Nothing matches the beauty of a patiently crafted high-end leather wallet. It's a statement piece, a personal token, and a foundational fashion accessory all rolled into one. While a hande leather wallet can be quite costly, from the looks of what we've seen in the market, the quality varies greatly, even at the high-end. In this article, we'll dive into the details of how you can adequately judge the quality of your newest prized possession.
Of course, the quality of the leather is the most crucial feature when evaluating your luxury wallet. Even if you are new to the world of leather and just getting acquainted with all of the different types, thankfully, you can rely on your senses for an accurate appraisal.
Here are the main things to look for when appraising leather:
It should look natural and unique. Wrinkles, irregularities and even slight imperfections are indications that your leather accessory is genuine. Conversely, artificial and low-grade leather tends to have a more uniform embossed "leather texture." On a big enough piece, you will start to see the pattern repeat. Over time, your leather should begin to develop a patina, giving your high-end leather wallets beauty and character. Inferior quality leathers will show wear and tear and even deteriorate.
The leather should feel distinctive. The feel of the leather is referred to as "hand." Unlike leathers heavily coated with pigment and polyurethane, good quality leather should feel soft and luxurious, never like plastic. Look for leather with an appealing hand.
It should smell pleasant and earthy. Quality leather will maintain a subtle yet distinctive natural aroma for its entire life. Lower quality leathers and synthetic leathers often have no smell at all, or, if they do, they have a chemical odor.
The leather should be full grain, not "corrected." The world's highest quality leather, full grain leather, is as close as possible to its natural state, free from human intervention and mechanical processes. Upon close inspection, you will see its peaks and valleys and tiny hair sacs with the naked eye. Conversely, correcting or buffing the leather will give it a uniform and artificial look. This is often done to inferior quality leather to buff away imperfections, but the leather's character disappears as well.
The leather should be aniline or semi-aniline dyed, not pigment dyed. Aniline is a transparent, water-based dye that is absorbed into the leather in a process called drum-dyeing. It results in beauty and depth that allows the character, qualities, and natural aspects of the hide to show through. Pigment dye, alternatively, is often applied to the surface of inferior leather to mask defects and blemishes. The optimal leather is semi-aniline dyed, which allows the retention of the leather's natural beauty while protecting it for daily use.
For more information on the two most popular leather tanning methods, check out our article, Vegetable Tanned Leather vs. Chrome Tanned Leather.
When we're speaking about the design of a high-end leather wallet, we're not talking about its style, but rather the appropriateness of spacing, sizing, and layout of the individual leather pieces to allow for easy storage of your cards and cash. The leather should be thin enough so that the entire wallet's body is slim while thick enough that the pockets will stand up to daily use. The corners should be rounded to avoid the wear and tear caused by the friction of your accessory rubbing against your pants pocket. The entirety of the wallet should be made of leather too. Companies that skimp on quality will use fabric instead of leather for pocket linings and other places that are not visible. The pockets should not cover the full length of a card because this design makes it hard to pull the card out and may cause you to stretch the front of the pocket, putting stress on the stitching.
We will delve into craftsmanship at length in future articles. However, at a high level, there are some key things to look for when inspecting the craftsmanship, and it all comes down to attention to detail. It reflects the craftsman's culture, including the superb habit of doing things the right way and dedication to the art of accessory-making. Look at each line of stitching and every cut. Is it straight? Are the angled lines of the stitch uniform? Are the edges of each pocket creased? The best material for stitching is nylon or polyester, rather than cotton, which is less durable. Also, you want to pay attention to the wallet's stitching pattern. Typically, two parallel lines reinforce each other as the wallet is used daily and is subject to a lot of wear and tear. As you can tell, careless cutting or misaligned sewing can result in a poor-quality leather accessory.