The Wallet: It’s a Personal Thing


From billfolds to pocket secretaries, the wallet is one of the most personal items a man carries all day, every day. In addition to credit cards and cash, IDs and licenses, your wallet is often home to those personal scraps of memory and nostalgia unique to you. Unlike your bag, your shoes or even the clothes on your back, the wallet is so personal that for many men it never crosses their mind to get a new one unless prompted by sheer necessity.

That is certainly the case with me.  My wallet, the one I have carried for the last seven years, is from R. Horns, in Vienna; a remarkable little leather shop. It is a classic international billfold model with two currency sections and eight credit card slots. It is a rich, nutty brown that has darkened with age and the leather, though quite thick, is still soft. The leather even smells different than anything from the States. Like many of the rare and unique things in life, this would be very hard to replace – I’d have to travel all the way back to Vienna. Darn.

You’d think I was in love with the thing, but that is the connection a can guy can have with something so personal. For example, I have in my wallet, among various notes and receipts, a used ticket from the Paris metro. It’s been in there since our last trip to that wonderful city, our favorite really. And there it will stay so long as I don’t accidentally lose it – or, until I change wallets, which hopefully will not be for quite a while. Were I to make the switch though, there are some interesting options out there.

There are essentially three types of wallets: The Pocket Secretary (tall and thin, it is designed to fit into the inside pocket of a suit coat; The International Billfold (essentially a large square, this is a wide wallet with room for multiple cards and currency and designed for a back pocket; and The Slim Billfold (a smaller and more trim version of the International Billfold with space for a few cards and usually one currency section).

Depending on your needs any one of these gets the job done; in fact, actually choosing a wallet today is easier than even a few years ago. While women have always had the luxury of a handbag in which to carry their day-to-day accoutrements, men long suffered though bulging pockets and overstuffed wallets. Today, however, men’s bags are rapidly gaining acceptance and there is less need to try and fit everything on earth into your back pocket. All the other stuff that weighed you down can be tossed in your bag.

With the wallet now freed up, feel free to slim down a bit. Just carry your credit cards, driver’s license, identification card, insurance card, cash, etc. The point is to keep it neat and organized. Some guys carry their cash in a money clip, an elegant and swanky alternative. It also keeps cash separate from you credit cards which is a good idea, especially when traveling. For those dealing with Pounds Sterling and Euros, wallets with built in change pockets are a necessity, alternatively a small change purse will capture your coins.

Whatever type of wallet you choose, in whichever configuration best matches your needs, choose something you really like. A wallet, like all your personal effects should be an investment. Invest wisely.


Chris Hogan, an association executive based in Washington, D.C., blogs at A lifelong interest in style and clothing led to sales and management positions at several Ralph Lauren stores and an active wardrobe consulting practice


  1. Hey Chris,

    Great Sept 12th article! I couldn’t agree with you more and was wondering if you might be able/willing to help. 🙂

    Back on 4/11/98, I bought the Gary’s Leather Men’s Pocket Secretary “wallet” (00753300020001 – BLA/0002) due to its awesome features, functionality and high-end quality. While it only cost $75, in today’s market, it should be priced at $150-300 based on its design and fine leather.

    Gary’s Leather went out of business several years ago. As a senior IT business consultant who’s been searching for a comparable replacement for the last 2-3 years, I’ve come up short-handed not being able to find anything — even after contacting DayTimers, Tumi, Jack Georges and other high-end companies. The Gary’s breast pocket secretary is so perfect for me (just like your article discussed), I’m even willing to have one/three custom made but cannot find a resource to “build or stitch” them for me.

    Chris, with your “lifelong interest in style and clothing,” ( presumably in a high-end market, I sure would appreciate your help in suggesting where I could find or have custom-made a high-end breast pocket secretary wallet similar to the one I have that holds my credit cards, money, DayTimer calendar and more.

    In advance, thank you very much and I sure would appreciate you exploiting your resources in hopes of finding a few options for me to pursue.

    Best regards,