If you are a man, wallets give you bums. If you are a woman, wallets are a bit of a mystery.
How can men contain all their worldly goods in one wallet, while women need not just handbags but ones that spills over with stuff? These days, metrosexual men have given us women a run for our purses by carrying stylish man-bags that even the Birkin-loving woman might covet. The opposite is also true. Some women, me included, covet a well-made wallet. Such as this one.
Bill Gates supposedly doesn’t even carry a mobile phone. This then is the fantasy: that you can lead a life where not only are you shorn of life’s necessities—wallets, keys, credit cards—but also life’s essential—the smartphone. But unless you are a head of state or a billionaire philanthropist, it is hard to escape the things that you need to carry. The compromise then is elegance and simplicity in your accoutrements.
I have 36 things in my purse. I counted. Some of them—like the subway Oyster pass for the London Underground—are totally unnecessary in India. I cannot imagine why it is still stuck in my purse. Others like chapstick are nice to have but not really needed. Credit cards and driver’s licenses too are expendable in this day of Uber and Ola when you don’t need to drive and when you can use apps to pay your cash and settle all your bills.
I decided to whittle all my stuff into a wallet. Deciding what make-up item to carry took a lot of willpower, but I ended up picking blotting paper—to remove excess oil—and a tiny vial of lip gloss. The latter didn’t fit into a wallet, but the former was a piece of cake.
I was going to become a metrosexual woman, carrying a man’s wallet in lieu of a handbag.
Bellroy is an Australian company with the tagline: Considered Carry Goods. Their website fairly reeks of surf and sun. They are based in Bells Beach and Fitzroy, hence the name. Slim wallets are their differentiator, along with responsibly sourced leather and a design aesthetic that pays homage to the functional simplicity of Dieter Rams and the playfulness of illustrator Karan Singh, both of whom feature in their “journal”.
Their list of products is divided by the functionality that they aim to offer. Some sound real and some veer on the sappy. “Slim your wallet,” makes sense, as does “merge phone and wallet”, but can an accessory really help you “focus your mind”, as Bellroy’s folios claim to do?
The wallets come in an eco-friendly paper package with simple instructions. Each wallet, which comes in a rainbow of colours, typically holds four to 11 cards. The slimming comes from the fact that each card doesn’t get an individual slot. Instead they are stacked together with a helpful leather pullout to… well, pull out. This isn’t ideal for those who quickly need to pull out cards but it is a choice that you need to make. Slimness versus optimum access.
If you are the kind of man who carries photos of his wife and kids in your wallet, then this may not be for you. There is really no room for god (or family) photos.
Bellroy’s key covers operate with the same principle. You insert your keys through a toggle, place them on top of each other and then shut them in through a magnetic closure. I thought that accessing them would be harder than the free access provided by jangling keys but, counter-intuitively, the opposite is true. Putting your four keys in a line tells you exactly where they are and which one to pull out when you stand outside your door. Rummaging, you don’t have to do.
How many things do you need to carry around? Bellroy forces you to reflect on this in ways both liberating and slightly unnerving. I must confess that walking out with my newly slimmed purse very nearly gave me an anxiety attack. What if I needed something that I had left behind? But it is amazing how quickly you get used to this wallet-lite version. And once you do, it is hard to go back.
The bottom line
In this age of simplifying and the KonMarie method of tidying up and discarding things that don’t give you joy, the thought of carrying a tote bag full of stuff seems not just overkill but ill thought out and unnecessary. Reducing clutter is a worthy goal, even in the handbag and wallet space. Returning to thinness is a welcome nudge, not just for wallets but for people in general.