The Very Useful Travel Wallet

I’ve been traveling a bit for the holidays, and every time I get on a plane, I’m reminded of the usefulness of travel wallets. This is especially true for international flights, when you might have multiple plane and train tickets, foreign currencies, important notes to yourself, and various travel documents. Of course, without a wallet, you can stuff all these things into your jacket, but it’s kind of a hassle to fumble through your pockets trying to search for things when you’re in a rush. Plus, I’m always worried that I might have accidentally lost something halfway through my trip. The idea that I could be stuck somewhere without my passport or ticket, possibly in a country where I don’t speak the language, is kind of frightening.

So, it’s nice to have a travel wallet to keep everything in one place, and know that nothing has been lost. Mine is from Chester Mox. It’s made from their “museum calf” leather, which they source from the same tannery that supplies John Lobb. There are two big pockets inside for things such as passports and folded up pieces of paper, and some slots for your ID and credit cards. I really like Chester Mox for their relatively affordable prices on small leather goods, but this one is on the slightly pricey side. However, since everything is made-on-order, you can request the same model in a different material, and they’ll quote you a lower price.

If you’re not deterred by the price on the museum calf wallet, you can also find really nice models from Valextra and Smythson, both of which can be found at Barney’s. Those are cut a bit more like coat wallets, which is useful if you don’t want to fold your travel tickets, but the length also restricts the wallet to the inside of your coat pocket (whereas the Chester Mox one can be slipped into the back pocket of your jeans if necessary). Brooks Brothers also has something with a long interior pocket, and Ettinger has various models made from their signature English bridle leather (a thicker, stiffer material that’s as hardy as it is handsome).

For something more affordable, there’s Tanner Goods and Duluth Pack. Saddleback Leather also has a really interesting design with an RFID shield. It’s sold out at the moment, but given that it’s a staple piece in their line up, it’ll probably be restocked at some point again.

When shopping for one, I encourage you to avoid the ones that are designed to just hold a passport and nothing else. At any international checkpoint, you’ll be asked to take your passport out of your fancy case, which makes having a case kind of pointless. A wallet that holds your passport, documents, tickets, credit cards, and ID, however? Very, very useful.

The Wallet I Use with Jeans

Since my post on henleys yesterday, a few readers emailed me asking for details on the leather wallet shown in my picture. That’s a mid-length, steerhide wallet made by the Japanese brand Flat Head. It’s thick and heavy, and over-the-top in terms of durability. It’s also the only wallet I’ll use with jeans, as my regular card case and money clip combination feels too insubstantial when I’m wearing a rugged jacket.

High-End Japanese Models

The Flat Head’s wallet is admittedly ridiculously expensive. Part of this is due to the materials and construction (it has a sterling silver ring, and has been handsewn with waxed cow tendon thread); part of it is the cost of labor in Japan (where it was made); and part of it is simply a result of the high-demand for Flat Head products in the hardcore denim-enthusiast community. If you’re not bothered by the price, you can find similarly nice pieces at Self Edge and Blue in Green. They have stuff made by Flat Head, as well as other high-end Japanese brands, such as Kawatako, Studio D’Artisan, and Red Moon.

More Affordable Options

There are a number of more affordable options, however, from companies based the other parts of East Asia and the United States. These include Angelos Leather, Obbi Good Label, Tenjin Works, PCKY, Voyej, Hollows Leather, and Tanner Goods. I’ve also seen some really nice models made by Don’t Mourn Organize. The man behind that operation, Scott, doesn’t list his mid-length and long-wallets on his website, but I assume they can still be made. Almost everything he sells is made-to-order. Lastly, you can search eBay for “Redmoon style wallet,” which should pull up a few models. I have no experience with those, but I did buy my braided leather chain, which you see above, from eBay a few years ago (it cost something like twenty-five bucks). There are still similar ones on eBay

Getting That Patina

If you buy one, you have the option of getting something already dyed, or something that comes in a tan “natural” color. The second will darken into that golden, honey brown you see above. All that’s really required is about a year or so of regular use. Sunlight will darken the leather, so if you want to speed up the process, you can leave the wallet out for a couple of days in direct sunlight. To get a truly nice patina, however, you’ll need to use it. Sticking it in your back pockets, for example, will give the leather a more natural, broken-in look, and transfer some of the indigo from your jeans to your wallet’s leather and threads. I also routinely treat mine with Obneauf’s Heavy Duty LP. Some say the hue of your wallet’s patina is determined by the kind of leather treatment you choose, while others say this is nonsense. I have no opinion on it either way, but you can browse threads like this one at Superfuture to see how some people’s leather products have aged. I have noticed, for what it’s worth, that some Flat Head wallets have developed a slightly reddish patina, while mine is more golden-brown.

