How to buy a leather wallet that lasts

If you look at the wallets most men pull out of their pockets, you’ll notice largely the same thing:

1. The leather is cracking on the front, revealing the cloth that it’s glued on top of.

2. The finish is peeling away at the edges.

3.  The stitching is unraveling in spots.

To identify a wallet that will age more gracefully, look for these distinguishing features.

1. Painted or burnished edges.

Mass produced wallets almost always have folded leather edges.

Folding is a great way to finish edges in many situations, but, for high-wear areas, like the edges of wallets, it isn’t.

The problem is that to construct a folded edge, the leather must be skived down very thin. And on top of that, folded leather is under tension, which simply makes it a magnet for wear.

Painted edges, on the other hand, not only are in principle more durable, but they can easily be repaired. Whereas once leather is worn down, there’s not much you can do.

Burnishing is a method of polishing the edges that uses friction to compress and give shine to the leather. The nicest burnishing will have glassy looking edges. The process and outcome is not dissimilar to painting the edges. And like painted edges, they can easily be repaired if need be.

2. Full leather lining

Mass produced leather wallets are typically mostly synthetic, with the exterior and pockets wrapped in leather. While obviously keeping the thickness of wallets down, cloth by itself can wear poorly and have issues like fraying.

If cloth is used, it should be out of sight, providing strength (i.e. stretch resistance) to the leather, which is where it shines.

3. Good quality leather

The bad news is, unless you’re an enthusiast, this is very difficult to ascertain. The industry is chock full of jargon and misinformation. And wading through the BS can be challenging, to say the least.

The good news is cheap leather is really something that’s found on the assembly line. Most smaller makers are using the good stuff. The reason is simple. For small items like wallets, labor takes the lion’s share of the production cost, and therefore, to skimp on materials only offers negligible savings.

It is often more important to buy a wallet made with a leather that’s to your taste. For more information about leather characteristics, take a look at my Leather Guide.

Where to buy

There are many very talented makers out there producing fantastic wallets with top of the line materials and construction. They have taken the time to develop skill and offer a quality and value than just cannot be matched by bigger companies. Buy from one of them, and you’ll have a wallet that not only will last, but look great, for years. I’d suggest finding a maker through social media that jibes well with you.

*Below I’ve listed the countries that produce the highest regarded leather, as well as some of the better known tanneries and products to come out of each.


Italy is chock-full of tanneries, but perhaps it’s best known for its vegetable tanned leather. And there’s no better example of this than those tanneries that are part of the Consorzio Vera Pelle (Italian Vegetable Tanned Leather Consortium). Some of the member tanneries include: Badalassi Carlo (makers of Pueblo and Minerva Box), Conceria Walpier (makers of Buttero), and La Bretagna.


Thanks to an extensive luxury leather goods industry, French tanneries offer an elite selection of leathers. The most well-known ones, in contrast to Italy, are chrome or combination tanned, with exemplary examples of calf and goatskin leathers.

Tanneries Haas, Degermann, Du Puy, and D’Annonay are well-known for their calf leathers, including printed calf (e.g. “Epsom”). Remy Carriat is a wonderful example of taurillon leather.

Tanneries Alran, Relma, and Jullien are best known for their goatskin (chèvre).


German tanneries are fewer in number, but the quality of the products are at least as well regarded as their French counterparts. The most well-known are Weinheimer and Perlinger which focus on calfskin.

United Kingdom

The UK is best known for its bridle leather. J&FJ Baker is perhaps the highest regarded of the bunch with a 1 year+ traditional oak bark tanning. Clayton and J.E. Sedgwick are other highly regarded producers of bridle and other leathers.


Japan has a very healthy tanning industry. Their best known leathers are all traditional pit-tanned leathers. Of which, Shinki-Hikaku is probably the best known thanks to their beautiful cordovan. Whereas, Shonan and Tochigi are also highly prized for their veg tan cowhide.

United States

The tanning industry isn’t quite it once was, but there still are at least a handful of tanneries making the good stuff. The best known by far, of course, is Horween. They are best known for their shell cordovan and Chromexcel® leathers. Other tanneries of note are Hermann Oak and Wickett & Craig.

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