Best Minimalist Wallet Review – Top 5 Sleekest List For Jan. 2020 with Buying Guide
Men have carried wallets for hundreds of years, dating back to the first use of paper currency in the late 1600s. The wallets took various forms and were used to carry other items as well, including food and smoking accessories, until the turn of the 20th century when the Industrial Revolution made leather production easy and inexpensive. At that point, wallets became somewhat standardized, designed primarily as a method to carry folding money in the pocket.
Credit cards arrived on the scene in the 1950s and wallets designed to hold them became standard. As the number of cards in circulation grew, so did the size of the wallets needed to carry them. Women could put large or odd-shaped wallets into their purses, but men’s wallets grew fatter and fatter as they were built to hold more and more plastic. It became common to see men with bulging rear pants pockets, or suit jackets hanging crookedly, because of the huge load in one of their inside pockets. Those enormous billfolds (Costanzas, for you Seinfeld fans) could even cause back or balance problems, and were a “flashing red light” for picketpockets.
The minimalism now popular in the 2010s has rejuvenated the wallet industry. Lightweight materials and innovative design have been combined to create a new generation of minimalist wallets, suitable for use by either sex. They’re attractive, slim and light, many are exquisite fashion statements, and all are able to easily slip into pants or jacket pockets without creating a telltale bulge. And when carried in a purse, they don’t take up so much space that virtually nothing else will fit.
Choosing the best minimalist wallet is largely a matter of personal preference, but here’s a guide to what you can expect to find.
Wallet Styles, Materials and Construction
Wallet Style – Sleeve, Bi-fold or Trifold
The majority of minimalist wallets have what’s called a sleeve design, allowing bills and a small number of ID and credit cards to fit into their slots or narrow pockets. The slimmest options are compact sleeves made from just one piece of leather or other material, but many minimalist choices are bi-fold or tri-fold wallets which obviously provide more storage space.
Leather has been the most popular – and stylish – material used to construct wallets for generations. Fine, handcrafted full-grain or top-grain leather is an expensive choice but is beautiful and will definitely make a statement; it will also be quite durable if you treat it well. “Genuine” leather wallets are lower quality and less expensive, but are fine for everyday use.
The minimalist style has encouraged the design of wallets manufactured with less-traditional materials like elastic, synthetics or wood, metals such as aluminum and copper, and fabrics such as denim and linen. Some are great casual wallets, some are distinctive in form or function, and others are simply good cheap options.
No matter what material you choose, look for solid construction; you don’t want your wallet to fall apart and spill its contents at a particularly bad time. Sewn edges and card slots (except on metal or wooden wallets, of course) will be stronger and last longer, and rounded corners will slow down wear and slip in and out of a pocket more easily.
The one thing you don’t want to see in a minimalist wallet is plastic card holders, which not only look cheap but also trap dirt inside.
Features to Look For
Size and Weight
The size and weight of a minimalist wallet, along with its appearance, are its most important features. All are lightweight, but as you’d expect, one that’s made from copper will be heavier than its elastic or linen counterpart. When you check any of Groom+Style’s online reviews you’ll see a product’s dimensions and weight listed in the specification section, but those numbers are particularly important for wallets.
Credit Card Slots
Also a key factor: how many cards a wallet will hold. Going minimalist is great, but it doesn’t help to have a cool, lightweight wallet if you wind up at your favorite store without your Amex or customer loyalty card. Figure out exactly what you’ll need to carry in your wallet before you downsize to one that’s just too small or doesn’t have enough slots for the cards and IDs you normally carry.
One of the most popular features found on many minimalist wallets is an RFID blocker, designed to prevent a form of “electronic picketpocketing” known as skimming. Some credit cards and IDs have embedded radio frequency chips which can be scanned by RFID readers at stores and restaurants; that’s a convenient way to pay without swiping a card – but it’s also convenient for thieves who have their own RFID readers and can “skim” credit card numbers or steal personal information from IDs from a few feet away. Wallets with RFID blockers make that data inaccessible. To be honest, most cards these days don’t have the problematic RFID chips, which are now mostly used in “quick pay” systems. Even so, it’s a cool wallet feature that doesn’t really cost anything extra to buy.