Either way, if you purchase something of quality, and give it some good, hard, honest use, you’re sure to get something beautiful at the end. Just don’t let a chiropractor see you with one, as sitting on such a bulky thing all day is apparently bad for your health.

Finding An Eyewear Case
It’s been unexpectedly wet and cloudy in San Francisco, but to prepare for what should be a real summer, I recently went in search for an eyewear case. Having to wear eyeglasses all the time means that I need some place to put my regular frames when I put on sunglasses, and although eyewear often comes with cases, none of them are particularly attractive.
I found mine through Ghurka. It’s a tan leather sleeve with a sueded interior and nicely turned edges (meaning the leather on the edges is turned inward and stitched down, rather than being left exposed). I like that it’s simple enough that I can use just one hand to hold the sleeve and slip my glasses in (useful if you’re on the run and carrying a bag of some sort). It also fits comfortably in my interior coat pocket. The leather quality leaves much to be desired, however, and for the price, I was hoping for something better.
Still, I decided to keep it, as it seemed to be the best option for my needs. In my search though, I found a number of options that might work better with a backpack or briefcase. La Portegna, Glenroyal, Freeman’s Sporting Club, Makr, and Emil Erwin, for example, make softly shaped cases that give a bit more protection. They’re not exactly hardcases, per se, but  should your case ever wind up at the bottom of a bag, their fuller shape should fare better than a simple sleeve.
I also like this unique design by Tanner Goods, but it requires a bit more work to open and close. Probably not good for someone who’s always on the run, but it looks nice.
If you’re interested in other sleeve designs besides Ghurka’s, there’s Daines & Hathaway, Barrett Alley, and Col. Littleton. I also liked the uniqueness of these silk repp striped sleeves sold by Ben Silver, Shibumi, and E. Marinella.
Finally, for something just cheap and simple, you can find these Ralph Lauren cases all over eBay for about $25 (just search around). The material isn’t that great, but the front side is completely hard, which is nice if you’re a bit rough on your things.

Finding An Eyewear Case

It’s been unexpectedly wet and cloudy in San Francisco, but to prepare for what should be a real summer, I recently went in search for an eyewear case. Having to wear eyeglasses all the time means that I need some place to put my regular frames when I put on sunglasses, and although eyewear often comes with cases, none of them are particularly attractive.

I found mine through Ghurka. It’s a tan leather sleeve with a sueded interior and nicely turned edges (meaning the leather on the edges is turned inward and stitched down, rather than being left exposed). I like that it’s simple enough that I can use just one hand to hold the sleeve and slip my glasses in (useful if you’re on the run and carrying a bag of some sort). It also fits comfortably in my interior coat pocket. The leather quality leaves much to be desired, however, and for the price, I was hoping for something better.

Still, I decided to keep it, as it seemed to be the best option for my needs. In my search though, I found a number of options that might work better with a backpack or briefcase. La Portegna, Glenroyal, Freeman’s Sporting Club, Makr, and Emil Erwin, for example, make softly shaped cases that give a bit more protection. They’re not exactly hardcases, per se, but  should your case ever wind up at the bottom of a bag, their fuller shape should fare better than a simple sleeve.

I also like this unique design by Tanner Goods, but it requires a bit more work to open and close. Probably not good for someone who’s always on the run, but it looks nice.

If you’re interested in other sleeve designs besides Ghurka’s, there’s Daines & Hathaway, Barrett Alley, and Col. Littleton. I also liked the uniqueness of these silk repp striped sleeves sold by Ben Silver, Shibumi, and E. Marinella.

Finally, for something just cheap and simple, you can find these Ralph Lauren cases all over eBay for about $25 (just search around). The material isn’t that great, but the front side is completely hard, which is nice if you’re a bit rough on your things.

