Will this wallet really slim your profile?

Published on August 18, 2014

Facebook uses some pretty far-reaching — some might say invasive — means to target its advertising to your interests, but there is no way it could have known that I need a new wallet.

I was surprised, then, when an ad for Bellroy slim wallets popped up during June in my news feed. The ad promised to take my wallet from bulky to thin, while holding the same amount of cash and credit cards.

“Bellroy exists to slim your wallet,” says its promotional blurb. “Rather than bulging pockets and bulky design, our leather wallets are more efficient, have better access, better protection, and even a little old school craft.”

I pulled out my old wallet, which is really just a credit card sleeve that became a wallet by default when I stuffed the middle with money, postal receipts and bank machine printouts, creating a kind of leather sandwich. It was old, threadbare and thicker than a Saturday newspaper in December.

On a whim, I sent Bellroy an email, asking if they’d be willing to send me a demo wallet. I suggested the Hide & Seek model, which was mid-priced ($94) but promised to solve my bulkiness issues. I proposed a comparison with my old wallet, to compare the thickness of each when filled with the same contents. They agreed, and the wallet arrived in August.  

It was elegantly packaged in a cardboard sleeve, wrapped in a sheaf of tissue. It has the rich smell of leather and appears to be well made, but what do I know about that?

I took it to the experts at Modern Shoe Hospital, who handle a lot of leather every day, and the verdict was positive: it’s made of quality leather that is doubled over at the seams — which appear to be well-stitched — and nylon liners inside for extra strength. In fact, there is an extra layer of nylon inside that is hidden under a leather flap, creating a hidden space to stash away bigger bills.

There are three single-card slots on the right side for cards we use every day, plus two slots on the left for lesser-used cards. There is a second pocket hidden under a leather flap to stash away bigger bills. And that’s it — the wallet is clean and simple in its design.

Thus began the test. First I measured the thickness of my old wallet — on my homemade measuring stand — while it was stuffed full. It was 1.5 inches thick.

Emptying that old wallet was an archaeological dig through my credit card history, yielding 12 plastic cards, two folded pieces of note paper, a post office receipt and two $20 bills.

Then I inserted everything into the new Bellroy. I liked how easily the cards slid into the single-card pockets, and then how snugly it held them in place. The remaining cards fit nicely into the bulk-card pockets on the other side, with room to spare. When I measured, it was 1.25” thick — thinner than my old wallet, but nonetheless not as slim as I expected.

I decided to remove the paper bills and postal receipt, which seemed to be plumping up the old wallet more than the new. This time, with cards only, the old wallet measured 1.25” full while the Bellroy was just a shade over 1” thick.

OK, so the Bellroy is thinner. But not miraculously so. I was somewhat disappointed at first, until I realized that my old wallet was worn wafer-thin and completely limp, while the new one had the density and tension of new leather. Over time, pocket erosion will soften it, allowing the wallet to close more snugly and bend more easily.

I do think Bellroy slightly oversells the slimming effect of its wallet. Make no mistake: it is designed to be as thin as possible and it succeeds in this endeavour. However, credit cards have a certain thickness.

If you stack them 12 high, that’s a pretty thick pile. No matter how well-designed the wallet, physics demands that it will thicken in direct correlation to the number of cards inserted. No amount of secret pockets can make the cards actually disappear.

That said, the wallet is slimmer by a noticeable quarter-inch, and I like how it feels in my pocket. The cards are organized in a way that saves several seconds of fumbling about every time I need them, and the quality materials and workmanship are there.

And there is the clear advantage of having a pocket to slip those bills and receipts into, rather than clumping them loosely in a card sleeve.

The Bellroy Hide & Seek is definitely a keeper.

To browse the Bellroy line and view some helpful, 50-second videos about each product, go to bellroy.com.