The Bellroy Hide and Seek Wallet is the first truly practical wallet that solves the problem of how to carry all the plastic you actually need to carry, while banishing the ungainly bulging wallet to the 80s where it belongs. I didn’t expect to covet something I will spend most of my time sitting on, but that was before I spent a couple of weeks with the Bellroy Hide and Seek wallet.
Like many of you that visit these pages, I travel. More to the point, for the last sixteen years or so, I have been one of those weekly commuters that can be spotted on Monday mornings and Thursday evenings patiently waiting to board plane, train or automobile at one of the many confluences of human migration. Of many shapes and sizes, we tend to share several characteristics. We all carry or wheel along a small, efficiently packed case containing three-to-four days clothing, toiletries and something that would not look out of place in the average hotel gym. We also carry another case which contains an amount of paperwork and IT kit appropriate for wherever we are landing that week. Finally, we have either a bag, purse or wallet containing far too many things. Let’s take a minute to consider the last item, from a wallet perspective.
Firstly, it appears that small, 85.60 × 53.98 mm (thank you Wikipedia) pieces of plastic are proliferating as statements of loyalty and reward. Loyalty cards for: supermarkets, coffee shops, bookshops, hotels etc. tend to gather like cruft. Secondly, there are means of payment and identity; bank cards (personal, company and backup), Oyster, driving licence etc. And finally there are varying levels of cash and associated receipts. Every now and then (holidays seem to be one of the key points of inflection), when I finally decide to empty out my wallet, I often find that there are things in there that I have used perhaps once in the last six months and may not use again for a similar time frame.
Over the course of many years, I have tried three methods of dealing with the agglomeration of cards; (1) the all-you-can-eat-buffet approach. Simply leave your wallet to accumulate in size and weight, and as long as you can maintain a high-degree of angular hip rotation when seated, this may be the strategy for you. (2) the divide by role approach – while this worked for a while, eventually I found that I was taking both work and home wallets with me, thus doubling the size of the available space that I had to accumulate more plastic and requiring me to wear trousers with two back pockets. (3) My current approach is the usage model. This basically says ‘if I am not going to use it every week, then it goes somewhere else’, and to ensure that cards don’t get mixed up or lost, I use a metal card case that goes in my IT bag. Things that are also allowed in the wallet under the usage model are things I may need on the fly, such as my driving licence or a book of postage stamps.
However, even using this streamlining model, the contents of my wallet are currently:
- Personal bank card
- Expenses account bank card
- Company charge card
- Backup credit card
- Driving licence
- Book of stamps
- Coffee shop loyalty card (used at least twice weekly)
- Supermarket loyalty card
- Book token gift card (a classic example of a card sneaking into the wallet when I wasn’t looking…)
- Personal cash
- Expenses cash
- Several receipts
As you can see, this is still trending toward the all-you-can-eat of method (1), and while considering how to deal with it I came across the Bellroy Slim Sleeve Wallet. Bellroy do some obvious things to slim down wallets such as not putting heavy linings into them, but they have also used some clever design cues. Similar to the usage modelapproach, the Bellroy wallets tend to offer two or more slots for your most-used cards, and then others are all put together in a single place so that there are no bulky dividers between them. In the smaller wallets, a pull-tab slides them all out so that you have easy access to them, and I was surprised at how much of a difference a lack of dividers makes, especially for non-embossed cards.
Now, I am not sure about you, but in these days of internet shopping and home delivery I still prefer to look at something directly before I buy, so I popped into the excellent Ted Williams Menswear in Sutton Coldfield – my first visit there, but definitely not the last. Looking at the Slim Sleeve I realised that it was too small a form factor for me, which will invariably lead to it being mislaid – down the side of a car/train/aeroplane seat seems to have been classic escape routes for past wallets*, so instead I chose the (for me) more appropriately sized Hide & Seek wallet.
The Hide and Seek has four slots for oft-used cards, plus a larger slot for all the others, and a sixth hidden slot in the main cash area. The wallet name derives from the cash area itself, which has a fold-over leather flap that conceals another place to put cash. It can be a little awkward, especially with £20 notes that are on the edge of being too large for the hidden section, but this is a small price to pay as it conveniently hides the expenses cash that I carry and separates it from my personal money. If you would like some stats, the list of items in my wallet listed above and stacked measures about 15mm, when fitted into the Bellroy it increased to only 20mm, a lot less than my previous wallet.
The leather looks soft but is actually quite firm, promising good wear and tear that the three year warranty of the Bellroy implies, and after three weeks is wearing into a less pristine but friendlier, slightly creased around the edge shape, which let’s face it is how I feel most of the time. And for something that I tend to carry with me most days, it is still pleasing to take out and use.
Of course I no longer covet it as now I own one, but don’t let me stop you…
* if they are too large the opposite tends to happen – I remember the starburst of paper that accompanied the demise of my first FiloFax as it threw itself off the roof of my moving car…