How I Travel
I travel a lot for both work and pleasure, and in my time traveling, I’ve learned one cardinal rule: pack as light as possible. These days, I try to only bring a carry-on and one personal item (my briefcase, which always contains my laptop and some reading material). In my carry-on is a small set of clothes – two grey trousers, four light blue or white shirts, one navy sweater, and a sport coat. I find that this is enough to get me through a few days before having to do laundry, especially since we’re not also counting the clothes I’m wearing onto the plane. Other things, such as shaving razors, soaps, and shampoos, can always be bought at the destination.
I like bringing a few superfluous things that make the trip more pleasant, however. For one, instead of wearing a sport coat onto the plane, I use a travel jacket I bought from Herno. It looks a bit like this one from Woolrich, but it has a hidden zippered pocket and no epaulets. Zippered and snap button pockets are useful for making sure things don’t accidentally slip out when you take off your jacket and carelessly carry it around. The idea of being in a foreign country and suddenly realizing that you’ve lost your papers, credit cards, and money just seems really, really bad. So I wear a travel jacket. Woolrich and Boggi have one this season (you may need to call Boggi’s actual stores to order), but you could also just wear anything lightweight and of a similar design. Just search around for “field jackets.”
I also use a travel wallet. These help keep my important documents and cards all in one place – passport, green card, identification papers, credit cards, health insurance card, boarding pass, and little slips of paper on which I’ve jotted down my hotel, flight, and train information. Having them all in one place gives me a peace of mind and some convenience. Many airports these days have multiple checkpoints where you have to show your papers to some official, so it’s convenient to have them ready and on hand. My travel wallet is by Chester Mox, who is running a Father’s Day promotion until Thursday, but you can also find some nice ones by Saddleback, Aspinal of London, Filson, and Tanner Goods.
There are a few other things I find helpful. Sleeping pills can get you through a long flight, but they also leave you feeling drugged. So instead, I eat Tianwang Buxin Wan, an all-natural, root-based pill that relaxes me enough to go sleep. It’s great on the plane and for when I’m trying to recover from jet lag. I also wear Bose noise cancelling headphones that a friend generously gifted me, and either soft suede driving shoes or a pair of canvas plimsolls. Feet tend to swell up during flight, which makes wearing hard bottom leather shoes extremely uncomfortable. Even if you take off your shoes, your feet can swell so much that they can be hard to put back in. Should you find yourself in such a situation, I recommend using my credit card trick.
And that’s basically how I travel - a carry on and my briefcase, along with a travel jacket, travel wallet, pair of soft shoes, and some things to help me go to sleep. These are enough to get me through fifteen to twenty hour travel schedules and still land in reasonably good form. 
(Pictured above: My travel jacket, travel wallet, and laptop at JFK airport)

How I Travel

I travel a lot for both work and pleasure, and in my time traveling, I’ve learned one cardinal rule: pack as light as possible. These days, I try to only bring a carry-on and one personal item (my briefcase, which always contains my laptop and some reading material). In my carry-on is a small set of clothes – two grey trousers, four light blue or white shirts, one navy sweater, and a sport coat. I find that this is enough to get me through a few days before having to do laundry, especially since we’re not also counting the clothes I’m wearing onto the plane. Other things, such as shaving razors, soaps, and shampoos, can always be bought at the destination.

I like bringing a few superfluous things that make the trip more pleasant, however. For one, instead of wearing a sport coat onto the plane, I use a travel jacket I bought from Herno. It looks a bit like this one from Woolrich, but it has a hidden zippered pocket and no epaulets. Zippered and snap button pockets are useful for making sure things don’t accidentally slip out when you take off your jacket and carelessly carry it around. The idea of being in a foreign country and suddenly realizing that you’ve lost your papers, credit cards, and money just seems really, really bad. So I wear a travel jacket. Woolrich and Boggi have one this season (you may need to call Boggi’s actual stores to order), but you could also just wear anything lightweight and of a similar design. Just search around for “field jackets.”

I also use a travel wallet. These help keep my important documents and cards all in one place – passport, green card, identification papers, credit cards, health insurance card, boarding pass, and little slips of paper on which I’ve jotted down my hotel, flight, and train information. Having them all in one place gives me a peace of mind and some convenience. Many airports these days have multiple checkpoints where you have to show your papers to some official, so it’s convenient to have them ready and on hand. My travel wallet is by Chester Mox, who is running a Father’s Day promotion until Thursday, but you can also find some nice ones by Saddleback, Aspinal of London, Filson, and Tanner Goods.

There are a few other things I find helpful. Sleeping pills can get you through a long flight, but they also leave you feeling drugged. So instead, I eat Tianwang Buxin Wan, an all-natural, root-based pill that relaxes me enough to go sleep. It’s great on the plane and for when I’m trying to recover from jet lag. I also wear Bose noise cancelling headphones that a friend generously gifted me, and either soft suede driving shoes or a pair of canvas plimsolls. Feet tend to swell up during flight, which makes wearing hard bottom leather shoes extremely uncomfortable. Even if you take off your shoes, your feet can swell so much that they can be hard to put back in. Should you find yourself in such a situation, I recommend using my credit card trick.

