs Mahoney Dusil, the founder of PurseBlog, which reviews bags and other accessories. “The shrinking of the wallet allows for more carrying of day-to-day essential items.”
Mahoney used to carry a continental wallet — the zip-around kind with room for receipts and even a passport — but switched recently to a card case.
A generation ago, the wallet was a traveling all-purpose file cabinet for men and women, a place to keep checks, cash, receipts and personal ephemera, including photographs.
“Before, you used to carry everything in a wallet, from your medical card to store cards and receipts,” said, Daniel Caudill the creative director for Shinola. “Now, all of that lives on our phones.”
The wallet has seen its responsibilities slowly taken away. Debit cards have all but eliminated the need to carry cash. Receipts can be e-mailed. Photos and rewards cards have gone digital.
Might the wallet disappear altogether? Recently, Shinola has received requests from young urbanites to make a case to hold just one card — ID, said Caudill, the creative director. Everything else is arguably extraneous.
“It’s an aspirational dream for now,” said Capulong of Everyday Carry. “We’re not quite there yet.”