The Unbiased Guide | How to choose the right minimalist wallet – Functionality, Leather Grade, Leather Tanning explained

The Unbiased Guide | How to choose the right minimalist wallet – Functionality, Leather Grade, Leather Tanning explained

There are a few vital things that we rely on everyday.

Ideally, we want all our everyday carry products to have these two traits.

First, our design philosophy is focused on minimalist design (simple on the outside) with maximal (reasonable) functionality – thoughtful little pockets and assessable compartments, enabling us to do more with less.

Second, it should be made with soft touch fabric/material and at the same time able to withstand high abrasion and usage, using materials that do not break down when we need it the most.

However, without proper knowledge and understanding of what makes an excellent carry good, we can only rely on what marketers feed us, not what will work for us.

This is where CXaccessories comes in. We enjoy reading, researching and sharing
(i) our understanding of which fabrics/materials you should look out for,
(ii) what to avoid and
(iii) provide our personal recommendations for brands that advocate the use of these materials, do not cut corners for extra profitability and emphasize on rethinking and improving the functionality of our everyday carry.

Our focus is mainly on 2 segments – backpacks and wallets. Today’s post, we are covering wallets.

As with our assessment of any everyday carry goods, we evaluate wallets based on two criteria – (a) minimal and functional; and (b) durable materials at an affordable price.

Quick Links

1. Minimal and Functional
2. Durable materials at an affordable price
2.1. Leather Grade – vs Top Grain vs Full Grain vs Genuine Leather
2.2. Leather Tanning – Insights of Leather Production
2.2.1. Vegetable Tanning – Automatic first choice for environmentally certified leather?
2.2.2. Chrome Tanning – Is it as evil as marketers claim to be?
2.3. The Leather Working Group and their role
3. Our Recommended Brands

Below are some features of what we think makes the right wallet choice:-

Bellroy Slim your wallet

1. Minimal and Functional

We think an ideal wallet should be slim and at the same time capable of holding everything you need in your pocket.

One important feature that is often overlooked is the functionality. Many wallets these days launched in Kickstarter often focus on the material of the wallet – titanium and carbon fibre. Though this may seem like an era towards the use of innovative materials, many of these wallets introduce the redundancy of folding notes before inserting into our wallets through the use of a band or money clip.

Imagine the moment you lost a stack of notes because someone accidentally flicked your money clip. #moneyclipwallets #ohnoRead more on "How to choose a minimalist wallet | CXaccessories" @Bellroy Click To Tweet

We are strong believers that our carry goods should support our lifestyle, not the other way around – at work or outdoors. If the design does not support that, we should rethink how it should be done, or simply not change it at all. This is why we suppose top grain and full grain leather billfold wallet still remained as the most popular choice.

That said, it is tempting to look away from these shortcomings when you see incredibly stylish and innovative wallets like The Ridge. It even comes with multiple colour options and even offers RFID protection. While the main aim of this blogpost is not to disparage the names of these young KickStarter Champions, we remain really excited to finally see young companies coming up with innovative materials in the carry good space and hopefully they can come up innovative solutions without the use of a band or money clip in the near future.

Another aspect is that there should be dedicated slots for items that are supposed to be in your wallet – coins and keys, so you can do more of what you want and worry less about – whether you brought or where you left your keys or your coin pouch. Bringing that extra pouch because your wallet cannot support holding coins or keys do not seem to make much sense. Rather, we recommend getting a trusty wallet that has all these features taken care of.

Bringing that extra pouch because your wallet cannot support holding coins or keys do not seem to make much sense. Try @Bellroy Note Sleeve. Check out the reviews. Click To Tweet

✓ Slim and Sleek look
✓ No folding of bills
✓ Dedicated coin and key compartment

✓ RFID – countries using contactless payments without Two-Factor Authentication (2FA)

2. Durable Materials at an affordable price

Leather has been the superior choice of material for wallets and bags for decades, due to its versatility in conforming to designer’s wildest imagination, innovative designs and compartments; while retaining luxuriously soft and supple texture; and unmatched durability that lasts for ages.

There are two key aspects to assessing leather quality – (i) leather grade and (ii) leather tanning. Only with better understanding, we will be able to better appreciate what we are paying for.

2.1. Leather Grade – Top Grain vs Full Grain vs Genuine Leather

If you are selecting or comparing leather products of the same price, and want the best value for your buck, avoid those without label or those labelled “Manmade Material”, “made with Animal Products”. In fact, if you are looking for the best leather part for longevity, you should not even consider “Genuine Leather” or “Bonded Leather”, the lowest tier of leather grade, usually made with bottom cut of split grain leather, discarded due to its lack of strength and durability, infused with other materials like plastic to make it appear like a quality product.

This is what you are getting for your "Genuine Leather" product #GenuineLeatherisAnimalCruelty #saynotoGeunineLeather #sayhitoFullGrainLeather Click To Tweet

Ideally, for an everyday carry leather product, you should only go for companies that promise using the top cut of leather.

Full Grain Leather is the best quality leather that money can buy, does not tear easily and can even heal itself. If you are looking for full grain leather products, check out Saddleback Leather Co., they offer 100 year warranties. Just imagine the amount of compensation these companies have to make every year, if full grain leather is even half as good. The thing is once you experience it, you can never get back (check out my previous post for a customer review).