And that’s basically how I travel - a carry on and my briefcase, along with a travel jacket, travel wallet, pair of soft shoes, and some things to help me go to sleep. These are enough to get me through fifteen to twenty hour travel schedules and still land in reasonably good form. 

(Pictured above: My travel jacket, travel wallet, and laptop at JFK airport)

The Great Wallet Roundup

Lately the trickle of wallet inquiries we regularly receive has turned into a torrent. What precipitated this trend I cannot say, but there can be only one appropriate response: a Great Wallet Roundup.

First of all, let’s address what type of wallet you should carry.

I’m generally an advocate of the card case. Generally speaking, there’s no need to carry more than ID, a debit card and a credit card. Perhaps a health insurance card for emergencies. Anything more than this (say a store credit card or a club store card), you can grab them on your way out the door. The advantage of the card case is size. It can easily fit into a front pants pocket if you’re not wearing a coat, and will not create any visible bump if worn in a coat pocket. Cash can simply be carried in the front pocket, with or without a money clip, as you prefer.

Bi-fold wallets are a reasonable alternative for those who insist on carrying more cards with them at all times. These should nonetheless be modest in size. Jacket wallets, longer and thinner, roughly the size of a checkbook, are generally suitable only for those who always wear a jacket. Someone classier than me, in other words. Tri-fold wallets, as the Monty Pythons might say, are right out.

Wallets should be worn in the jacket pocket whenever possible. It’s better for your back, more difficult to steal, and given a reasonably-sized wallet, is the best choice aesthetically as well. In a pinch, a front pocket will do. I usually reserve the back pocket for blue jean days, and generally move my wallet to sit or (especially) drive.

As for the question of brown or black, it is a matter of personal preference. I generally wear brown shoes and so I generally wear brown wallets. On the rare occasion I wear evening clothes, I just pull out some cash and cards and use a money clip.

Wallets are available at a million price points, from Hermes to nylon-and-velcro. I’ve tried to put together a little range of possibilities, and hopefully you’ll find yourself something you like. Wallets often go on sale, and can easily be found in the vintage and second-hand market, but we’re focusing on new stuff at retail.

If I could have any wallet in the world, I’d likely have something made by April in Paris. This San Francisco-based company makes truly bespoke leathergoods. Beatrice, the owner, trained at Hermes, and welcomes you to visit your item as it is being made. Almost any design or skin is available. They’re also quite expensive. (Oh, and you could do a lot worse than the similarly expensive Hermes, who are one of the few big-name luxury companies who haven’t sacrificed quality in the pursuit of profit.)

On the inexpensive side of things, Saddleback Leather offers a bifold card case for only $15. The quality should be excellent, but if you’re looking for something with somewhat more refined aesthetics, Hartmann offers a handsome alternative for $35. I’m not nuts about ID windows, but what can you do?

Speaking of rough-hewn aesthetics, the recent Americana revival has hit the world of leather goods, as well. When I asked about wallets on Twitter, we had multiple recommendations for options from Tanner Goods (of Portland) and Billykirk. Tanner Goods’ choices tend towards “outdoorsy casual,” and Billykirk’s towards “axe-wielding.”

I’m a big fan of the leather-and-canvas choice from Duluth Pack of Minnesota, which offers a lifetime guarantee. They’ve also got a nice money clip bifold which is only $20, and a simple credit card wallet. In the past, I’ve recommended Filson wallets to those looking for something casual and durable, and, well, I still do.

If you’re looking for something “fun,” check out the selection at Jack Spade. They really get the silly trendy stuff right, with simple aesthetics and cool touches. They also come up regularly on sale and on Gilt Groupe for very reasonable prices.

My overall champion, though, is Swaine Adeney Brigg. The quality is exceptional - they are made in England and bear a royal warrant - and the prices, while high relative to the more mass-produced options, are not crazy high. Hermes may charge you $1500, but Swaine Adeney will likely be under $200. Indeed, the simple card case (the design of which is pretty much perfect) is available for $95. In fact, I’ve got myself so pumped up about it I may ask for one from my wife for my birthday.

Regardless of what brand you chose, my advice is simple: simplify. Your back will thank you, and so will the line of your clothes.