Product Spotlight: Men’s Leather Wallets & Card Holders

Product Spotlight: Men’s Leather Wallets & Card Holders

May 22, 2023

Product Spotlight: Men’s Leather Wallets & Card Holders

We often get asked the difference between our various leather wallets and card holders, which one is best, and why they are constructed the way that they are. Hopefully this blog will help address a few of your questions and point you in the right direction for a wallet that you’ll love using for years to come. 

What is the best leather for wallets? 

We use full grain vegetable tanned cowhide leather for all our wallets and card holders. The reason for this is simple, it is the best leather available. We offer our wallets and card holders in either locally made Devon oak bark tanned leather, or Italian vegtan leathers sourced from small Tuscan tanneries. All our leather is a biproduct of the meat industry. To read more about our leathers, see our blog post on Leather Provenance Notes.
Naturally vegetable tanned or bark tanned full grain leather is retains all its natural characteristics, such as texture, scars, and blemishes. The surface of the leather has not been buffed or sanded to remove ‘imperfections’. Just as every animal is individual, no two pieces of full grain leather are the same. The leather will develop a beautiful patina over time and with use, taking on marks, deepening in colour. It will change in appearance, becoming truly unique to the user. It is a journey you’ll go on together, the first mark is always the most painful, but with each application of Hide Food the marks will go deeper and fade as new marks disguise the last, each becoming a story in the life of your wallet. 
This type of leather is the most durable and strongest, therefore we recommend you always look for full grain vegetable tanned cowhide when selecting your new wallet.

What are the other leather options? 

Top Grain Leather or ‘grain corrected leather’ is where the top layer or ‘grain’ has been sanded and/or mechanically buffed to remove the (in our opinion) beautiful character of the hide such as grown marks, scars, blemishes etc. The sanding and buffing results in a more uniform finish. Top grain leather is usually then finished with one of a variety of coatings to help improve durability and achieve a particular look required by some brands. 
Genuine Leather is (although the name implies otherwise), made from scraps of otherwise unusable leather which is then bonded together which may sound like a sustainable and price friendly alternative, although this process results in a lower quality, much less durable leather which when taking into account the chemicals used in production, and greatly reduced durability of the product, a full grain vegetable tanned item may well be more sustainable and cost effective over time. 
Synthetic Leather or ‘faux leather’ is not actually leather at all, it is a manmade alternative which tries to emulate the look and feel of leather. Whilst it may well be a cost effective and also can be a vegan alternative to leather, it is best approached with caution for environmental and sustainability reasons, a lot can be made of plastic or plastic like materials. That said, there are ever more biodegradable and environmentally friendly options out there. 

What is the best type or best layout for a wallet? 

This ultimately comes down to personal choice and preference. How many card slots do you need? Do you carry notes and cards and business cards or just a few credit cards? We offer a range of different wallets and card holders with various layouts and capacities. From slim front pocket wallets and card cases to full bifold or billfold wallets. We also offer a bespoke service and have recently made a bespoke coat wallet shown below. 

How should I care for my leather wallet? 

It is important to look after your Tanner Bates wallet. It is always best to try and keep the leather our of direct sunlight, away from moisture and heat sources. Our full grain vegetable tanned leather is just like our own skin and can benefit from a dose of natural oils and fats to replenish any lost over time. We use our Hide Food to help keep the leather supple and help prevent it from drying out. To read a little more about leather care, please see our Leather Care Kit page. 

Which leather is most durable? 

