I’ve never been one to tuck a large bi-fold into my back pocket, but that’s probably because I was never given one as a child. The first wallet my dad gave me was a slim tri-fold case with $10 folded into one of the pockets (it’s bad luck to give an empty wallet to someone else). That tri-fold had a zipper pocket for change, six key hangers on ball bearings, and pockets to take folded cash and cards.
This made for a very simple check before I left the house: wallet + phone? Good to go. However, this setup created a bulge in my front-left pocket, and it also wore the wallet out very quickly. The combined weight of coins and the sharpness of keys do not bode well for leather.
That awesome little tri-fold soon ripped, and so I looked for a smarter way to carry my cash and cards around.
Zeroz were an interesting idea: a simple leather sleeve to hold 8-10 cards; plastic inserts helped you differentiate cards and pull specific ones out for quick access. A minimum number of cards (about four) was needed to create enough tension in the leather to hold the cards in place, or they’d fall out either side. This wasn’t an issue in practice because you really only take two cards (e.g., credit card + points card) at any given point in time. The failure of the Zeroz lies in its elastic money clip (not shown in pic), which ripped after about six months of use. That money clip was the only viable way of storing cash in the Zeroz, so the wallet has just been sitting in my drawer ever since.
Banana Republic Bi-Fold
I tried a Banana Republic bi-fold for a while, just to see what all the fuss was about…and also because I got sick of always having to fold my Canadian bills in half to store them. There wasn’t anything inherently wrong with this wallet, but it was bulkier, as all bi-folds are. Bi-folds double their thickness because they fold in on themselves, and each card slot was used a separate strip of leather, which further increased the thickness. Placing bills into my wallet without folding them was novel to me, but the ubiquity of credit and debit card payments has eliminated the need for cash 99% of the time. That killed the main draw of the bi-fold very quickly.
The TwelveSouth BookBook
The BookBook from TwelveSouth was an interesting compromise because it was a case first, and a slim wallet second. The product is still around, and it’s gotten a lot sleeker over the years, but now that I have an iPhone 6S Plus, there’s no way I’m ever fitting a BookBook into my front pocket again. The phone is just too big. My back pocket is an option, but I’ve always felt paranoid about someone snatching my iPhone + wallet without my noticing.
Hard Graft Mighty Phone Fold Wallet
I also tried Hard Graft’s Mighty Phone Fold Wallet last year, mainly because the marketing really got to me. That classic Hard Graft combo of leather and wool looked so gorgeous, and the embedded snap buttons made the whole experience feel so lush and impressive. Hard Graft is definitely onto something with the combination of wool and leather. The leather is soft to the touch, while the dense wool felt provides form and structure, without being too dense. Unfortunately, the Mighty Phone Fold Wallet didn’t fit the way I dress. HG’s wallet was begging to be tucked into the breast pocket of a wool coat, right beside a Mont Blanc pen and a silk handkerchief. It did fit into the back of my pants, but I hated the idea of sitting on it and ruining its beautiful lines.
The HDM Wallet
I tried all of those wallets out over the course of years, but it wasn’t until I made my own that I was really, really happy with one. This was an important step for me because it’s what led me to think of myself as a maker. I’ve analyzed stuff for years, but because I never went to school for design or more technical skills, I didn’t think it was in me to make something awesome. This wallet was my first step in changing that presumption.
It took a few prototypes, but the final design I’ve arrived at combines a few features I’ve liked about various wallets over the years:
- one-handed access to my TTC Metropass
- quick access to my credit card
- space for 2-3 folded bills
- access to all other cards
- slim, expandable design
I’m calling it the HDM Wallet, just ’cause.
The whole thing is made of two pieces of leather: one for the wallet, a second for the strap. I hand-stitch it with waxed thread, and it’s still in great condition after 10 months of use. The construction is as simple as I could make it in order to keep it strong. It’s also slim and short enough to store in a front or back pocket, without bulging egregiously.
My wallet holds about 6-8 cards alongside a few bills and receipts. Two cards fit in the front quick slot. As long as my hand isn’t too dry, I can slide my Metropass out of the wallet with one thumb — perfect for flashing the transit pass as I board a streetcar. My credit card sits right behind the Metropass, accessible but obscured (so the CC number isn’t visible to others).
The other cards, cash, and receipts fit in the main compartment, which is accessed by pulling on the strap at the top. That leather pull strap is anchored, so you can never pull too hard and have your stuff spill out. Tension from the pull strap keeps the cards secure enough, but it won’t necessarily hold up to shaking upside-down.
Once the cards are extended, it’s easy to fan through them to find a specific ID, or grab my debit card. Cash is folded into thirds and kept in front of the cards for easy access. It’s slower to fold cash into thirds before storing it, but paper bills aren’t really a design priority because of how often I use cards.
This is probably my third iteration on this design, and although I might play with the aesthetics over time, I’m very happy with it as-is. If the HDM Wallet strikes your fancy, ping me on Twitter and I could make you one for $45 CAD + shipping.