History and origins of the wallet
The origin of the word wallet is obscure. Some argue that it derives from the ancient Greek word ‘Kibisis’, which is the word used to describe the sack carried by the god Hermes. 'Wallet' is frequently the translation used to describe the sack in which Perseus carried the severed head of Medusa. The Oxford English Dictionary identifies the word as being of late Medieval origin, at which time it was used to describe ‘a bag for holding possessions’
. Shakespeare uses it in this sense when he writes: ‘Time hath my lorde a wallet at his back. Wherein he puts almes for oblivion’
. Thus, the early meaning of the word is to describe something that we would recognize as more like a backpack. The transformation of the word wallet to describe a bag for carrying valuables to that describing a flat pouch came with the advent of paper money.
It wasn’t until the 17th Century that paper money began to be printed in Europe and the flat wallet came into fashion
. The size of wallets subsequently changed to accommodate changes in the size of paper money. Paper money has got smaller over the centuries and wallets have reduced in size accordingly. Credit cards were introduced in America in the 1950’s and wallets were swiftly modified to accommodate them. The proliferation of store cards and credit cards meant that in the late twentieth century wallets were stuffed to capacity and beyond, but now that it is possible to pay bills on your smartphone, minimalist wallets have become popular. Unlike bags, which are often ostentatious fashion accessories, a wallet is a private and personal item which is usually kept hidden.
How to protect your leather wallet?
The leather is an extremely strong and durable material, but a wallet is subject to a lot of wear and tear. Part of the enjoyment of owning a leather wallet is the way in which the leather ages and develops a rich patina, however, exposure to strong sunlight and immersion in water will damage leather. With normal usage, the occasional wipe with a damp cloth should be sufficient. In extremely dry conditions it may be necessary to apply a conditioner in order to moisturize the leather. Probably the most important thing you can do to prolong the life of your wallet is to avoid overstuffing it. It’s not a bag and you can’t use it as one if you do you’ll stretch the leather out of shape and break the stitching.
How long will a leather wallet last?
This, of course, depends on how you treat it and the quality of the wallet. If your wallet is made from bonded leather
, effectively reconstituted leather, it will last only a fraction of the time that a wallet made of top grain or full grain leather
will last. If you use your wallet every day it’s going to come in for a lot of wear and tear. Stuffing a wallet into a front jeans pocket, which is then bent when you sit down, is going to cause a lot more damage than slipping it into the silk lining of your suit. Research suggests that on average, men keep their wallets for about seven years.
What do you do if your wallet gets wet?
You drop your leather wallet in the pool or forget it’s in your jeans and it goes in the washing machine. Does it mean you’ll need to buy a new one? Not if you take your time to dry it slowly. If you use a hairdryer, or put it in the oven or put it on a radiator, the leather will crack and the wallet will be ruined, but if you stuff it with tissue and replace it when it becomes damp and you place the wallet in a warm but not hot place, you should be able to bring your dear friend back to life. When the wallet has completely dried out apply some leather conditioner or saddle soap to replenish the oils which have been lost.