Accessories

How much should I spend on a wallet?

How much should I spend on a wallet?

Sometimes, it’s the smallest things that make the biggest difference to your style. An unpolished pair of leather shoes, for example, can make even the most expensive suit seem scruffy. And swinging a hiking backpack over your shoulder at the end of the day can suddenly undermine the professional air you’ve honed at your desk.

It’s the same with your wallet. If it’s too bulky, it ruins the shape of whatever you’re wearing, and velcro closures can make whoever you’re opening it in front of think of schoolboys in a sweet shop. “A wallet is the kind of accessory a lot of men forget about, because it isn’t always on show,” says Thread stylist Luke McDonald. “But you’ll use it every single day, potentially for years.”

That means you need something that fits in everywhere. “Unlike a bag, you won't change your wallet to match different occasions,” says Luke. “It needs to be sleek enough to look good whether you’re buying your boss a coffee, a round of drinks for your friends or dinner on a first date.” Something slimline in leather is best, ideally without too much detailing. But even wallets that look the same on the surface can come with a bewildering array of price tags.

“How much you pay almost always comes down to the quality of the leather,” says Luke. “It’s an expensive material. Cheaper wallets will generally use thinner, treated leathers and any linings or pockets will probably be glued, rather than sewn.” This means that sitting on it every day will cause it to fall apart more quickly. And you'll be buying a new one sooner than you thought.

To figure out how much you should spend on a wallet, ask yourself these three questions.

  1. Are you definitely not going to lose it?
  2. Can you be bothered to look after the leather?
  3. Are you prepared to spend more than you’ll actually store in it?

If you answered ‘no’ to all three, spend around £15

Black leather wallet

Photographed: Marks & Spencer black wallet (£15)

When you lose your wallet, it’s annoying enough to have to replace all your cards. It’s even worse if you spent a fortune on what was holding them. Forgetful sorts can still get something that looks good on a budget. Just expect to have to replace it next year, even if you don’t leave it on a train.

“You can get a decent leather billfold at this price, without too many bells or whistles,” says Luke. The fewer extras the wallet has, the more of your budget goes on materials and construction. So avoid zips or coin pockets unless you really need them. “Card slots will be more useful, anyway.”

Look for: Real leather, in black. “It will probably be ‘corrected’, which means it’s been treated to remove any imperfections. Over time this chips away, but black will show its age less quickly.”

If you answered ‘yes’ to one or two, spend around £50

Black leather wallet with contrast lining

Photographed: Gant Black Wallet (£50)

“At this price, real leather is the minimum you should expect,” says Luke. “In my opinion, it’s worth the investment for the smell alone.” Most of the internal details like card or coin pockets should be sewn, rather than glued, which will make them more robust. Although it will most likely have been crafted in the far East, rather than Italy, which is famed for its leather artisans.

Look for: “A contrast lining adds a nice pop of colour when you open your wallet up,” says Luke. “Just avoid anything too garish. You never know what other colours you’ll be wearing.”

 If you answered ‘yes’ to all three, spend more than £100

Paul Smith black leather wallet

Photographed: Paul Smith black wallet (£150)

We talk about cost-per-wear a lot, but with a luxury wallet, it really does make sense. You could realistically use it every day for more than a decade, which means that even if you spend £150, it’s only costing you 4p per outing. “Over that time, a great leather wallet will also age beautifully,” says Luke. “The leather will take on unique patterns from the way you touch and use it. You’ll end up with something that’s unique to you and the life you live.”

To make sure that happens, you need a great quality hide. Calf leather is especially soft and supple and will get even more pleasurable to handle the more you use it. “Just don’t overstuff it with cards or receipts or it will start to lose its shape,” says Luke. “You want it to look rugged, not shabby.”

Look for: “Hand-stitching is a mark of real quality,” says Luke. “But avoid anything with too many details or any wild patterns. Your tastes will change long before the leather wears through.”