Check out the quality of a 5 year of full grain Saddleback Leather Classic Briefcase and how leather milk restores its former glory #RealQuality #RealReview #FullGrainLeather #SaddlebackLeather… Click To Tweet

Semi Aniline Top Grain Leather offers clean look, pigmented to remove scarring and offer limited water and stain resistance, similar durability as full grain leather, however it gradually worsens over time.

"The next time when you purchase a leather product, ask which part of leather the product is made from."Read more on "How to choose a minimalist wallet | CXaccessories" Click To Tweet

If the leather product is made of full grain or top grain leather, an educated salesperson will be more than happy to share with you, if the product they are representing is something more than “Genuine Leather”.

2.2. Leather Tanning – Insights of Leather Production

All leather goes through a tanning process to convert animal hide to a durable material.

2.2.1. Vegetable Tanning – the automatic choice for environmentally friendly leather production?

Vegetable tanning is a conventional tanning technique that withstood the test of time for over 5,000 years. It is often associated with high quality and environmentally friendly method of leather production. It involves gently and slowly bathing hides in increasing concentrations of vegetable tannin. The end result is a thoroughly vegetable tannin infused, incredibly beautiful leather with earthly smell, it also develops a highly personal “patina” developed over time of use, greatly appreciated by leather enthusiasts.

However, the process is laborious (no mass production), time-consuming (takes up to 20-30 months) and resource consuming (water and electricity), so it is really difficult to become environmentally certified. Due to these costly processes, vegetable tanning typically uses only high quality leather parts (full grain leather). One thing to note here is that the vegetable tanned full grain leather products are renowned for its longevity, and will pay for itself in the long run.

Vegetable tanned full grain leather with natural scarring | CXaccessories

2.2.2 Chrome Tanning – is it as evil as marketers claimed to be

Chrome tanning is often regarded as the non environmentally friendly way of producing leather due to the toxic waste it produces. However, deeper research reveals that these mentioned harmful effects only apply to Chromium VI. As of 2014, 85% of the global leather production is produced using Chromium III, harmless to human health.

In fact, as confirmed by a review article published by AAEM (trusted source of medical journals, established by Institute of Rural Health in Poland) in 2014, Chromium III can be taken orally as a dietary supplement to treat type 2 diabetes and obesity.

Is Chrome Tanning (Chromium III) evil? Marketers: Toxic (Chromium IV) vs Doctors: Health Supplements (Chromium III)Read more on "How to choose a minimalist wallet | CXaccessories" Click To Tweet

It is thanks to Chromium III that leather products can be mass produced, requiring only 2-3 hours to 24 hours to produce leather, making it relatively inexpensive and available to the masses and ordinary people like myself have access to high quality top grain and full grain leather products.

The quality of leather products therefore heavily depends on how skillful and how much is placed by individual tanneries, instead of the tanning method used.

Check out how Spalding basketball is produced by Horween's, a renowned tannery in the US for the quality of the leather it produces.Check out the reviews. #HorweenLeatherQuality Click To Tweet

2.3. The Leather Working Group

In short, the skills of these tanneries have a much larger influence on the quality of leather than the tanning method itself. So, how do we assess which tanneries produce better quality leather?

This is where the Leather Working Group comes in, a well-established non-profit organisation overseeing the environmental standards of leather manufacturing industry that audits tanneries across different tanning methods on a voluntary basis.

Their latest audit protocol, developed by leather producers, brands and industry experts, provides us some guidance and indication on how tanneries are assessed on their capability to produce leather in an environmentally friendly manner.

Tanneries awarded gold rating imply two things – (i) their manufacturing facilities are properly audited and well managed, and (ii) their willingness to voluntarily subject themselves to audit shows they truly understand leather enough to be environmentally certified – optimise production, minimise resources (energy, water, chrome) used and wastage reduced, well equipped enough to properly dispose toxic waste safely and legally. Check out Ecco’s statement on their sustainability practice

✓ Full/Top grain leather
✓ LWG gold rated tanneries

✓ Vegetable tanned – rich tones, earthly smell, natural patina

Taking both criteria into consideration, one brand that really stood out is Bellroy. Producing minimal wallets more functional than any other products in the market, Bellroy has also promised to use only full/top grain leather responsibly sourced from LWG gold rated tanneries.

Check out the beautiful patina of a Bellroy Slim Sleeve wallet after 1,000 days. The wallet ages so gracefully that people even mistook it as a new product out the reviews. Click To Tweet
Bellroy Slim Sleeve beautiful patina 1,000 days later | CXaccessories
Bellroy Slim Sleeve beautiful patina 1,000 days later | CXaccessories

Over the years, Bellroy has continuously improved their designs of wallet range, akin to what Apple has done for their iPhone, but without increasing the prices of original models (always welcomed). They have also incorporated new features and functionality, ranging from note sleeve (coin compartment) to travel wallets (all passport, travel documents) with RFID features.

Do let us know your thoughts, questions, opinions down in the comments below, especially if you love affordable minimal everyday carry products, we will love to hear your feedback. Thank you so much for reading. Please like and share this post. If you found this post useful, as always please subscribe to our notifications, we will keep you updated of more affordable minimal products.

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