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Which Wallet Matches Your Personal Style?

Men’s Wallets: Which Matches Your Personal Style

“GETTING A WALLET is not quite a bar mitzvah, but it’s a rite of passage,” said Sid Mashburn, designer and CEO of his eponymous Atlanta- and Houston-based men’s shop. 

But while guys tend to remember their first wallets—sporty nylon billfolds in camouflage or a favorite team’s colors—later in life, the quotidian accessory can be taken for granted. Meanwhile, loved ones often view the accessory as a safely bland gift in the vein of ties or belts. Wallets, however, are quite nuanced—evoking everything from nostalgia to status and projecting glimpses of their owner’s personality each time they’re pulled out. 

The current landscape is vast: A boom in small leather men’s accessories has introduced styles from card cases to diminutive envelopes. Still, the billfold remains the most fundamental thanks to its versatility: slots for cards, a pocket for bills and often one for change.

Though classic, the billfold needn’t be boring. Bright colors and unexpected materials abound. “We’re seeing textured grains, exotic skins and even a great needlepoint collection,” said Glen Hoff, director of men’s design at Brooks Brothers. 

The trick is staying true to personal taste and lifestyle demands. Risk-takers might embrace patterned leather, while guys who play it safer might see a forest green billfold as enough of a digression from basic brown. 

A man who works in a so-called creative field can flash a flashier wallet without raising eyebrows than one who toils on Wall Street. (Unless that Wall Streeter is comfortably defiant.) 

How a wallet gets used is another key factor: “If I were helping a guy shop for a wallet, I would want to know how much he’s carrying,” said Greg Unis, global head of men’s merchandising at Coach. “If you don’t carry a lot, then go for a slim billfold…that fits just enough.” (Slender models are also ideal for formal occasions since they don’t bulge in suit pockets.) 

When giving a wallet as a gift, Mr. Unis recommends going the extra mile and monogramming it, even discreetly on the inside. Of course, that requires confidence in your assessment of the giftee’s style since it means no returns.
We’ve created this matrix of wallet options from casual to formal and safe to risky to help you choose correctly—for yourself or someone else. 

The payoff is worthwhile: A wallet, seen and held every day, is likely to accrue sentimental value. “It’s like a jewelry purchase,” said Mr. Mashburn. “I have many of mine and my dad’s old wallets in a box at home. I’m not throwing them away. There are stories in them.”

By Nora Zelevansky - Wall Street Journal - Dec. 12, 2014 3:12 p.m. ET


THE SUBTLY FLASHY CONNOISSEUR | A formal, but not frumpy choice for the bespoke-suited. Its conspicuously exotic leather pushes it a notch up the risk scale, while the forest hue says you’re not just an executive cog in the wheel. THE ESSENTIALS: 8 card slots, 2 slide pockets, 1 bill pocket, 3½ by 4¼ inches. Alligator Hipster Wallet, $1,995, F. Martin Ramin/The Wall Street Journal, Styling by Anne Cardenas

THE OUTDOORSMAN | Rugged but handsome, the unflamboyant Field wallet might appeal to college kids as well as rugged but handsomely dressed men. Extra points: It’s lined in red plaid flannel. THE ESSENTIALS: 6 card slots plus 2 clear window slots, 1 divided bill pocket, 3½ by 4½ inches. Field Canvas Wallet, $34, F. Martin Ramin/The Wall Street Journal, Styling by Anne Cardenas

THE PETER PAN | In camo, it’s almost like a guy’s first nylon billfold. Almost. This is a sturdier cotton-poly with a synthetic leather interior. Not entirely safe, it telegraphs a provocative desire to stay boyish. THE ESSENTIALS: 6 card slots, 1 bill pocket, 1 coin pocket, 3½ by 4 inches. Hank Wallet Plus, $40, F. Martin Ramin/The Wall Street Journal, Styling by Anne Cardenas

THE CREATIVE PREP | Repp-stripe silk for a tie? Yessir! On a wallet? A bit of a gamble. Still this lightweight piece can bring a wink of polish to your casual kit. THE ESSENTIALS: 6 card slots, 2 slide pockets, 1 divided bill pocket, 3½ by 4¼ by inches. BB#1 Repp Wallet, $98, F. Martin Ramin/The Wall Street Journal, Styling by Anne Cardenas

THE SARTORIALIST | Constructed of hip Japanese selvage indigo fabric and Italian leather, this low-key model is ideal for the sort of guys who follow style blogs. Not quite serious, it’s best for younger men and casual dressers. THE ESSENTIALS: 4 card slots, 1 bill pocket, 3¾ by 4¼ inches. The Hill-Side Twill Wallet, $150, F. Martin Ramin/The Wall Street Journal, Styling by Anne Cardenas

THE LOGO-PHILE | With the highly recognizable red-and-green web stripe and embossed, interlocking Gs, this is a perfect starter status wallet. Fairly safe. THE ESSENTIALS: 6 card slots, 1 divided bill pocket, 3½ by 4¼ inches. Guccissima Leather Web Bi-Fold Wallet, $345, F. Martin Ramin/The Wall Street Journal, Styling by Anne Cardenas

THE EVERYMAN | So basic as to be nearly anonymous, Coach’s Bleecker billfold has the widest appeal on this page. Gift-buyers note: Monogramming is complimentary. THE ESSENTIALS: 3 card slots, 1 ID window slot; 1 bill pocket, 3¼ by 4 inches. Bleecker Leather Slim Billfold Wallet, $128, F. Martin Ramin/The Wall Street Journal, Styling by Anne Cardenas

THE LUXE LOOKER | Making a statement with a not-so-basic color—like this blue—is lower-risk you’re dealing with beautiful leather from a respected luxury brand. THE ESSENTIALS: 5 card slots, 2 slide pockets, 1 divided bill pocket, 3½ ...

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