Extra Design Features
You’ll also find minimalist wallets with see-through pockets for a driver’s license, hidden pockets for cards you’d like to keep out of view when you open your wallet, even ones with small metal binder clips to hold cash firmly in place. Are any of these niceties necessary? Not at all, but one or two of them may catch your eye.
Before getting into the details of our five choices, we should mention that we didn’t include wallets available from name-brand designers for hundreds and hundreds of dollars. Purveyors of fine leather products like Mark Cross and Coach offer their own branded minimalist wallets – but if that’s your style and price range, you’re probably not visiting Groom+Style for recommendations. We’ve stuck to more mainstream choices, some of which we believe come very close to the look and functionality of those luxury products without the enormous price tag.
Ready to slim down? Here are Groom+Style’s rankings for the top 5 best minimalist wallets.
1.Ekster Parliament Slim Leather Wallet With RFID Blocking
Many members of the review team would be comfortable choosing the Ekster Parliament slim wallet over a luxury brand’s offering. It doesn’t have a brand name that would raise eyebrows, but its quality and utility are definitely in the same ballpark, and the Ekster is priced far below anything you’ll find at Mark Cross.
The Parliament is one of the minimalist wallets that comes with the RFID blocking feature we mentioned earlier. We’re not sure that it’s necessary since we’ve never been particularly concerned about our credit card number being jacked by a bad guy with an RFID reader. But if it is a danger, this product has you covered.
The ultra-slim minimalist wallet is only about 2½ inches by 4 inches in size and ½ of an inch thick, the perfect size to fit in any pocket, and it weighs only a few ounces. It’s made from soft top-grain European cow leather with room for as many as nine cards; 4-6 in the RFID-protected pocket which slides out for easy access with the touch of a button, and four more in side slots. The slider is very cool and works exactly as promised. The Ekster’s only drawbacks are that the elastic billfold clip holds only about five bills and there’s no change compartment.
The grained leather has a classic, sophisticated look and is available in black, brown, cognac or steel blue.
The Ekster Parliament is a sharp minimalist wallet which won’t look out of place when you’re at a business function or cocktail party, and it’s perfect for those who carry cards instead of a wad of cash.
Looking further at the Ekster Parliament Slim Leather Wallet With RFID Blocking:
SUMMARY: For the person who wants a high-quality leather minimalist wallet and doesn’t want to pay designer prices.
PROS: High quality, small and lightweight, top-grain leather, card slider.
CONS: Won’t comfortably fit a large number of bills, no pocket to carry change.
The Groom+Style team believes this Trayvax minimalist wallet gives you the best bang for the buck. It’s handcrafted in America from top-grain, oil-tanned leather with a stainless steel frame, providing outstanding quality and durability yet only weighing about five ounces. The leather is a bit stiff when you first get it, but with a little breaking in and the application of some conditioner, it will be as soft as high-quality leather should be. This wallet comes with a lifetime guarantee, too.
The look of the Trayvax Element is unusual and sort of cool. At first glance, you might think it’s a luggage tag because of the separate piece with a metal grommet on top, which lets you attach the wallet to your belt if you’d like. There are no credit card slots, but 5-10 cards (the company claims it’s 12, but that seems like an exaggeration) and 5-10 bills can fit into the leather enclosure which is protected by a snap. And if you’re looking for extras, there’s not only RFID protection but also a metal bottle opener inside.
One warning, though. One edge of the frame is serrated, and that could pose a problem when you try to go through airport security. You may want to put your cards and cash in your pocket and toss this wallet into your checked luggage if you’re traveling.
The Trayvax Element is a small, cool-looking minimalist wallet which feels great and should last a lifetime, at a reasonable price.