We recommend full grain vegetable tanned leather. Because it has not had the top surface ‘grain side’ sanded and buffed, it is stronger than top grain or genuine leather. 
It is also important to consider where on the animal the leather has come from and which animal it has come from. We use cowhide for our wallets. Cowhide is less stretchy than calf skin and can therefore be more durable. We don’t use exotic leathers at Tanner Bates. Our Italian leather is cut from the shoulder. This is a great part of the hide to use as it is far less stretchy than other parts of the hide such as the belly. Our oak bark tanned Devon leather is a bridle butt. The butt is the most premium part of the hide. Being an oak bark tanned bridle butt, it is one of the strongest and most premium leathers available. A very special leather indeed. 
Finally, a note on chrome tanned leather, whilst it may be a more cost effective option and more resilient to marks caused by moisture, the process of tanning the skins uses lots of nasty chemicals. This is an important consideration when selecting the leather. The use of a chrome tanned leather would also possibly dictate the construction of the wallet. Ordinarily, the edges are known as ‘turned edge’ where the leather is skived down to an incredibly thin level, then turned and stitched. This is not a construction method we use at Tanner Bates as over time it is far less durable. Instead, we opt for a cut edge construction. As we use full grain vegetable tanned leather, we are able to simply cut the leather, and sand the edges using ever more fine emery cloth working our way down to 1200 grit for our ‘Cut Edge Billfold Wallet’. This achieves a perfectly smooth burnished finish. It is a time consuming process to achieve perfectly burnished edges, and is only possible when using the finest quality leather, however we like to think it is worth it! 

leather panels


Does the texture of the leather matter? 

This is more of a personal preference as to the aesthetic you are after. Leather can have a smooth finish, or be textured by an additional process at the tannery. Crosshatch or other patterns can be embossed into the leather, some traditional bag hides are grained as it can help to disguise marks. Other leathers are tumbled or pebbled in big drums which can offer differing looks and aesthetics. Finally, leathers can be finished with oils which can give a unique pull up. This offers a more distressed or rugged look. 
We offer a range of characterful leathers, predominantly smooth, but also some waxed leathers which can be seen across our range of wallets and card holders. 

How thick should the leather be?  

Whilst thicker leather is more durable than thinner leather, multiple layers of thick leather can quickly add up to become a chunky wallet. Again, largely this comes down to personal preference and the type of wallet you choose. 
Our Cut Edge Billfold Wallet has 4 card pockets along with a ‘hidden pocket’ on either side, and a long pocket for notes at the back. Due to the number of layers of leather, we reduce the leather for the pockets to around 1mm (it arrives from the tannery at about 5mm thick), to achieve a more refined aesthetic and handle. For our Yarmer Billfold, we keep the leather slightly thicker as the construction is only two layers. 
Leather tanning process

Does the tanning process matter?

We believe so, yes! The tanning process will have a huge impact on the end product, from durability to look and feel of the leather. In addition to vegetable tanned leathers, there are other high quality tanning processes that can produce long-lasting leather. Whilst some chrome tanned leathers can be less desirable, some are sought after and renowned throughout the world. For example, Horween Chromexcel leather is known for its rich colour and unique pull-up effect, which occurs when the oils in the leather move around as it is bent or stretched.
Another consideration is how the leather is dyed. Aniline dyeing, which involves immersing the hides in transparent dyes that penetrate deep into the fibres is a premium dyeing technique. The result is a richly coloured leather with a natural appearance and texture. Our leathers are almost exclusively aniline dyed and the oak bark leather is hand dyed - no two hides are the same. 

How much should a good leather wallet cost?

Cost is always a consideration when purchasing any product, and is a very personal decision. A full grain vegetable tanned, handmade wallet will carry a premium price tag, however the enhanced quality, durability and sustainability credentials are always worth the investment, in our opinion! Afterall, it is an investment rather than a purchase. 

The smell of leather 

Our wallets smell strongly of leather. The smell is achieved only by traditional tanning methods. Modern factory mass produced leather lacks this important hallmark of quality leather. The sumptuous smell is intoxicating. 
hand made leather wallet

Is a handmade wallet better? 

There is no denying that craftsmanship is a crucial factor in determining the quality of a leather wallet. It is a time consuming process to hand craft a leather wallet. We do it this way because it is the best way we know how and we believe that it results in the best quality product possible. We hope you agree!
Our handmade leather wallets are crafted by skilled artisans who take pride in their workmanship. We use traditional, time-honoured techniques passed down through generations to craft beautiful, functional and durable products.
We source the finest raw materials available, it is an indulgence, but the result is a truly special, handcrafted piece. One that will only get better with age, developing a beautiful patina as you embark on your journey together. A contemporary heirloom. 

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