Living in a highly digitalized world fueled by innovation, where everything seems to be rapidly evolving, there still exist a few old world items that haven’t gone out of style. A well-tailored suit, a letterpress business card, a leather strapped watch and a leather wallet have surely surpassed the sands of time.
A wallet, known to the French as ‘le porte-monnaie’, ‘la cartera’ to the Spaniards and to the Englishmen as ‘the wallet’ or ‘the billfold’, is an essential, is an extension of one’s wardrobe. Born out of sheer necessity to carry essentials, the compact carry-all, has since evolved into a status symbol and a style statement for most, wallets are the final check before leaving one’s home.
Prior to the existence of the modern day wallet – coin purses like small containers were the most commonly used articles to carry valuables. These coin purse included knives, a flint and a few small pieces of food. Back in 3300 BC, Otzi the Iceman was sighted with a coin purse attached to his hip, he was quite fashion-forward for his time.
However, wallets today can range from the classic, sturdy journeyman to the slim credit card holders to the money clips that we have today. Each wallet has a story to tell.
Wallets in Ancient Rome
Romans often carried coin purses attached to their hip or hidden in the folds of their togas. This enabled them to keep precious jewels by their side – always. Hermès, the emissary, and messenger of the Gods carried messages with coin purses and satchels. Even in Pompeii, archaeologists found evidence coin purses on being used by most people. While most of these wallets had eroded away, remnants of these ancient wallets remain.
The Original Wallet
It is said, that the original wallet came about by the late 1300s. These were exclusively used to carry valuables. By the 1600s, with the rise of paper currency, the flat wallet became a norm. During the Renaissance, these wallets ranged from the very simple to the incredibly ornate, with unique stitching and crests. At the same time, the rise of cut-purses and thieves became a major concern during this period.
Wallet and the Paper Currency
By 1834, paper currency and urban living gave birth to the flat case wallet. Carrying one’s wallet in their pocket was seen to be inappropriate, instead, wallets would be attached to belts and were outwardly shown off. The fatter the wallet, the more important the man. Paradoxically, the truly rich were less likely to carry them. Wallets began to rise in popularity and use through the 1800s often exclusively by men.
Hermés Wallet Origins & Roaring 20s
In the 1920s, amidst economic and industrial boom, wallets became a fashion essential. Hermés began creating leather goods for everyday life including some of the first ‘modern’ wallets. The leather’s intense durability and unique color soon attracted many, and Hermès began to establish itself as a top-notch luxury goods brand pertaining to wallets and lifestyle accessories.
Wallets in Wartime
The world wars had a major impact on the fashion industry. The industry witnessed shortages, limited use of textiles, fabrics and other such materials required to create newer products. However, wallets survived and in order to ensure their continued application, they were made out of materials meant to last the wrath of war.
The Evolution of Fashionable Wallets
The financial boom that followed the war, paved the way for the resurgence of the fashion industry. Exotic leathers and colours were used to match every outfit. In the 1950s, wallets became a critical part of fashionable attire for both men and women, from the bi-fold wallet design to the clutch wallets were being popularly used.
The 1970s-80s saw the evolution of a simpler wallet. The punk movement inspired wallets with dark colors, chains, nylon and other modern textiles – making wallets more accessible to everybody. In the same vein, velcro wallets became a fashion staple through the 90s. Further, chain wallets, which were initially conceived with the idea of additional safety soon became a fashion trend.
The Modern Wallet
Technology has revolutionized fashion and with time our wallets have evolved. With the rise of plastic and digital currency, the modern man of today carries a sleek wallet. And the love for classic leather wallets makes them a perfect addition to one’s style statement.