Details of the Trayvax Element Wallet:
SUMMARY: For the person who wants an affordable top-grain leather minimalist wallet.
PROS: Great quality, unusual and eye-catching appearance, good capacity, bottle opener.
CONS: Steel frame adds weight to the wallet, the serrated edge could be a problem with TSA.
3. Slim Timber Wooden Card Wallet
This minimalist wallet’s capacity doesn’t measure up to its competitors in the Groom+Style rankings; you’ll find it only holds 5-6 cards and a small amount of cash. But if you want a thin wallet that will make a definite impression, the Slim Timber is the wallet you should check out first.
Believe it or not, this product is handcrafted in the U.S. from planes of walnut wood, with top-grain leather linings on its sides and a laser-engraved logo. That gives it a smooth finish, makes it resistant to ordinary wear and tear – and guarantees that your wallet won’t look like anyone else’s. You may not pick up every check just so you can pull out the Slim Timber and impress your friends, but you’ll be tempted to. Surprisingly, this wooden wallet isn’t awkward or painful to sit on, although it’s designed to go into the front of your pants or jacket pocket.
Cards and cash slide into the inner compartment, where an elastic strap holds them in place. The one major drawback we’ve found is that overfilling the wallet can cause it to break apart; if you carry a handful of credit cards, you may want to keep your bills in a money clip.
The Slim Timber is small, thin, elegant and gorgeous. It might not have enough space inside for your needs, but once you see it, you’ll want to carry it anyway.
Details of the Slim Timber Wooden Card Wallet:
SUMMARY: For the person who wants an eye-catching minimalist wallet.
PROS: Unusual and elegant appearance, hand-crafted, lightweight.
CONS: Relatively small interior, can break apart if too many cards put inside.
4. Common Fibers Max Carbon Fiber Bifold Wallet
Here’s the lightest minimalist wallet on our list, and it’s another somewhat-unusual entry. The Common Fibers wallet is handmade in America from aerospace-grade carbon fiber covered with an epoxy resin, and the interior is made from stitched nylon. That makes it semi-flexible and durable (it may take a while to break in), although somewhat pricey. The look is a definite plus, as the raw carbon fiber gives the wallet a professional and attractive look.
This is one of just two bi-fold wallets on our list, so it’s a good choice for those who prefer a more traditional style; cash can go where you’d normally place it in a wallet, and there are six credit card slots inside, plus two side pockets. The Common Fibers is available in five colors: black, gray, blue, green and red.
Another option for those who want their wallet to make an immediate impression, the Common Fibers bi-fold is rather expensive but a good product.
Digging deeper on the Common Fibers Max Carbon Fiber Bifold Wallet:
SUMMARY: For the person who wants an attractive, bi-fold minimalist wallet.
PROS: Durable, very lightweight, distinctive appearance, five color options.
CONS: Relatively small capacity, somewhat expensive.
5. Palm West Leather Premium Minimalist Money
Our budget choice is another bi-fold model, made from genuine leather that’s lower-quality than our top-ranked minimalist wallets. However, it’s vegetable-tanned to give the wallet a smooth feel, and the saddle stitching is strong enough to hold up for several years. There are two card sleeves which can hold a total of 10-12 cards, and a money clip inside the bi-fold. That makes this the thickest wallet on our list, but it’s still a comfortable fit in a front or rear pocket. RFID protection is built in. You can choose from five different colors.
The Palm West is very inexpensive for a lightweight, minimalist wallet, and well worth its price.
Specifications for the Palm West Leather Premium Minimalist Money:
SUMMARY: For the person who wants an inexpensive bi-fold minimalist wallet.
PROS: Good quality for the price (inexpensive), good capacity, RFID protection.
CONS: Not full-grain or top-grain leather, rather thick.
If you are looking for gift ideas for yourself or that special someone in your life you could also check out Groom+Style’s extensive list of the best hobby gift ideas – enjoy!